If it matters, measure it!
This sentiment is at the heart of Carl Valle’s approach to sports training and athlete management. The process of developing an athlete or team relies on the constant testing of ideas and approaches to identify what works and what doesn’t in a training program.
In the third episode of the Sport Horse Podcast, we had a fascinating discussion with Carl, a human sports expert who has consulted for Olympic programs, sports technology companies and professional teams.
Central to Carl’s approach is keeping a training diary with details about how long an athlete trains for, how intensely they train, what exercises they performed—even the weather outside.
“Making sure you are keeping copious notes of the workouts, sessions, or whatever you are doing with the animal is critical,” says Carl. “If you record notes and patterns of what your plan is, then it becomes possible to evolve (and improve) your program.”
“Starting out simple you can look at ‘what was the planned activity and what was the adjustment?’” explains Carl. “If you are having to make a lot of adjustments, then this may be a sign that your training plan needs to change [for example, if a horse can’t complete a workout].”
A training diary is a simple method to monitor athletes that forms the base of every successful monitoring approach. Once you have this information, it is then possible to begin to integrate technology.
Here you can download a worksheet that you can use to record important training information each day.
Variables—such as what type of exercise did the horse do? How long was it ridden? Did you change tack or the diet?—can be vital when trying to figure out what is working in a program and what is not.
For example, if your horse begins to develop some soreness in the back, you can flip through your notes to look for clues regarding why it is happening. The most obvious cause may be a saddle change, but in the absence of that situation other factors could contribute—maybe the horse has slowly started to work more and more over the past few weeks, perhaps the horse is being ridden more often on a soft surface, and so on. These are all factors that can be easily identified and adjusted to get the horse back on track and to address the soreness before it becomes a full-blown injury. However, if you don’t have a written record, it can be much harder to identify contributing factors and correct them.
“Keeping notes is the base and technology is the frosting,” says Carl.
Once you are ready to incorporate technology into your program, start looking for devices that can answer a specific question. For example, a heart rate monitor could be used to indicate if a horse is becoming fitter, maintaining fitness, or becoming overtrained. Carl then goes into more detail on this topic.
Listen to the full podcast with Carl for more information on this topic and many more great insights:
Additionally, Carl has recorded a lecture that goes more in depth on his approach to monitoring and measuring performance in athletes, with several excellent examples for how it can be done in equine athletes. This talk can be accessed from the Sport Horse Library.
About the Expert
Carl Valle has spent over 20 years in sport, both as a coach and a sports technologist specializing in performance analysis and innovation. Over the last decade, he has consulted for Olympic programs, sports technology companies, and professional teams. He is a certified level II sprint coach with USA Track and Field and has written over a hundred articles on sports performance with an emphasis on measurement and applied methodology. He currently is the Director of Innovation with Vortex, the private experimental division of several partnered training facilities, and teaches video analysis in his spare time.