Competitive sports are defined as competition-oriented and focused training with the goal of athletic success. The difference to the popular sport is a much higher expenditure of time due to mostly daily training. Competitive sport is often referred to as elite sport or professional sport.
Competitive sports and training
Competitive sport is usually oriented towards the Olympic motto – faster, higher, stronger. The confusion with the Olympic idea “To be there is everything” is obvious, but it is very misleading and quite the opposite. The training of competitive athletes is structured accordingly. The quantity and quality of individual training blocks are precisely worked out in order to achieve specific goals. In cycling, but also in many other disciplines of competitive sports, one proceeds seasonally. Intensity and intensity – i.e. scope, duration, number and load – of the individual training units are adapted to the fitness level and the proximity to the peak of the season during the course of the year. This can be subject to a variation of 5-14 sessions per week and a length of 1-8 hours per session.
In the medium and long term, training in competitive sports is often subject to cycles or periods in which the training focus is specifically set. It is important to plan sufficient recovery periods to avoid overtraining and permanent fatigue. Different regeneration methods often also play an important role. Depending on the sport, these include sauna sessions, cold chambers, massages (for some time now also massage guns such as the Orthogun), mobility exercises (stretching) or yoga and an adapted diet.
Competitive sports and nutrition
Nutrition also plays an important role in competitive sports. This is balanced, usually sufficient and nutritious. The composition is variable and depends on the current training goal (building muscle, supercompensation, immediate competition preparation…). Targeted nutrition supports regeneration and improves the competitive performance of athletes in competitive sports.
In addition to the targeted composition of meals in terms of protein, fats and carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and dietary supplements also play an important role. Especially in endurance disciplines not only the nutrition before and after the competition plays an important role. For cycling races, ultra runs and triathlon events lasting several hours, hydration and energy supply during the competition are also crucial for a perfect performance.
In competitive sports there are also a number of banned supplements for performance enhancement (doping). There are different reasons for this, often health risks and concerns from a medical point of view are the reason. A distinction between doping substances and food supplements is made by the Cologne List.
Competitions and performance tests
Regular performance tests and competitions are an integral part of the seasonal routine of a competitive athlete.
The first are most standardized and determine, among other things, the further course of training. It also allows the effectiveness and efficiency of the training to be monitored. Examples of this would be a performance diagnostic, an FTP test, the Cooper test or the Conconi test. Performance tests are intended to test the current fitness level or a specific threshold performance. According to experience, this is the best way to control the upcoming training and to optimize the athletic performance even more.
Performance tests are particularly popular in less coordinative endurance sports such as cycling, rowing, running, swimming or cross-country skiing, as they provide a strong indication of competitive performance.
Training competitions also play an important role in competitive sports. Here the athlete tries to get used to the competition performance and thus to develop a competition hardness.
In cycling, this is also referred to as stall speed, which means that a rider is riding at a constantly fast pace for a long time. For this purpose, riders who take part in a tour such as the Tour de France, for example, or otherwise, are already on the road throughout the spring at various races Australia, Belgium or the Netherlands before their respective seasonal climax. Especially between the well-known spring classics like the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne or the Amstel Gold Race, there are other races on similar courses throughout the week. While this competitive toughness is often crucial for cyclists on the road and off, it’s a very different story in other sports. Track athletes, triathletes and marathon runners often only have 1-2 events a year to train for.
Children and youth training
In many countries and sports, competitive sport already takes place at youth level. In addition to sports clubs, the focus of organisation and responsibility is also on sports boarding schools, sports grammar schools and performance bases at national level. Competitive sports in children is often a topic of discussion. The focus is on possible developmental damage due to overload as well as the psychological stress associated with competitions and the demands of parents and training staff. Strength training with free weights and equipment, as well as artistic and apparatus gymnastics often fall as examples. Therefore it is important to structure the training according to the physical development and health.
Risks in competitive sports
Incorrectly executed training as well as overloading in competitive sports entail health risks.
- Lack of recovery can lead to overtraining, permanent fatigue and a drop in performance
- Joints, tendons and muscles can be damaged by incorrect techniques and movement sequences
- An unbalanced diet that is not adapted to the training can lead to mineral deficiencies.
- Sports injuries caused by accidents, falls or fatigue fractures can have long-term consequences.
- Many sports can cause both short and long term heart damage
- Doping and the incorrect and excessive use of dietary supplements can lead to heart, liver and kidney damage
In many sports, sport-specific consequential damages are known, which occur in a not negligible part of the athletes (runner’s knee, tennis elbow, boxer’s nose, wrestler’s ear, skier’s thumb…).
Support for athletes
In competitive sports it is common that athletes and teams are supervised by a coach or trainer, in team sports often also by a whole training staff. This naturally involves physiological support, but not infrequently also psychological care. The support of a trainer should help to make the training effectiveness as high as possible, to call up best performances and to minimize risks.
Therefore, coaches in competitive sports often have a sports science background and are familiar with methods of training theory.
- Knowledge of suitable training aids
- Knowledge of sports science findings in relation to training dosage and training planning
- Exact knowledge of movement sequences and typical errors that can lead to problems
- Knowledge of the basics of dietetics
- Knowledge in the field of age-related training design and related limitations
It is not uncommon for trainers to have been active athletes themselves and thus to know and understand the sporting processes and be able to put themselves in the shoes of the athlete. In many sports, it is mandatory that coaches complete a certification or training before they are allowed to coach athletes. This ensures that the athlete can rely on the trainer and his instructions without taking any health risks.
Psychological support is a taboo subject in competitive sport and consequently little is said about it. However, pressure to perform and failure can have serious consequences in the private sphere as well as for physical performance. Therefore, more and more athletes are working with sports psychologists to start their competitions mentally fit.