The ‘Everyday athlete’: lessons you can learn from elite sports

Provided by: Australian Physiotherapy Association

It goes without saying that elite athletes require a carefully planned, highly structured and closely monitored training program. While not everyone has been gifted with the athletic ability to achieve success on the track or the sporting field, all people striving to achieve health and fitness goals—and those who work with them—can benefit in some way from the practices of the world’s best physical performers.

While applying techniques from elite sports may sound like a lot of hard work to some, the good news is that while the world of professional sports performance is constantly adapting to new research and subsequently updating their training methods, the basic principles of achieving long-term athletic success remain largely the same.

Physios who work with elite athletes use a range of techniques to ensure they stay in optimum condition and can compete at the highest level for as long as possible.  Australian Physiotherapy Association member Cameron Dyer is the rehabilitation coach for the Manly Sea Eagles NRL team and, having worked previously as a personal trainer, has great insights into general fitness for everyday athletes and elite sports people alike.

His top tips include:

For the ‘Everyday Athlete’

  • Understand the importance of recovery.
  • Professional athletes only spend around 6% of their week actually training or playing. The other 94% of their week is spent recovering from training and / or game demands.
  • The body requires 48-72 hours following intense exercise to properly recover and adapt.
  • Regularly training without adequate recovery can lead to illness, injury and a loss of motivation, none of which are helpful to achieve health and fitness goals.
  • The staples of a good recovery program include:
    • Sleep
    • Optimal nutrition
    • Adequate hydration
    • Active recovery modalities i.e. hydrotherapy, stretching, foam rolling
    • Mental relaxation
  • While everyone has a preference for what recovery modality works best for them, focusing on your recovery away from your training may hold the biggest key to your long-term success.

For the Health Professional working with the ‘Everyday Athlete’

  • Understand the concept of ‘training load’.
  • Training load, also referred to as ‘training stress balance’ (TSB) or ‘acute to chronic workload ratio’ (ACWR) is a concept used to measure the amount of training an athlete has performed over the last 7 days i.e. their acute workload, relative to how much training they have performed over the last 28 days i.e. their chronic workload.
  • The relationship between acute to chronic workloads provides an internal ‘load profile’ for an athlete and has been shown to be associated with injury in different sports. (Bourden et al. 2017)
  • Interestingly, there seems to be a training load ‘sweet spot’ whereby spikes or troughs in training load predispose athletes to injury (Figure 1). 



 Figure 1. The training load ‘sweet spot’ (taken from Blanch & Gabbett, 2016).

For trainers or coaches working with professional athletes the emerging body of evidence on training load has three important implications:

  • High acute training loads seem to predispose injury i.e. don’t do too much too soon.
  • High chronic training loads seem to protect against injury i.e. take time to build a good training base to build resilience in your athletes.
  • The ratio of acute to chronic workload ratio is more important than either acute workload or chronic workload on their own i.e. don’t make rapid changes to your athlete’s training loads.

Basic principles such as optimising recovery and understanding training load have the potential to transform the way health professionals view their program design and provide meaningful information as to how their clients are responding to the imposed demands of training.

You can hear Cameron speak more about TSB and other techniques the ‘everyday athlete’ can adapt from the world of elite sports at The Sydney Fitness Show, taking place at the PaySmart Education Hub from 12pm-1pm, Friday 20th April.

For more information on how physio can help you, go to You can also connect with the Australian Physiotherapy Association on Facebook (@AustralianPhysiotherapyAssociation), Twitter (@apaphysio), Instagram (@physioaustralia) and Linkedin.


Bourden, P., Cardinal, M., Murray, A., Gastin, P., Kellmann, M., Varley, M., Gabbett, T., Coutts, A., Burgess, D., Gregson, W., & Cable, T. (2017). Monitoring athlete training loads: Consensus statement. Int J Sports Physiol Perform, 12(2), 161-170.

Blanch, P., & Gabbett, T. (2016). Has the athlete trained enough to return to sport safely? The acute:chronic workload ratio permits clinicians to quantify a players risk of subsequent injury.  Br J Sports Med, 50, 471-475.

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