The secrets to becoming a High-Performance Sports Scientist

Dr Alan Ruddock is not only a highly-respected Physiologist and Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, he is also the Founder of Red Zone Running and Co-Founder of Boxing Science Ltd.

LLS’ students recently had the opportunity to join Alan for a Zoom call where he spoke passionately about his journey in sports science and he shared some invaluable tips to young people who hope to follow in his footsteps.

World Champion Boxers

As well as working with Olympic athletes and Professional footballers, Alan spends a lot of his time providing sports science services to Professional boxers as part of the Boxing Science programme he set up at Sheffield Hallam University. Prior to the Covid-19 restrictions, Alan was working with two-time World Champion boxer Billy Joe-Saunders who was preparing to travel to Las Vegas to take on Canelo Alvarez, who is arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

Sports Science in a fight camp

During the build up to a super-fight, Alan plays a crucial role in the fighter’s team. He works alongside the likes of Ben Davison, Tyson Fury’s former coach, there is a nutritionist, a strength & conditioning coach, as well as another boxer.

Contending with time zones

Alan explains that planning how and when a boxer travels to a new time zone is a key factor which can have a big impact on the final stages of preparation. He said:

‘’Boxers don’t have a lot of time to train and prepare so we need to make sure we are optimising every single opportunity that we get. A missed day of training is a missed opportunity’’.

When asked about typical training sessions in week one of the new time zone, he said:

‘’First things are very light – looking at mobility and just trying to burn some calories. Then we start to build in some strength training into conditioning, so trying to get a bit of intensity out of the training’’.

Using the heat for stimulus

In 2014, Alan was part of the team who helped Kell Brook make history when he beat Shawn Porter at the Staples Centre in California. Brook became IBF welterweight champion and the first person to beat an American on home soil in a world title clash in almost 40 years.

‘’One of my jobs is basically to be a weatherman…’’ Alan said jokingly when talking about the 38-degree heat inside the famous Top Rank gym.

He goes on to explain that accurately tracking the heat and humidity informs when key aspects of training, such as sparring and technical work, should and should not take place. This factor also links to nutrition as the heat can impact a fighter’s weight.

Managing the data

‘’We collect in a lot of data. If we want to optimise our practice, we must collect in a lot of information’’.

Hearts rates, velocity, speed of the barbell when lifting, urine samples and sweat are just some examples of the data collected by Alan, but we were keen to know what skills elite level sports scientists possess.

Surprisingly, Alan said:

‘’The first step in the scientific process is observation, and if you can get good at just sitting back and observing things; looking at how different people react to certain situations, this will help you to build a profile on that individual. Really, it’s got nothing to do with science but without this skill it will make it more difficult to implement ideas further down the line, from a sports science perspective’’.

Another transferrable-skill students were encouraged to develop is their ability to communicate complex information in a simple way that is easy for athletes to absorb and put into their practice.

Advice

To finish our Q&A, Alan shared some advice excellent advice:

  1. Consume information.
  2. Follow the best people in the area you are interested in.
  3. Use YouTube, Instagram and read articles to build your pockets of knowledge.
  4. Have a go at implementing what other people are doing.

To start learning from Dr Alan Ruddock, we recommend LLS’ students start to follow @redzonerunning and @boxingscience on Instagram where Alan and his team upload regular sports science related content.

If you are a parent, teacher or student who would like to learn more about LLS’ sixth form sports courses in your area, please email yourfuture@llsonline.uk or call 0151 294 3229 ext. 1 and a member of our friendly student support team will be happy to help.

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