April 2018, Articles

Team Behind the Team: Performance Physiology

Growing up as a passionate sports-loving Kiwi, High Performance Sport NZ Performance Physiologist Anna Skipper is relishing the opportunity to play her part in helping New Zealand athletes fulfil their full potential in the red-hot heat of Commonwealth Games competition in Gold Coast.

High Performance Sport NZ in partnership with the NZOC are sending a four-strong support team to operate the preparation and recovery areas in the Gold Coast Athletes’ Village to mimic and simulate the athletes’ daily training programme as closely as possible.

Four areas will be set up by the team when they arrive in the Village – a gym, a nutritional support area, a quiet space and the area for which Anna will be responsible which will be the physical preparation and recovery area.

“I have so many great memories of watching New Zealanders compete at the Commonwealth Games and Olympics, so to get the opportunity to work with the athletes and help them achieve their goals is very exciting,” says Anna whose day to day role is working as a performance physiologist with Yachting NZ and Para-Swimming.

Anna Skipper | Performance Physiologist (HPSNZ)

The physical preparation and recovery area will include hot and cold recovery pools, Wattbikes, stretching mats and NormaTec Recovery garments all set up to enable the Kiwi athletes to stick to their normal routines and aid recovery from the demands of elite competition.

It will be Anna’s role to oversee athletes’ usage of the various pieces of equipment, which will be set up from March 20 when the High Performance Sport NZ team will fly into Gold Coast ahead of the first Kiwi athletes and coaches who are expected to hit the Athletes’ Village four days later.

The hot and cold pools will be used by athletes as an aid to rest and recovery which can helps restore the body back to a state where they can sleep and feel better for the next day.

Four Wattbikes and a room filled with stretching mats will also be available for the athletes to utilise which will “allow athletes to undertake their normal pre and post competition routines” insists Anna.

NormaTec garments will also be an option for athletes to use, which are dynamic compression garments designed to support recovery after high intensity or long duration exercise by using pressurised air.

Anna says the areas will be set up across several townhouses in the village with the pools in a marquee covered outside to protect them from the elements.

“My role will be slightly different to my day to day work whereby instead of testing and prescribing, I’ll be more about delivering what the athletes have practised at home,” she explains. “So it will be about creating the space, making sure it is hygienic, accessible and meeting the athletes’ needs.”

“Logistically there may be some challenges,” she says. “New Zealand will send around 240 athletes to Gold Coast and our team needs to ensure that the athletes have access to the areas and equipment they require at the right times”.

“On the Gold Coast we also have the potential for thunderstorms so we have plans in place to move equipment if necessary so that weather issues don’t become a concern for how the athletes operate.”

Anna is anticipating long days with the first athletes likely to use the facilities from 6am and the final athletes rolling in at 9.30pm.

However, she is adamant her role will hopefully play a small but crucial element in aiding the Kiwis push for medals in the Gold Coast.

“It will be really beneficial for athletes because the equipment we are providing is what they are used to using at home, they will be able to perform their normal routines and this will hopefully help them perform optimally,” she adds.