Sneak Peak into a European Elite Athlete Training and Rehab Center

Tayte Pollmann’s articles are supported by American Trail Running Association corporate member Nike Trail Running. You can follow Tayte’s adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you liked this article, read even more of Tayte’s articles on our website. Photos by Tayte Pollmann.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been training and rehabbing at the European Center for Sports Rehabilitation (CERS) in Capbreton, France. This facility is designed to house high-level athletes competing in a variety of sport disciplines for multi-week stays and to aid them with recovery from their injuries and to help them return to competition. After having an achilles’ tendon operation in December 2018, and returning to competitive running this past fall 2019, I’ve been very pleased with my recovery progress, but I’m still seeking to redevelop the leg strength that I had before the operation.

My goal for my stay at CERS Capbreton was to learn as much as I could about my injury and how to improve the state of my running. This article provides an inside look into how elite athletes recover from injuries in one of the top athlete recovery centers in Europe. You will learn about the many types of athletes at this facility, how they train/recover and what you can do to overcome injuries and improve your running.

Learn more about the CERS Capbreton facility on their website or on their Facebook page. See a video tour of the facility below:

Listed below are short profiles of just a few of the many incredible athletes I met during my stay at CERS Capbreton. All athletes are professionals in their respective disciplines, or have competed in regional, national or international competitions. I trained, recovered and socialized with athletes from many sports disciplines including horseback riding, surfing, rugby, basketball, car racing, swimming, triathlon, handball, frisbee and soccer. To my knowledge, I was the only trail runner in the facility during my stay.


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Thomas Vendeville
Sport: Triathlon
Home: Paris, France
Age: 41
Injury: Femur fracture following a bicycle accident when training for an IRONMAN
Goal for Training at CERS Capbreton: Walk more smoothly and prepare for my return to running and triathlons.

Ultimate Frisbee athlete Josselin Pecher

Josselin Pecher
Sport: Ultimate Frisbee
Home: Toulouse, France
Age: 26
Injury: ACL Tear
Goal for Training at CERS Capbreton: Reinforce my knee with rehab and regain confidence to do my sport again.

Rugby athlete Branden Holder

Branden Holder
Sport: Rugby
Home: Pietermaritzburg, South Africa (living in Vannes, France)
Age: 23
Injury: 5th metatarsal fracture and pseudoarthrosis
Goal for Training at CERS: Regain my muscle mass (especially in my legs), explosiveness, mobility, power and to restart running normally again without pain and discomfort so I can get back on the field with my team for the end of the season!

5 Key Elements to Elite Athlete Training and How You Can Incorporate them into Your Training

Rehab is a Full-Time Job – Each day from around 9 A.M. to 5 P.M., myself and the other athletes at CERS Capbreton worked towards our specific recovery goals. We had sessions of cardio, strength and rehabilitation with experienced personal trainers and physiotherapists, examinations with doctors and other medical professionals, recovery with massage tools, ice baths, saunas and much more.

One might think that when athletes get injured, they have less training, but there is actually more work to do. Proper recovery requires building a strong athlete, reestablishing her/his strength, speed, explosivity, endurance and skills specific to her/his sport to the level they were at before the injury. After having an operation, it can take months of consistent strength training to redevelop muscular strength in atrophied muscles. When you have an injury, prepare yourself for the extra work that goes along with it. Find good physical therapists and doctors and think about ways you can incorporate your rehab exercises into your daily routine.

Train With Structure – Each day at CERS Capbreton had nearly every hour (from 9 A.M. – 5 P.M.) scheduled with meetings, activities, training or recovery specific to improving our injuries. Listed below is an example of a typical day at CERS Capbreton. For those of you interested, here is my full 2-week schedule with workouts and recovery (PDF).

Friday January 24, 2020
9:30 A.M. – 11 A.M.
Strength, Cardio, and Rehab
20 min foam roll
10 min bike warmup + bike workout 18*(30/30/30). 30 sec @60RPM very high resistance, 30 sec @110RPM and moderate resistance, 30 seconds @80RPM and low resistance +10 min cooldown
Core Workout: 8*(30 sec of sit ups, cross leg sit ups, v-ups, planks, side planks, reverse planks)

12 P.M. – 1 P.M.
Lunch (Cafeteria-style eating with all the other athletes. Meals included locally sourced ingredients and a proper balance of crabs, protein, fats, fruits and vegetables. (Include photo here)

2 P.M. – 4 P.M.
Strength, Cardio and Rehab
Bike warmup + light run with 20*10-second strides
Circuit training (20/20/20 seconds of SPARC @500 watts max speed, bike @500 watts max speed and bike @easy wattage and 80rpms
Squat/plank hold for 10, 20, 30, 40 with equal time fast squat dips
Circuit. 5 times each exercise. 20 seconds per exercise with 20 seconds recovery after each set: Squat with 10kg, single leg squat on weak leg with 10kg and opposite arm extended laterally, single leg squats while holding the bar underneath the knee, squat hold on weak leg, and explosive chair squats

4:30 P.M. – 5 P.M.
Light Snack (Athletes had the choice between a piece of fruit or freshly baked dessert)

5 P.M – 6:30 P.M
Recovery with NormaTec recovery boots, foot massage, Revitiv electric stimulation pad

In our busy daily lives, it can be easy to run out of time and skip our workouts if they’re not planned in advance. Schedule specific times each day for your training/recovery to help you be more time-efficient and complete everything you need to do.

Balance Training and Recovery – At CERS Capbreton, workouts and recovery were prioritized equally. At the end of each day’s training, I had scheduled times for stretching, ice baths, NormaTec recovery boots, Revitive electric stimulation pads, foam rolling and many other recovery practices. For athletes housed at the facility, there was a 10P.M. curfew to ensure they could sleep and recover properly. Saturdays and Sundays had no cardio or strength training to balance the intensity of our training during the week.

Establishing a proper balance between training and recovery is the best way to adapt to your training and progress your fitness and strength. Training puts stress on the body, while recovery allows the body adapt to these stresses and rebuild itself stronger than before. Many trail runners often have good training routines, but neglect recovery. This can lead to injuries, plateaued performance and too much stress on the body. For every day you run, make sure you also spend time foam rolling, stretching, going to yoga classes, sleeping well, etc.

Eat Well – Each of our meals were designed to properly fuel our bodies for hours of intense training, rehab and recovery. See the collage below of my amazing lunches at the facility. CERS athletes also have the option to attend nutrition classes twice per week and schedule personal appointments with the center’s registered sports dietician and nutritionist. I took advantage of these services and gained additional knowledge about how to eat a balanced diet and how to fuel specifically for ultra and trail running.

Fueling right is essential for optimal performance in workouts and recovery. You can feel better, reduce inflammation, avoid injuries and improve your race performances with a proper nutrition strategy. Even if you are content with your eating habits, it can be beneficial to talk with a sports dietician or nutritionist to receive professional advice about your diet. If you are looking for a remote nutrition consultation, I recommend contacting Kylee Schuler of FlyNutrition or Maria Dalzot.

Join an Athletic Community – During my stay at CERS Capbreton, I was welcomed into an incredible family of athletes, trainers, doctors and other staff. I enjoyed connecting with athletes recovering from similar injuries, sharing our stories and giving each other encouragement. For every training and recovery session, I worked with other athletes or trainers. They gave me the motivation I needed to push myself and train/recover to the best of my abilities.

Being a part of a running group or having someone to train/recover with can help you get out the door when you might otherwise stay inside and push you to keep going when things get hard. If you normally run alone, contact a friend once a week and go for a run with them. Consider joining a trail running club near you.

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