WHEN the British men’s relay team took gold in Athens in 2004, Darren Campbell and his teammates were at the peak of physical fitness.

Training and dedication were key but there was another element behind their victory: sports science.

Campbell, now an MBE, was in Wrexham this week to officially open a new facility that makes resources that are normally exclusive to elite athletes available to all sports men and women.

It is the first of its kind in the UK to offer such a service and, it is hoped, will be the first of many around the country.

The people behind it, Wrexham Industrial Estate-based company fitnessASSIST, have been supplying specialist equipment for a number of years but are now making it more accessible.

They have opened a new in-house lab which will make sports science testing available to athletes and coaches at all levels.

Utilising the same testing procedures and protocols as national governing bodies, the lab is the brainchild of fitnessASSIST Chief Executive Officer Steve Raven.

He explained: “I’m a canoeist with a sports science degree. I lectured in the subject for 10 years and then set up the business in 1993, but the lab is something I’d
wanted to set up for many years.

“The whole idea is that we want to provide a resource for physical trainers, fitness trainers and sports coaches to bring athletes for metabolic testing and VO2 (endurance) testing. From that data, they can develop much more effective training

“It’s about coming back to our sports science roots and providing a service that enables athletes to achieve their peak performance.”

Offering both in-house and mobile testing solutions, the fitnessASSIST laboratory has been approved by RISES – the Research Institute of Sports and Exercise Science – and provides athletes and coaches with the insight they need to address specific areas of their routine.

The aim is to maximise their training and achieve optimum performance.

Darren Campbell, who now markets his own nutritional programme, knows the importance of science to a modern athlete.

“Whether it’s nutrition or training methods, this sort of data can be very important,” he said.

“Everybody is trying to be the best they can be. Take America as an example – they embraced sports science years ago, whether it’s in the NFL, NBA, no matter what area of sport, they embrace it. But the UK hasn’t been the quickest to take up these

“I first used sports science in 2000 when I was preparing for the Sydney Olympics and, from there, never looked back.”

Since his retirement in 2006, Campbell has moved into coaching as well as developing the Pro Athlete Supplementation range with his former nutritionalist Jon Williams, who is currently working with the Welsh rugby team.

Their programmes have become very popular with top athletes as well as fitness enthusiasts in the region.

Campbell’s clients include players from 10 Premiership football teams. He added: “fitnessASSIST is a great company which makes products such as ours and services such as this available to everyone.

“That’s the important thing. It shouldn’t just be available to the top athletes.

Hopefully up and coming sports men and women will embrace it and develop quicker.”

The technical bit

A typical testing session at the new lab can include body composition analysis, calculation of VO2 max, assessment of lactate threshold, peak anaerobic power, heart rate zones and running economy in addition to tests of strength, power, flexibility and agility.

In laymen’s terms, the range of tests on offer enables individuals from all walks of life to understand how their body works, to assess their athletic capabilities and to develop their training accordingly.

l For more information visit www.fitnessassist.co.uk or call 01978 660077 to book an assessment.