How can we individualise training processes? Peter Düking is the new assistant professor at the Institute of Sport Science and Movement Pedagogy
What happens in the body when we move or train? How can training be optimised? This is what Peter Düking, new assistant professor for sports science with a focus on movement and training at TU Braunschweig since May 2023, is dealing with. In the interview, he talks about whether wearables – such as smartwatches or fitness bracelets – can improve our training process.
Welcome to TU Braunschweig, Professor Düking! You have been researching and teaching at our university since the beginning of the summer semester. Why did you choose TU Braunschweig?
I was very pleased about the call from TU Braunschweig for a assistant professorship. The vacancy appealed to me very much because, from my point of view, there was a very good fit between the required fields and my activities in research and teaching. That seems to have been confirmed. I had a good feeling throughout the entire process, as very pleasant and appreciative discussions took place at all levels. At this point, I would like to compliment all the people involved!
I could imagine choosing Braunschweig as my future place of residence right from the start, because it is centrally located in Germany and because I also spent frequently time in the region as a child. So I already knew my way around the area a bit. I am now very much looking forward to the upcoming tasks!
In your research focus, you deal with the topics of movement and training. What exactly is that about?
In my research, I investigate the acute reactions and chronic adaptations to different movement and training stimuli. I am mainly (but not exclusively) concerned with physiological parameters. I am interested in finding out what happens in the body when we move or train and how effective different movement and training interventions are. I try to use this knowledge to optimise movement and training. To do this, I look at very different groups of persons. Up to now, amateur and professional athletes have often been the subject of my research, but more inactive or even sick groups of persons can also be part of my research. I also work with all age groups.
For my research, I use classical laboratory diagnostics. For example, I use spiroergometry to check heart, circulation, respiration and metabolism to get an insight into “fitness”. In addition, I am constantly evaluating the possibilities offered by wearable technologies such as accelerometers, smartwatches and so on, in order to be able to include other parameters from the everyday life of the person being examined in the analyses. If certain criteria are met, wearable technologies can give us a much better picture of the person and, at best, better explain why and how this person has adapted well (or poorly) to a movement or training measure.
In this context, you are certainly often asked whether wearable technologies bring an improvement in the training process?
That’s right – I am often asked that. But the question is not so easy to answer.
First of all, I always like to ask whether the person in question has a problem in the training process. Something like a lack of guidance on training intensity when running, poor regeneration due to poor sleep, or or or….
Only then can one evaluate whether there are certain technologies that can help with these aspects of the training process. This evaluation is not that easy – many of the currently available devices fail because of the reliability and validity of the data. But in certain use cases, some parameters can already be recorded well. An example: In the past, heart rate in sports was always recorded via a chest strap. Modern smartwatches, however, record the pulse via optical sensors on the wrist. In the past, this recording was still very faulty. However, we were able to show in our own studies that some devices can definitely be used in certain situations and that the data becomes more reliable.
But then often comes the much bigger hurdle: interpreting the data and deriving recommendations for action. One must not think that current end-consumer devices are already so good that they reliably give you this recommendation for action themselves – a lot of work is often still needed here. The data must be evaluated and contextualised. Often one does not even know what influence certain aspects of a person’s life have on movement and training processes. We can just start to measure new aspects of the movement and training process thanks to wearable technologies, but we still need to understand them better. There is certainly still a lot of research to be done.
What excites you about your research?
In particular, I am pleased that with my work I can (hopefully) better understand, but then also positively influence, movement and training behaviour. I have always been interested in how the human body works. Why are some people so good at sport and others less so? This is certainly due to many different reasons, but also because of the way training is done. We now know that not everyone is the same and that different training processes are needed. But how we can individualise training processes is not yet entirely clear. I find it incredibly exciting to find this out and implement it in practice. The transfer of research into practice must not be lacking and I feel very strongly about a close interlinking of theory and practice. To this end, I also like to cooperate with various clubs and associations, for example.
What will be your focus in teaching?
I would like to introduce the students to the interdisciplinary field of movement and training science. We will first deal with physiological basics – for example, the heart, the muscles, the blood, etc. We need this knowledge to be able to work on topics such as endurance, strength, speed, mobility and coordination. We need this knowledge to then be able to work on topics such as endurance, strength, speed, mobility and coordination. I would also like to invite national and international guest speakers. It is important to me to convey to the students the basics, but also application-oriented knowledge and, above all, joy in the field of movement and training.
What would you like to give the students on their way?
Stay curious! Have fun with movement and training and lay the foundation for lifelong movement now! I believe that the field of movement and training is not only important for your professional career, but also for your private life.
One last question: How do you actually keep fit?
I can actually enjoy any form of exercise and training, but I especially like to keep fit outdoors in nature, for example, running, mountain biking or kite surfing. Here I’m already looking forward to tours in the nearby Harz Mountains or towards the North Sea.