Students Staff

18 January 2016

Expert support for top Ironman athlete

Filed under: Latest news, People pages, Sport — Tags: , — Communications Office @ 5:02 pm
Joe Skipper at the Human Performance Unit

Joe Skipper at the Human Performance Unit

Top Ironman athlete and Essex alumnus Joe Skipper is working with sports scientists at the University’s Human Performance Unit (HPU) to help build on his successful 2015 season.

With expert support and guidance from the HPU, Joe is hoping to finish in the top ten of the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii, plus strong performances in Ironman New Zealand and Challenge Roth. An Ironman triathlon is one of a series of long-distance triathlon races.

Dr Dave Parry, Director of the HPU, said: “The support offered by the HPU through physiological testing and simulated altitude training enables us to effectively measure and influence Joe’s performance for the better, ensuring that he is getting the most out of every session.”

HPU Manager Chris McManus will also be working closely with Joe to assist his nutritional needs, ensuring his pre, during and post dietary intake reflects his energy requirements and assists with maximising his training.

Looking ahead to the new season, Joe added: “I’m really looking forward to seeking even more gains by working with the Human Performance Unit.”



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29 December 2015

Run your best race at the Colchester Half Marathon 2016

Filed under: Latest news — Tags: , , — ckeitch @ 5:47 pm
Runners in the 2013 event

Runners taking part in the Colchester Half Marathon

For the third year in a row, the University of Essex is delighted to be sponsoring the Colchester Half Marathon. This year our Human Performance Unit (HPU) is offering a free Run Endurance Test and Body Composition Assessment, worth £160, to one lucky entrant of the race, which is taking place on Sunday 13 March 2016.

The endurance test is suitable for anyone, whether the Colchester Half Marathon is your first event or if you’re an elite athlete.  The aim is to build a detailed picture of your fitness which will help our experts plan your training and help you achieve your best on race day. The test will start off at a low intensity and slowly build the speed in stages, as we measure your heart rate, oxygen uptake and blood lactate. The results provide the HPU Sport Scientists with the opportunity to assess your physiological responses to increasing intensities, identifying important thresholds and determining training zones to ensure you make the most of every training session.

Our Human Performance Unit has looked after the needs of athletes for over ten years and worked with Olympians, Paralympian’s, professional tennis and squash players, elite boxers, professional football teams and numerous endurance athletes.  This could be your chance to add your name to that elite list.

All entrants will receive an email from the race organisers telling them how to enter the competition. The winner will be required to attend the Human Performance Unit on either Thursday 14 or Friday 15 January 2016.

If you aren’t lucky enough to win a free place, anyone can book their own Run Endurance test at the Human Performance Unit.  Make sure you take a look at their website for more details, or contact them on

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18 December 2015

Sports scientists help Essex stars of the future

Filed under: Latest news, Research impact, Sport — Tags: , — Communications Office @ 3:32 pm

Human Performance UnitBudding sports stars of the future are being supported by our Human Performance Unit (HPU) as part of the Active Essex 2016 Inspired Athletes initiative.

A total of 25 inspiring athletes from across Essex have been successful in their applications for funding from Active Essex, Essex County Council and Southend-on-Sea Borough Council. This funding will be pivotal in helping them to develop and enhance their sporting potential.

Active Essex will be working in partnership with the HPU at our Colchester Campus to ensure the athletes have access to discounted services which can help maximise their sporting potential.

The range of sports covered by the athletes include gymnastics, canoeing, wheelchair racing, athletics, sailing and squash.

The HPU prides itself as a one-stop shop offering a wide and specialist selection of services for athletes of all abilities looking to maximise their performance, including physiological support, performance nutrition, biomechanical and performance psychology support.

HPU manager Chris McManus said: “We want to work with and support the best athletes in the region. We already work with a wide range of sports men and woman and this is a real opportunity for us to work with aspiring athletes of tomorrow and it will help bridge the gap between performance and sports science.

“The wide range of the sports that we can support just goes to show we are able to adapt and provide bespoke services for a wide range of sports.”


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2 March 2015

Nutrition strategy for endurance exercise

Filed under: Latest news, People pages, Sport — Tags: , — Communications Office @ 2:26 pm
Chris McManus

Chris McManus

This is the first of a short series of blogs from our sports scientists and experts giving tips and guidance on fitness and nutrition as you prepare for the Colchester Half Marathon 2015.

Chris McManus, Manager of our Human Performance Unit, says:

I’m often asked ‘What should I eat or drink on race day?’, or ‘How much should I eat or drink on race day?’, yet this line of enquiry is neglecting a paramount aspect of performance nutrition.

My response would probably be, ‘What have you been doing in training prior to race day?’ and ‘What has worked well and what hasn’t?’. We should concern ourselves with our nutrition strategy well ahead of race day and ensure we have sufficiently practiced our food and fluid intake in the previous weeks, possibly months prior.

Essentially, we are talking about the period before, during and after exercise when discussing the ‘nutrition strategy’. Often, an overwhelming concern for athletes is what to eat and drink during a half marathon, when the emphasis should be on preparation. If the correct strategies are adhered to prior to getting to the start line, this will alleviate much of the risk associated with endurance running, ie dehydration, cramping, hitting the wall, not finishing etc.  Preparation should begin now, by practicing various meals/food sources, timings and portion sizes.  A brief overview of current recommendations is provided below.

Whilst it may not be possible to adhere to these guidelines prior to every training run, it is particularly prudent to use your long runs (typically weekend mornings) as a dress rehearsal, therefore a perfect opportunity to practice your pre-race meal and fluid intake during exercise.


  • A pre training meal or snack is important to top up the body’s primary fuel source, carbohydrate.
  • Ideal pre-exercise meals should be consumed approximately 2-4 hours prior to the onset of exercise. Dependent upon the time of day you are undertaking exercise, some examples include:
    • Breakfast cereal (ie porridge, museli etc) with milk (large bowl) + fruit
    • Granary bread rolls with cheese/meat + fruit
    • Brown rice with chicken and vegetables
    • Baked potato with baked beans and salad
  • The exact timing will depend upon the individual, hence why it is important to practice and find what works for you.
  • High in carbohydrates (ideally with a low to moderate glyceamic index).
  • Low in fat and protein
  • If you have a nervous stomach before events, choose lower-fibre products, juice, or pureed foods (toast or crackers, apple juice, soup, yoghurt, fruit smoothie, etc).
  • If hungry in the final 30-60 minutes prior, consume an easily digestible carbohydrate snack ie fruit, cereal bar, fruit smoothie, yoghurt.


  • Typical nutrition advice for exercise or more than 90 minutes in duration (presuming a sufficient pre-exercise meal has been consumed and you are eating a high carbohydrate diet prior) is to aim to consume between 30-90g of carbohydrate per hour. This will provide a steady stream of carbohydrate during prolonged endurance exercise.
  • Fluid requirements are slightly less rigid. It is important that you begin hydrated, which can be easily assessed via urine colour (aim for a light yellow/pale straw colour – it does not need to be completely clear, but should not be a dark yellow colour either). Fluid recommendations during exercise are a highly contentious topic at present. My advice would be to sip fluid little and often if possible, by carrying fluid with you or placing it in a bush if you happen to pass the same place regularly during a long run. If you feel thirsty then certainly ensure you consume some fluid and not ignore this desire for fluid. It is a balancing act of not drinking too much that excessive volumes of fluid are consumed, yet not restricting fluid intake to such a degree that dehydration occurs
  • Examples during exercise could include an isotonic sports drink (providing approximately 30g per 500ml bottle), sports gels, jelly babies, jelly beans, banana or raisins. Practice with these during your long runs to find out what works for you.
  • If you are currently not consuming anything on your long runs, gradually increase your carbohydrate intake. Your gut is trainable and therefore you must make small additions to your fuelling strategy week after week, rather than jump from nothing to a large amount.

By attempting to incorporate these suggestions into your training now will provide you with sufficient time to find out what works for you. There is no one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to eating and drinking before and during exercise, so listen to your body.

Ideally, come race day, you will have a firm handle on your nutrition strategy and are simply going through the motions. Never try anything new on race day!

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8 August 2014

Our sports scientists feature in YouTube films with 3.5m hits

Filed under: Latest news, People pages, Sport — Tags: — Communications Office @ 2:43 pm
Kelly Murray at HPU

Flashback: Kelly Murray carrying out testing on a cyclist at the HPU

YouTube clips featuring a top Middle East TV personality being tested at our Human Performance Unit (HPU) have clocked up more than 3.5 million hits.

The sports science testing of presenter Ahmed Al-Shugairi was part of two programmes for MBC, a Middle Eastern satellite channel based in Dubai.

The show Khawater is one of the most popular shows in the Middle East and focuses on innovations and developments in all aspects of life. Mr Al-Shugairi is one of the most popular personalities in the Middle East with over five million followers on Twitter.

Working with HPU manager Chris McManus, Kelly Murray, Terry Baker and Romit Patel, Mr Al-Shugairi underwent two tests. One was to get a snapshot of his fitness by having his heart rate and blood lactate levels monitored during a run test to exhaustion. The second test involved the HPU team assessing how much of a fast food meal Mr Al-Shugairi would burn off during cycling for one hour.

Chris added: “We really enjoyed taking part in the programme and it is great that the work of the HPU have been watched by so many people.”

To view the cycle test forward to 11.36mins and for the run test forward to 15.45mins



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1 July 2014

Colchester United players put to the test by University sports scientists

Filed under: Latest news, Sport — Tags: , — Communications Office @ 1:24 pm
Colchester United player during testing at the Human Performance Unit

Colchester United player during testing at the Human Performance Unit

Colchester United players were put to the test at the University of Essex’s Human Performance Unit (HPU) at the start of their pre-season training.

The fitness testing session was a follow-up to end of season testing in May at the University where the players were given a snapshot of their physiology to help the football club’s sports scientists give bespoke training programmes to each player during the close season.

While at the HPU the players had their heart rate and blood lactate levels monitored during an incremental run test to exhaustion. This data provides an insight into the success of their training programmes over the close season.

Col U will then use these results to coordinate the pre-season training schedules over the next 6-8 weeks.

Chris McManus, manager of the HPU, said: “The testing we have been conducting is a great way of identifying the players’ individual physiological response to varying intensities of exercise, which will then be able to feed in to their individual training programmes.

“The University has a good relationship with Colchester United where we can offer extra sports science support from our expertise at the Human Performance Unit and also where our students gain valuable work-based learning experience on work placements with Col U.”



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