Anthony Donskov

Anthony Donskov is the founder of DSC where he serves as the Director of Sport Performance. Donskov holds a Masters Degree in Exercise Science & is the author of Physical Preparation for Ice Hockey.

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5 Things I learned in 2013

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Another year is officially in the books.  This is always a great time for me to look back at how 2013 has shaped me as a Coach, business owner and leader.  From mistakes made, thought processes reinforced or altered, paradigms shifted, and progress made.  Here are 5 things I learned in 2013.


1.)  Adaptation:


Like many paradigms in the fitness industry there seems to be a shift in thought process when new information becomes available, or when existing information is discovered.  This was the case for me regarding energy system work.  Joel Jamieson and Patrick Ward have altered my thought process considerably, along with the fantastic book (Book of the Year for me) by Marco Cardinale called “Strength and Conditioning: Biological Principals and Practical Applications”.  I always thought that traditional weight training took care of our “cardiovascular” needs due to heart rate (120-150 bpm).  After reading more, I have started to shift my thought process.


“It is important to recognize that elevated heart rate per se is not the requisite stimulus that drives chronic cardiovascular adaptations.  For example, during conventional resistance training, heart rate and VO2 will be dissociated because elevation of the former will occur due to a drive for MU recruitment that is mediated by the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system.  Furthermore, the intense contractile effort that characterizes each repetition and the corresponding increase in intramuscular pressure will trap blood in peripheral vascular beds, thereby reducing blood flow until the “sticking point” of each repetition is surpassed (Shepherd, 1987).”  This is not consistent with the specific overload that drives positive cardiovascular adaptation.” (Pg.167)


Take home point:  “Aerobic Exercise is characterized by rhythmic contractions of a significant portion of the bodies’ larger muscles (In this case VO2 and HR are increased and an overload specific to circulatory function can be achieved)” When training our advanced populations, our cardiac output work is done at the end of our workout, or has it’s own separate day so that these adaptations do not compete with one another. 


2.)  The Master Regulator:  The Hypothalamus


The master control system of the autonomic nervous system is of profound importance in understanding stress; neuroendocrine function and how overtraining can affect performance.  Here are a few functions of the hypothalamus. 


  • Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Growth Hormone (HPGH) Axis: 

Growth Hormone is an important metabolic hormone that stimulates net protein anabolism, lipolysis and linear bone growth. 


  • Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Thyroid (HPT) Axis

These hormones modulate calorigenesis, and protein, carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. 


  • Hypothalamic –Pituitary –Adrenal (HPA) Axis

The HPA, together with the autonomic nervous system, is the most important system of the body.  This modulates our “fight or flight” response is heavily affected by chronic stress and overtraining. 


  • Hypothalamic –Pituitary –Gonadal (HPG) Axis

The gonads are stimulated to synthesize and secrete androgens, estrogens and progestins by the concerted action of luteinizing hormone.  The hypothalamus plays a part of this process by secreting gonadotropin-releasing hormone.


Take home point:  The hypothalamus can fail under the demands of heavy training (Barron et al. 1985). We may not be brain surgeons, but a thorough understanding of physiology can help us in gaining a further understanding of how the body works and the importance of the brain, when dealing with chronic stress. 


3.)  Fatigue:  “The Central Governor Model”


I love this definition of fatigue by famous exercise physiologist Dr. Tim Noakes: “A central brain perception, which is based on the sum of the sensory feedback from a variety of organs to the central governor (in the brain), and which is expressed physically as an alteration in pacing strategy (running speed) caused by a reduction in the muscle mass activated by the motor cortex in the brain. 



“This model predicts that max exercise capacity is a process, coordinated subconsciously by the brain.  When oxygenation approaches the limits of what is safe, the brains motor cortex, which recruits the exercising muscles, is informed, and it stops recruiting additional muscle.”


Take home point:  Set goals and pace for your athletes!  “The value of goal setting may simply be that it programs the central governor to accept a greater max effort before it senses danger.” (Noakes)  In addition, we are looking at setting “pace” for our athletes in 2014 based on this model!  By setting pace, we are programing the brain for a desired effort. 


4.)  Best of: Courses/Books:


This was a really tough one for me.  Anyone that knows me knows that I LOVE to read and learn.  2013 was filled with excellent material both in the form of courses/books.  Here were two of my absolute favorites:


Course:  PRI (Postural Restoration Institute):  Advanced Integration course.  If you have never been to a PRI coarse, please consider in 2014.  EXCELLENT content. 


Book:  “Strength and Conditioning: Biological Principals and Practical Applications”.  If you want to understand the “why” this book is well worth the investment. 


5.)  Pulse:


This is a lesson that get’s reinforced every day at DSC!  You can’t teach it, draw it up on a dry erase board, or program a lift that will “strengthen” it!  Pulse is passion, determination, discipline, perseverance, love, heart, motivation, thirst, hunger, adherence, pride, work ethic, desire, and transformation all rolled into one.  The best Coaches that I know have these qualities.  They are always hungry to learn and care deeply for the people they train!  If you lack “pulse”, you lack purpose, atmosphere and more importantly the best interest of your clients.  The best thing about “pulse” is that we control it each and every day.  Oh what a beautiful thing!  DO WORK!




(1) Cardinale, M., Newton, R., Kazunori, N., Strength and Conditioning: Biological Principals and Practical Applications, Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.


(2) Noakes, T., The Lore of Running, Human Kinetics, 2001. 



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