AUSTRIA got their Euro 2020 campaign off to a flying start with a crushing 3-1 win over North Macedonia.
Stefan Lainer, Michael Gregoritsch and Marko Arnautovic all scored as Franco Foda’s side got their tournament underway with a bang.
Austria got their Euro 2020 campaign off to a flying start with a 3-1 win over North MacedoniaCredit: Getty
Austria’s chief sport scientist Dr Gerhard Zallinger, left, implemented VGT therapy around 2013-14 and has reaped the rewardsCredit: AFP
And it should come as no surprise either, with Austria enjoying a meteoric rise in recent years.
In July 2008, they had slipped to their lowest-ever world ranking, way down in 105th.
But eight years later, in the summer of 2016, Austria were suddenly TENTH and boasting top talent such as David Alaba and Marcel Sabitzer.
Their incredible rise to the top of world football can be traced back to 2013, when a new method of training was introduced.
That year, Austria’s chief sport scientist Dr Gerhard Zallinger had the squad undergo ‘vegetative training’ (VGT) after a tip-off from the director of sports at the Austrian Football Federation.
Suddenly the team appeared fitter, healthier and less susceptible to injuries.
Fast forward two years and Austria qualified for their first-ever European Championship having only previously been involved in 2008 by the luxury of being joint-hosts along with Switzerland.
Now in 2021, they’re competing in their second consecutive Euros on merit.
Olivier Goetgeluck is one of the world’s leading experts in vegetative training
And it’s all thanks to the simplest of premises: “Breathing like a baby.”
After all, that’s essentially all VGT is. But what exactly is vegetative training?
Our body’s vegetative system – more commonly known as the autonomic nervous system (ANS) in modern practice – is simply a part of the nervous system that supplies smooth muscles and glands.
In short, the ANS influences the function of internal organs and muscles.
VGT is not classified as either physiotherapy or mental training.
Instead, those who choose to take part in VGT therapy embark on ‘maximal expansive breathing and movement techniques that ‘re-boots’ you’, according to coach Olivier Goetgeluck.
The practice is meant to break down bad habits forged by the body during its lifetime and restore balance, then build it back up bigger and better than before, thus expanding the once seemingly-limited potential of an athlete.
In doing so, it’s believed the body is rejuvenated, old injuries healed and future endurance and performance is improved, along with a mental boost.
Austria’s chief sport scientist Zallinger was once a self-professed sceptic over the use of the therapy.
But after liaising with Norwegian VGT therapist Inge Jarl Clausen and practising for 18 months, Zallinger confessed he was sold on the concept.
Clausen had previously worked with Everton and Manchester City, with Seamus Coleman’s meteoric rise at the Toffees believed to stem from his VGT therapy.
Zallinger liaised with Norwegian VGT therapist Inge Jarl Clausen, who’d previously worked with man City and Everton
WHAT IS VEGETATIVE TRAINING (VGT)?
VGT expert Olivier Goetgeluck explains: “As a human organism, just like everything else in nature, you have an inherent self-regulating or self-healing capacity.
“VGT aims to expand this capacity and your potential as a human by looking back at how the experiences you have had in your life shaped us physical, thinking and emotional patterns.
“The method starts from the theory that experiences are stored in the body.
“Some of our experiences stay with us as unresolved conflicts acting as protection mechanisms or ‘body armour’ which are growth-limiting.
“Through the methods behind VGT you enable yourself to transform these experiences, limitations and injuries that are often saved in your body as disturbances.
“It is a powerful way to bring your homeostasis (our internal balance, a performance and wellbeing characteristic) in motion to support a deep transformation.
“VGT is not mental training nor physiotherapy. There will be no touch used and very little talking.
“We start the session with a maximal expansive breathing and movement techniques that ‘re-boots’ you and expands you from deep within.
“From the first session of you start to lift yourself to a higher level of functionality after starting to re-find your internal capacity to self-heal.
“You learn again to listen deeply to your body and work with the signals you receive.
“You will get in close touch again with the biological spontaneous movements that want to be expressed in order to be freed from the chronic tension of carrying and suppressing them.”
THE PERKS OF VGT – according to Olivier Goetgeluck
- Deep relaxation and recovery of the body
- Healing of old injuries
- Endurance improvement through better breathing and lung capacity
- Better motorics and coordination through lowered tension
- Inner power, mental focus and behavioural flexibility
- Release of suppressed aggression and often lower back tension and pain
- Rejuvenation of the body, becoming younger again, from the inside-out
- Self-regulation extending to organisation of your life
- Learn deeply to ‘listen to your body’
Zallinger has been thrilled with the results of VGT therapy with Austria climbing the world rankingsCredit: Getty
Austria first weaved VGT therpay into their training around 2013Credit: AFP
In 2014, Zallinger wrote a letter to Clausen, which read: “A few athletes that regularly show up in my practice were faced with what they thought is just a breathing routine.
“But when injuries suddenly lost their acute pain, chronic disorders went away and the whole body feeling changed considerably, even they were convinced.
“One-and-a-half years later, my clients are getting instant release from massive pain, improved breathing and clearing of mental issues.
“All of this is possible by positioning the people in the basic breathing position properly and letting them try to breathe like a new born baby.
The letter continued: “To me VGT is a method to reorganise the body’s system.
“For elite sports this will become an advantageous and an inevitable tool.
“I want to emphasise that the experience I have made with everyday sportspeople is so overwhelming, I still can hardly estimate what this can help us in our sport.
“Don’t get me wrong, I am very sceptical when I get feedback from players or therapists.
“But this method has absolutely convinced me to change my working practice.”
Now seven years on from that letter being penned and Austria are competing at their second-straight European Championship.
And after just one game, it’s clear why Austria could well be a dark horse at this summer’s tournament.
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Austria thumped North Macedonia 3-1 in their Euro 2020 opener and will next play Holland and UkraineCredit: EPA
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