Experience the Difference

Commitment: ‘Either you do or you don’t, there is no in between’

August 6th, 2018

Prompted to think more deeply about this question by recent experiences, I am now more puzzled than ever about commitment and what it really is! So what is it?

I don’t believe that commitment can be only applied to just one aspect of one’s life such as sport because, in my experience, sport mirrors the remainder of life. So there is a fair chance that if you lack long term commitment to your sport, it is highly likely that you will also lack long term commitment to your work, your friends and your family.

The dictionary definition of commitment is pretty well summed up as:

Noun

  1. The act of committing, pledging, or engaging oneself.
  2. A pledge, vow, undertaking or promise: obligation

I notice with interest that no dictionary definition specifies exactly how long that commitment needs to be consistently applied to satisfy the definition that you are committed!

From my point of view I believe this is where my confusion stems from in that every definition now seems ambiguous because there is no start and finish time.

Does one day of commitment classify you as committed? OR, does it require that you commit to an entire career to be classified as a committed person? I know which I think it is!

If there is a benefit of me now being in my 41st year of coaching, I have seen a lot of changes across the generations, and the generational diversity in the interpretation of ‘commitment’ is one of these changes that has been and continues to be an extreme challenge as a high performance coach.

Just like many of life’s many variables, the personal perception of commitment and what that very word ‘commitment’ means, seems to be extremely fickle and as such, different for each individual.

I have my own comprehension of commitment and just how that applies to every aspect of life. Accordingly, when applied to sport my definition seems vastly different from most others that I now come in contact with.

To find a potential athlete or indeed, an established athlete with the attitude to maximal personal commitment that mirrors my own, especially in these last few years is becoming less and less commonplace.

Some appear capable of remaining ‘committed’ for a day, a week, a month or even multiple months, in fact some shock me with their enthusiastic ‘commitment’ for that short while in the early stages of training, only to just ‘ghost’ away without a trace or message or any contact in any way.

Many people ‘commit’ to an event sometime into the near or not so near future by either qualifying for, and/or simply paying the registration fee.

To me, that very action of registering for an event should be the ultimate catalyst to total commitment for the preparation to that event with a desire to be in the absolute best possible shape come event day.

Upon qualifying or registering for the upcoming event, these are some questions that you should ask yourself that will assist you in the lead up to that event.

  1. What to expect as far as required physical attributes, (IE: skill set, speed, strength endurance or whatever your chosen sports’ demands are)?
  2. What you need to do and who can help you best prepare (be it a coach and/or who to train with during this entire preparation)?
  3. And how to go about applying all of those into your current life and lifestyle?
  4. Is it going to require some adjustments to your current lifestyle?

This upcoming event should trigger the utmost commitment to yourself, your coach, your teammates that you should be able to rely upon to further your sporting dream.

In this scenario, commitment becomes a two way street, you committed to them because you need them to improve, and them committed to you as by them helping you, you improve, and in turn, your commitment to them helps them improve.

My own take on this is simple, IE: if you are committed to the process, then you are obliged to remain so until the event is completed or if you are a long term athlete, you remain committed until the end of your career and you are now retired from the sport.

So to be a better athlete than you currently are you need the following list of commitments:

Commitment to the exact training as required

Commitment to your nutrition

Commitment to your rest and recovery processes between sessions

Commitment to your squad (if you have one)

Commitment to your coach (if you have one)

Commitment to your family and friends because you will need them when things get a bit tough from time to time.

By committing to all of these processes, you give yourself the best possible opportunity of success and that will be your commitment to excellence.

Without this level of commitment your results are likely to be very irregular at best.

If, however you happen to be that type of person/athlete that is only capable of committing to something for that short time, then you may need to line that short attention span of yours up with upcoming events that are close by in terms of calendar.

Then be happy with the likely sub optimal results based on the fact that your lead into that event was far shorter and less focused than the many long term fully committed athletes that you are likely to compete against.

Continued commitment breeds respect, so if respect is something you desire in your life, I suggest you remain steadfastly committed to everything that is important to you.

Your Sporting Career, it’s OVER before you know it !

June 30th, 2018

The best days in your sport will come and go more quickly than you expect and when it does end, you will realise that it only took up such a small percentage of your entire life, so I urge you to make the most of your most productive and competitive days while you can, when you can because it will be gone very quickly, and likely never to return.

And just like that, it’s gone!

Now in my 41st year of being a high performance coach, something I have never adjusted to over time is seeing obviously talented athletes that have completed their all-important first couple of years of involvement into their chosen sport suddenly choose to give it away and very often just as they are about to seemingly realise their sporting potential.

From what I could foresee with many of them, both with athletes that I had coached and just as many that I didn’t coach, so many of those athletes clearly had the sporting world at their feet but for reasons only known to them, chose to quit the sport and in most cases, never to be seen again in the sport.

This actually upsets me to see this. I know just how hard it is to attain that level of output and performance, then to let it go just like that is so disappointing.

So, take it from me, if you are intending to be your absolute best in your chosen sport, please do it now if you possibly can because you only get one good shot at it in each person’s lifetime. It is one hell of a long way back if you stop training.

Of course many just fall out of love with their sport and that is reason enough to give it up, talented or not, if you don’t love it, it won’t happen.

Then, I have seen ever so many good athletes not make it to the top of their sport because of a variety of reasons but primarily because there is many that thought, ‘no worries I am young and right now I want to join my friends, have a bit of fun, travel, party, stay up late and so on now and I will get back and pick up my sport later when it suits me’.

When that small number of them do make the attempt to return they quickly discover that the motivation and work ethic to return doesn’t very often mirror the sports’ requirements AND if you do come back later, remember this, that the athletes that did continue in the sport are now much further ahead of you than they were because they have had the time to continually gain strength and speed while you had been away ‘living it up’.

Now you aren’t as close to them as you were before or were hoping to be after a short time training again.

When you are young…ish it is easy to get caught up thinking that how you feel right now is how you will always feel and that it will be easy to pick up at a similar level to where you are currently at and move forward from there again as you are inclined.

It is no mean feat to once again to commence the re-conditioning, fitness, strength and speed development after a prolonged lay off, and the discipline required to make all of that happen doesn’t come easily.

There is obviously things out of your control that may require that you take weeks, months or even years away from your sport and that is just how life is at times.

  • Family is the primary factor here where it could all be back on you to lend support to a family member or members for illnesses, sicknesses or other factors out of their control and as you will know I have a ‘family first’ focus at all times so when placed in that position, it is totally unavoidable that your sporting aspirations will need to go on hold in this situation.
  • Injury is something that can seriously impede your progress and many times this is used as the excuse/reason for stopping their sport altogether.

Most injuries seem like the end of the world at the time but from my experience, don’t last as long as it seems that it will and in fact offer up the positive opportunity to work on other aspects in your sport that you wouldn’t normally do.

Having the occasional injury isn’t always the catastrophe that it appears to be when that injury is sustained.

  • Employment and especially work location are also potential impediments to having that required tunnel visioned approach to your sport that high level output depends upon.

Trying to work quality training into obscure work hours can be difficult but not insurmountable.

Whereas trying to fit quality training into your day when you work remotely and/or travel often into big cities does, however does create much more of a quality training problem.

  • Financial constraints are a dominant excuse that is used for giving sport away. Sport of any kind requires an enormous financial investment and without some external support can prove very difficult.

Event entry, travel, equipment purchase and ongoing repairs, recovery procedures, treatments, coaching fees are just some of the ongoing costs to being an athlete but if you can find your way around these issues and remain in the sport it is so worth it.

So, if high level sport is your chosen thing, then please leave no stone unturned to stay in the sport as long as you can, you will be so pleased you did.

If it is important enough, you WILL find a way.

Do it now, while you are able.

Dont Fear Mistakes

June 23rd, 2018

Don’t Fear Mistakes

(Aberration, Blunder, Faux Pas, Bungle, Misconception, Delusion) call it what you like but if you did any of these means the same thing…..YOU have stuffed up!

I would always rather coach someone who makes mistakes along the way because that is a good sign that they challenge themselves and making mistakes gives learning/growing opportunities, more so than someone that ‘plays it safe’ and won’t test themselves and is happy to remain at that ‘safe’ level.

Every time you have an adverse result or lose or a bad training session you are presented with an opportunity to learn and to grow as a person and as an athlete.

It is really only a dumb mistake if you mess something up more than once the same way and you didn’t learn from it.

There is no-one that has never made mistakes along the way, be it in life, business or sport. I should know, I have made plenty.

When applied to the sporting environment there is many ways where it could be considered that an athlete has ‘made a mistake’.

By not attending to even just one of the following WILL affect your future results, guaranteed.

So if you mess up on any of the following it could easily be described as a ‘mistake’ in your sport.

  1. Not adhering to the set training program is a classic mistake. The most common ways that athletes get this wrong are they don’t get the entire session done (do too little), or Do significantly more than the session that is set (do too much). or Do more intensity or speed than is set. OR go too slow. As a coach I have the back of the athletes I coach and I expect the same from them to me. Complete the sessions as set as that makes your next week easy to plan and set.
  2. Seeing your weekly training program and only choosing and completing the sessions that you will ‘like’. Remember, the sessions that are uncomfortable to complete will likely give you the best long term outcome.
  3. Not eating correctly……every meal. The single most uncomplicated thing you will ever do in your life whether you are an athlete or not is eat correctly. It is not hard to have the right things in your fridge and pantry and know what and when to eat based on your training and sleeping regime. Eating correctly requires you to be organised, just as you would as you plan your training sessions.
  4. Not attending to your recovery regime. This is entirely up to you. Eating, drinking, stretching, foam rolling, self-massage, the occasional professional massage, and adequate rest, all ongoing, do it before you think you need it, not just when something feels tight or sore or you feel unhealthy.
  5. Racing underprepared….and being surprised by the result. One thing I always say to people I have coached over the past 40+ years is that you should never be surprised by your event result. Your result will always mirror your current training input and output. The only things that can impact on this is equipment failure that can’t be planned for.
  6. Focusing totally on numbers in your training and your racing. Sure data has a place but it is a mistake to solely focus on data as this will likely give you very variable results. Heart rate and perceived exertion and current effort level are just as important, even more so than data on event day when you are required to go with the winning move or break or you will be left behind. If you have done the work, you should be there or thereabouts.
  7. Thinking that ‘near enough is good enough’. I sound like a cracked record (those of you who know what a record is these days) to my squad because I bang on about this all of the time. Attention to detail at all costs. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that near enough is good, because it is not.
  8. Not factoring in enough family, relationship, friend time. You need your support network around forever so nurture the people that are part of your life 24/7. All work and no play will likely wear thin on your loved ones and the tension and negative energy that this will likely create in and around your home will hamper your recovery and general long term enjoyment of your chosen sport.
  9. And the number one biggest mistake is to expect others to do all or many of these important things for you.

Every one of these things is YOUR individual responsibly.

YOU do the required training, at the required time and intensity, YOU prepare and consume the correct nutrition, YOU attend to your recovery, and YOU attend to the minutest details that are required every session, every meal, and every day.

If you are not making mistakes, you are simply not trying, don’t fear making mistakes, but don’t keep making them.

How to make your season in your off season

May 16th, 2017

As the racing season for many age group athletes nears an end and temperatures dip it is hard to maintain motivation to keep a consistent training regime. With no races in sight and the warmth of bed seeming so much more appealing then diving head first into a pool at 5am many triathletes fall off the bandwagon, let their bike gather dust and trade their running shoes for slippers. However, the off season is the most critical time for triathletes to reset, reflect, refocus and set goals for the next season. To ensure their goals are met when the new season rolls around it is important to begin building their base through the off season.   

End of season self-analysis and next season planning

With the completion of the Straddie Salute triathlon festival on North Stradbroke Island, Saturday 20th April and for you in WA the Busselton 70.3 7th May, it has signified the end of the triathlon season in southern Australia.

Although off season for some signifies a time to hide your swim gear in the back of the cupboard behind the brooms and umbrellas, forget about your tyre pressure and charging you Garmin before the mornings ride and retiring your runners it is actually an opportunity for all athletes to reflect on their season’s performance. All you triathletes out there have now been handed the opportunity to self-analyse your own performances and review your development throughout the season just completed. It’s critical to let your body and mind have a break to freshen up. Within that time decide what you need to do in order to improve, or change in your training, mindset and technique and in turn output, by the commencement of the new 2017/18 season.

The off season is THE time to make some subtle changes to everything you did in the past in order to make you a more rounded athlete that will give you better results into the next season.

The list of things to consider are:

 

Overall health

If you desire to be a better athlete than you currently are, then you will need to address you overall health as this will ultimately determine how well you recover from training and racing and long term, how long you will remain in the sport.  Analyse just when it is that leads into the time that you seem to break down, get sick or simply lose that desire to do what is required.

 

Swim strength/speed

What specifically is affecting your performance? Technique or fitness or is it your lack of love of swimming? If you can identify what is holding you back in swimming what can you do to work towards changing your mindset and skill level around swimming? Most local pools will run an adult squad alongside their junior squads which are run by swim coaches. Not only can this be a fantastic may to improve your swim technique, strength and speed but it can be a great source of motivation to make those 5:30am dive ins more pleasurable and make you accountable for your swims.

 

Bike skills and strength

Do you know how much time can be saved with better bike skills? Cornering, gearing choices, remaining as aero as possible for as long as possible. Think of this, if you are in an event that has 20 corners in it on the bike leg and you improve your corning technique you can expect to save at least 1 second (or more) each and every corner, you have just improved your bike time by at least 20 seconds with no extra effort.

 

Bike fit

Having a professional bike fit WILL give you the most effective ‘bang for your buck’ as far as comfort and strength and then, being able to run off the bike much more efficiently than anything else. Bike fit alone will save you time and make you more comfortable in every aspect of cycling and/or triathlon. EliteSportz uses the world renowned Retul 3D bike fit technology system to place you in the best possible position based on all of your personal anatomical variables that are unique to you.

 

Run speed and technique

What hurts when you run and do you know why? All aspects of endurance sport are improved with consistency of training with a purpose and progression plan, no more so than with the run. Without a very clear and precise progression plan, it is the run that will likely give you the most injuries in the first few years of training but with attention to your technique and strength over time the run will likely be the most enjoyable for many years to come.

 

Transition training

I cannot count the amount of times I have seen an athlete miss a podium spot by 30 seconds or less. Then later I look at the race splits and see that that same athlete spent longer in transition than the others in their race.  Work on your transitions and you will gain some ‘free’ time in your next race.

 

Race planning

The importance of choosing races that suit your physiology and level of fitness should not be underestimated. By now you should know what length of race suits you best and enjoy most. Keep in mind all of the other variables as well, terrain, type of swim, time of year as all of these will affect the conditions that you will be racing in.

 

Race scheduling

It is important to always remember that racing too often makes you slower and offers no opportunity to work towards increasing strength and speed primarily because you are continually recovering from a race only then to be preparing and tapering for your next race. Look at allowing time between events to continually improve the things that you have identified as the areas of your sport to continually pay attention to.

 

Race skills

Swim and run drafting, bike pacing, surging – do you know what to do and when to apply these important aspects of a race? Mental work, where and when do you drift in a race? Are you able to re-focus quickly? Are you putting into practice being able to ‘stay in the moment’ with ease?

Every one of the points above requires specific training just as you would swim, ride and run practice, so too do you need to pay specific attention to all of these ‘one percenters’ that go into creating that athlete that always seems to go well on any given day.

Please feel free to get in touch with EliteSportz Specialist whilst you have this personal review/ down time, lets work on what you feel is letting you down, and lets get prepared and plug the gaps so next season is as much fun, with the results you are wanting to achieve?

 

 

Fuelling the athlete body 

April 11th, 2017

Fresh is best. Prepare your own food. Control your own intake.

In a previous article I wrote that, as a full time coach, it has proved to be far easier to have committed athletes swim, ride or run in really rough conditions. Hot, cold, wet, windy, early, late….They will get it done and most of the time do it well, but have them eat well all of the time……that is the real challenge!

Bear in mind, that it is your body that does the work and makes you the athlete that you desire to be.

Picture yourself in this scenario: you have just bought an up-and-coming race horse at auction for $100,000+ and you have entrusted that horse to a trainer (horse coach) to house, feed and train that horse to be the champion athlete that you feel it can be otherwise you wouldn’t have made such a big investment in the first place.

You soon discover that the horse trainer is giving your big investment (your potential champion new horse) fizzy drinks and other high sugar food and drink in conjunction with factory made burgers and other mass produced, low nutrient food……think how you would feel about that?

Sound familiar? If not yourself, I expect that you will know many people that claim to be athletes that feed themselves along those lines.

How long would you expect their careers to be, feeding the body like that, not to mention the ongoing inability of the body to fully recover between training sessions?

So what should your race horse with all of this natural potential and ability be fed to ensure the very best possible chances of sporting success?

A quick Google search on this topic states: “since proper gut function is essential to the health and well-being of the horse, fibre-rich forage should be considered the foundation of a racehorse’s feeding program. Racehorses should be fed 7-9kg per day of clean hay such as oaten hay.”

And/OR: For a horse to race to its ability, it needs the proper nutritional intake to allow for maximum effort. This requires a specialized diet that is balanced and is adequate in quantity and quality to maintain the horse in top form.

While I completely accept that the duration of most horse races is less than 4 minutes which makes the intensity extremely high compared to triathlons and most running events, the principle of train, recovery, repeat is the same regardless of the length of the event.

So how does this differ from human athletes that have all the potential in the world to achieve great results compared to that of a champion racehorse? Obviously, the type of food will be different, however those 2 quick Google search items clearly highlighted some key factors:

  • Gut health and function is all important to health and well being
  • Clean, fibre rich food is essential
  • The need for a proper nutritional intake to allow for maximum effort
  • The requirement to consume a specialized diet, unique to the individual that is balanced and adequate in both quality and quantity.

It is evident that for success, there is no mention of the inclusion of high sugar, ‘dead food’, low nutrient value, or fast food. It is solely based on quality, clean, high-nutrient value food.

In my opinion….the single most uncomplicated thing you will ever do in your life is to eat properly for both your sport and for your health.

If you are healthy, you will recover faster, race stronger and faster. That is guaranteed.

Hypothetically, if you live until you are 90 years old (currently, many people are living longer than this) you will most likely eat 130,000 meals in your lifetime. That is an inordinate amount of opportunities to provide the body with high quality, clean food and nutrients.

Over the past few years, an increasing number of athletes have approached me who have chosen to lead vegetarian or even vegan lifestyles whilst still maintaining elite athlete status.

While adhering to the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle does certainly present some challenges surrounding planning and preparation, we have proved countless times that lifestyle choice does not hinder elite sport like it was once believed.

What I mean by good, clean high quality nutrient rich food is this:

  • Fresh is best.
  • If the food has been alive recently then it will deliver your body the highest and best possible nutrients. The closer that food is to having been picked or prepared, the better it will be for your body.
  • Whenever possible, purchase all of the ingredients yourself and prepare those ingredients into your own food. That way you have total control of your nutritional intake and not leaving it to chance if someone else prepares your food.

Attention needs to be made towards daily energy expenditure as there are not many sports that do not have a requirement to maintain a high power to weight ratio.

If you are too light, you will likely lack strength, power and therefore speed.

If you are too heavy, you will likely fatigue far earlier than you would like to.

Your personal ideal weight ‘sweet spot’ is unique to you based on your physiological strengths and weaknesses and your attention needs to be focused on exactly that.

In my next article I will expand on this and give much more detailed and specific information on when, what, why and how much to consume.

Tapering for success

March 29th, 2017

On social media these days I see so much information about the ‘perfect’ way to taper for an event.

Simultaneously, I see just as many athletes’ post-race reports that mention ‘I got my taper wrong in the lead-up and had I got that right I would have had raced to my true potential with a better result for myself’. We will never know if that statement was true or false.

Just like every other part of an event preparation where the human body is involved, there is no one method to ‘taper’ that will suit 2 individuals, let alone each one of you out there. That ‘broad brush’ approach does not work in any aspect of event preparation.

To achieve the best possible result for yourself requires a very careful, precise and individualistic set of procedures based on many factors must be implemented.

An important note, that what you did last time (if there was a last time) that seemed to work, may not work at all this time around.

After preparing athletes for a large range of sports events for over 40 consecutive years and having ‘tapered’ athletes for thousands of events from as short as a 60 metre sprint to multiple day adventure races and everything in between.

I completely believe that, the shorter the taper the better, regardless of the length of the chosen event, a well-planned taper is a requirement.

Generally speaking, races are completed at a lower intensity than the targeted training required to prepare for that event adequately.

So what is a taper and what should a taper achieve?

  • A taper is put in place that athletes feel less fatigued both physically and mentally in the days leading into the chosen event.
  • Typically a taper involves a decrease of training volume in the lead-up to a race or an event
  • If the taper is implemented successfully, athletes feel fresher and more energetic by race day.

The longer that you have trained for, the more conditioned you will be to that all important training and recovery regime and in so doing will require less length of a taper in the lead-up to your event.

If you are diligent in the application to the detail of your post training recovery procedures and are aware of how you feel between your sessions you will know how long your taper should be at this point of your preparation. Reading your body is key. The body continually sends messages to your brain and you need to take notice of the messages that you are being sent.

If you are unsure of your present condition and fitness level and how you are tracking with your preparation for your next event, then I suggest that you add an extra day of taper so that when you stand on the start line you will have no residual fatigue to deal with regardless of your fitness level.

For the well-conditioned athlete a long taper is likely to have you feeling heavy and lethargic on the start line which is likely to hinder your race day performance.

Tapering mistakes I see

  1. The number one mistake I continue to see is that when many athletes commence a taper, they simultaneously increase their food intake.
  2. The problem with this is that the moment you reduce your training volume and/or intensity the body will automatically store more glycogen because you are not using the stored energy that the body is familiar with.
  3.  This means that the body doesn’t need any extra food as it can only store so much anyway. This is the exact scenario that will leave you feeling very heavy and possibly lethargic come event start time.
  4. Tapering for too long. The body craves movement and a long taper removes a lot of important event specific movement patterns that are needed during the event.
  5. Doing limited or no physical training at times that the body is accustomed to. A complete day off is good 48 hours before the event but every other day I feel you should do something albeit shorter whilst maintaining the higher intensity that the body is used to.

I feel that the poor old ‘I got my taper wrong’ gets the blame for a lot of poor or worse than expected performance levels in races for all of the above reasons, (too long, too short, incorrect diet) when the real reason that you are likely to have a worse than expected event is in the months leading up to the event where your overall preparation in training sessions were inadequate for your expected outcome.

Some observations I have made are that I have never witnessed a great event result from a very long taper.

Some of the best event results I have seen are by athletes that had no taper at all in their preparation.

Somewhere between those two extremes is the correct amount of time to taper for your upcoming event/s.

 

Machinations have begun in the post-2016 Olympics wash-up.

August 25th, 2016

The most common statement I have seen and heard is, ‘we need to go back to basics, see where that takes us, learn from this experience and make the necessary changes’.
To me, the operative word in that statement is ‘basics’. But what does that actually mean for an athlete? And more importantly, who is saying that? The coaches or the athletes? It depends entirely on who you talk to and from which perspective it is being viewed.
If coming from an athlete’s point of view (which in my opinion, is the ONLY viewpoint to consider) then the basics are really basic and accordingly simple because that is what sport is – SIMPLE.
Start by examining what turned that young, eager child into an athlete at junior, then senior champion level, then enabled that athlete to qualify for the Olympic games.
Ask:

  • What made up their early support network?
  • Was it their Parents, Coach or Squad?
  • What did they do?
  • How did they train, eat and recover to produce their results?

History tells us everything – it is the real indicator of your potential. There is an indication that good training that needs to be in and around the environment in which they were brought up.

You can bet though, most of the reflections and return to ‘basics’ considerations will be about the funding modelling and how the sports directors and ‘support’ coaches, sports scientists and medical staff can justify their personal positions, and in turn, keep their jobs.
I predict there will be more opinions and posturing about justifying the funding, even increasing the funding to create a perception with the ‘powers that be’ that if they pay more money, you will increase the chances to produce more medals in 4 years’ time.
Sorry to burst that bubble, but one thing I know full well by now, after all of these years in elite and professional sport is this, money does not make a champion athlete. Nor is it needed.
Sure, money helps with travel and accommodation for all-important extra competitions and equipment upgrades, but not much else.
The human body is an adaptive organism and all the money in the world won’t make that body any faster, stronger, and leaner or anything else that wins events.
What is needed is a specific training program combined with strict, consistent adherence to the built-in progression within that program. Nothing more and nothing less is needed to create that champion athlete.
Break it down and look at an average elite athlete in a logical way.
Almost every athlete that competes in the majority of Olympic sports is relatively young and driven to achieve excellence in the hopes of pleasing everyone, often to their own detriment.
Because of their age, they often aren’t knowledgeable about what makes an elite athlete, they are however, in possession of unique physical attributes that many others are not.
So where do I see ongoing issues with highly funded programs/systems?
At a minimum, the athletes in these institutes/organisations have at their disposal for unlimited use, the following:

  • Head coach
  • Strength and conditioning coach
  • Sports Scientist
  • Dietitian
  • Masseur
  • Sports Psychologist
  • Physiotherapist
  • Sports physician

Why do I see a problem in this?
All of the above spend considerable amounts of time with, and talking to, each individual athlete. While this is a positive, I know from my extensive experience with professional clubs / teams, institute athletes and individual professional athletes, that while the list of support people talk to the athlete, they spend little time talking to each other. They often fail to devise and deliver a constant and uniform flow of information into the heads of young, impressionable, willing to learn and eager to please athletes.
Every one of the ‘support staff’ looking the athletes has their own perception and interpretation on the needs of each athlete to best further their progress. The outcome is that the majority of the athletes are simply confused and unsure of what is required exactly, at what intensity they should be training, and when and how their training should unfold.
The trouble is, sport is really simple which is what is so alluring about it and exactly why it attracts young athletes to participate in the early years of their lives.
The solution as I see it is this:
Every piece of information needs to be delivered to the athlete in the presence of their coach.
By coach, I mean the person that creates the day-to-day program the athlete follows. They are the only person who will thoroughly understand the daily ups, downs, ebbs and flows that each athlete goes through as they transition toward truly elite capabilities.

Body Image in athletes/people AND Eating Disorder or Athletic Potential?

August 11th, 2016

There is always a lot of talk around this subject, always, but it seems this week it has been brought to the fore. Much of this talk tends to be from a ‘one person’ perspective, describing how one or both of these afflictions have affected them personally.
This seems an appropriate time for me to put forward my observations of seeing and/or coaching many, many hundreds of people suffering these two afflictions over 38 years of coaching.
For most of that time it’s been women that have taken up the largest part of my training squads but these afflictions are by no means female only conditions.
It doesn’t matter what sport we discuss (there’s no difference between the sports) the eating disorders and/or body image issues are the same and in a lot of cases there was no sport to prepare for at all, just everyday people with body issues.
I spent 9 years coaching a squad of in excess 20 track and field and surf athletes. I spent at least 30 years with a squad of more than 25 female body builders and fitness figure competitors.
At all times, in my coaching squad, there is a number of sports that require attention to positive power to weight ratio: cyclists, distance runners, rowers, tennis players, power lifters, gymnasts etc.
Some of the athletes had eating disorders, all of them, 100% of every athlete or person I have ever met or coached has a body image issue to some degree but the toughest to coach were the few that had both, an eating disorder coupled with body image issues.
Now, that body image issues could be as simple as not liking the color of their eyes, the shape of their nose, hair color, the length of their legs in comparison to the length of their body or vice versa, being too fat, too skinny, too short, too tall, too flexible, too inflexible. Body image issues are, in my opinion an every person issue.
Body image issues and eating disorders are very different afflictions but managed well can be used to advantage using coaching strategies that ‘tap’ into the very same psychological attributes that create an eating disorder and apply those same addictive personality traits to the sport of their choosing.
After all, we may as well because that disorder isn’t going anywhere sometime soon. It will remain just below the surface for their entire lives and rear its ugly head from time to time to remind them and everyone around them that it is still here!
Often being involved in a sport that requires a ‘power to weight ratio ‘or extremely low body fat advantage is blamed for bringing on an eating disorder. I don’t see this as the case at all. I have found that if you scratch the surface just a little bit you will in fact find an eating disorder or serious body image issue that has been lurking there forever.
My observations over time are that the addictive personality that makes a person a good athlete is exactly the same attribute that harbors eating disorders and/or serious body image issues.
Experience has shown me over time that when an athlete comes to me with a view to joining our squad and engaging me to coach them, it will emerge during that initial conversation that they’ve had a personal body image issue and/or eating disorder. When I hear this I am openly excited at being given the opportunity to work with that individual. I have seen enough real life evidence and learned through experience that many of my better performing athletes have possessed the addictive personality needed to turn them around and use it to a definite athletic advantage.
If you take a look back over sporting history you will very quickly realise that some of the very best athletes of all time (across a huge variety of sports around the globe) live very close to the edge with regards to some kind of addiction.
It can be one or even a combination of, alcohol, drugs (both illegal and legal, prescription and non-prescription), womanizing, over eating, under eating and gambling. These are all addictive afflictions of some of the most elite athletes around the world across in many sports. From golf to cycling, football and rugby, (all codes), basketball, cricket, track and field, tennis, swimming, gymnastics and skating.
Anyone that knows much about sport will most likely be able to name at least one, if not more, of the sporting elite from each of the above sports that have ingloriously come to grief with an out of sport addiction that they’ve been struggling with and are most likely to continue to struggle with for the rest of their lives. But how much did those afflictions affect their sport at the highest level? That is THE question but in most cases I feel it’s that addictive personality that MAKES them the athlete they turn out to be.
And why not?
They may as well achieve something from their personality trait/s rather than suppress it and have society generalise them into the not normal pigeon hole. So they use that personality to make something of their life while they can. Heaven only knows that your time as an athlete is only a very small percentage of your overall life.
I have seen more talented athletes NOT make it in their sport than actually do make it.
Why? I believe a lot of it is due to peer pressure and societal pressure from the so called experts out there trying so hard to normalise and standardise the elite. I feel those people want everyone to conform to their own deluded view of what an elite individual should look like.
When I take on an athlete I work with them to their advantage, using every tool I can, as my job is to turn them into the best possible athlete they can be.