“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” John Wooden
With more time than before to train and to push my sporting limits to the next level, I’m now trying to concentrate on all those little details that can really help me to improve specific areas of my performance.
A coach once told me to look at my training as a multitude of little silos and then determine how to improve in each individual silo. So I broke down my training world into components, the “silos”, and I’ve been analysing how I can improve in each one of them.
I broke down my training into the following components:
- Strength & Conditioning
- Rest and Recovery
- Structure of my training
- Actual training sessions
- Equipment, Technology and Kit
- Events (choice, strategy, location…)
- Altitude and Heat Training (when relevant based on location of events)
This exercise has helped me identify where I can improve and highlighted what to focus on. I’ve started paying attention to the details, each and EVERY detail. I tend to be VERY focused once I have a goal, so I am breaking this down further to the smallest detail I can in each silo!
This has been a very useful exercise for me, so I thought I’d share. Each of these silos could benefit from a separate and detailed article in their own right. Right now, I will stick to the three of the main areas I identified for improvement. We are all different, and my areas for improvement could be completely different from yours. The analysis exercise itself though applies to everyone, and I highly recommend it!
“The road to success is always under construction” Gary Keller
- Strength & Conditioning
Analysing my strength and conditioning (S&C) silo has made me realise that this was an area where I could improve dramatically.
I’ve been doing regular conditioning circuits and core exercises for years, always on my own and at home. I’d manage about twice per week to help with general fitness and prevent injury (e.g. to develop antagonistic muscles such as rotator cuffs for climbing).
By looking at my routine in more detail, I’ve noticed that I do the same circuit exercises week after week, and I have been doing so for years. So I have trained certain muscles over and over, and ignored lots of others.
Also the routine aspect of this type of training means it wasn’t very motivating and inspiring for me, and I wasn’t getting as excited about the sessions as I am for the rest of my training.
I was fortunate to meet Coach Ali from Delta Nutrition and Fitness. We now work together and I train with Ali twice a week at the gym. I also do an additional third core session at home on my own to complement his sessions. His one-to-one sessions are tailored to my specific needs and are aimed at preparing me for my key events. The goal of the sessions is to help me acquire climbing and running specific strength and flexibility.
Ali also puts a lot of effort into identifying my weaknesses and teaches me how to work on those weaker muscles to become stronger. Amongst many, my biggest weaknesses are my quads running wise (they are always the first to scream in pain during a race) and power moves climbing wise (intense and dynamic movements). So we are also working on improving these too.
With a new and fresh approach to my strength & conditioning, the focus of these sessions is:
- to ensure the strengthening routine inspires me
- to understand which exercises I need to work on and WHY
- to ensure it stretches me physically and REALLY makes me stronger
- to make sure I’m doing the exercises correctly
- and finally to tackle my weaknesses and ultimately to perform better
Thanks Ali, I always look forward to the next session! The harder the better!
Training session at the gym with Ali (Photo credit of Wildcamera Photography)
- Rest and Recovery
Another area where there is room for improvement for me is rest and recovery. It really is very hard for me NOT to train!
I find myself constantly finding excuses to train (instead of excuses not to train like most people…)!
- Sleep is GOOD! It’s OK to Rest …
Currently, I train 6 days out of 7 and I take one rest day per week, without any training (I promise, no real training of any sort!). The rest day varies according on the events I’m training for and the phase of my training. At the moment, I aim for my rest day to be a family day during the weekend. On my rest day, I might still do gentle activities with the children, like swimming or biking in the forest, but these are very easy as the Bears are still young – it won’t be long though until I can’t keep up with them :).
I’ve also started incorporating little naps or rest during the day when I feel very tired between training sessions. Enthused by my training, and in an attempt to utilise the precious hours when the children are at school, I have found myself guilty of hopping from one training session to the other with very little rest in between. It was like doing constant brick sessions across up to 4 sports per day. For example, I’d go for a run straight after coming back from the climbing wall, and then cycle and do a core session, finishing my training just in time to collect the children from school. Barely taking enough time to rest and refuel between sessions. Phew, I’m tired just writing it J Obviously, this wasn’t optimal and I was risking over training … ! And no wonder I was lacking energy for some of my training sessions.
So I am now trying very hard to incorporate little breaks between activities, even if this means fitting in fewer training sessions each day 🙁 And I’ve stopped feeling guilty about being tired and I’ve come to terms with taking a 20-30 min nap during the day when I need to and when possible.
With the training load, my body just needs the extra sleep. And it means I can then tackle my next session fresher and more energized!
- Listening to Your Body
In addition to incorporating more rest in my schedule, I’m learning to listen to my body and give it time to recover. This is so very difficult for me. And it is still learning progress…!
I still struggle with this and that’s where it really helps for me to have the support from my coaches who know to rein me in when I need recovery.
I’ve learned the hard way that when my body is telling me it needs a break from training, I need to listen or it will actually break! Training is reliant on stressing the body to the limit to improve performance, but it’s critical to not cross the fine line that is the breaking point. Easier said than done! And most athletes, myself included, have had over training injuries at some point, especially with high impact activities like running. So even though it’s a struggle, I am trying to listen to my body in the early days of niggles, and ease off my training when it’s telling me I need to rest.
Also, I’m learning about the stress I put on my body during events I take part in. This is particularly important for long endurance events where we end up with numerous micro tears in our muscles. And I’m learning how much time my body and muscles need to recover from the damage. For example, my body was quite battered after running the Echappee Belle race last summer (10 hours of running on a very hilly mountain course in the Alps). This event was very demanding for me and it took over 6 weeks to recover fully. I was so sore and I had done so much muscle damage to my legs that I actually completely stopped running for 10 days afterwards. To avoid injury and allow recovery, I then had to incorporate easy running sessions very gradually. The race had taken a lot out of me, more than I like to admit!
- Rest during Illness/Injury
Finally, with three children under 8, most of the time at least one of them is poorly, especially in the winter and spring season. So with a house full of germs and with my immune system impacted by my intense training (yes, the immune system gets weaker if your training load is high L), I inevitably catch lots of bugs. Which consequently has a massive impact on my training. It can be so frustrating.
Nevertheless, I’m learning to stop worrying about it as it is outside my control. I just try to manage it the best I can. Which is by getting some rest…. And this is never what I want to hear… I need to get better at listening to advice and actually just stay in bed (when possible, easier said than done with young children).
Deep down, I know rest is actually the quickest way to get back into training. I’m thankful for those around me who support me, have my best interest at heart, dare to give me their advice, and make up with my grumpiness when I can’t train.
Also, it’s important to try not to play catch up with the training sessions you missed whilst poorly. I just forget about the sessions I missed and focus on building up the training again from my current level of fitness.
- Structuring My Training
I’ve also been looking at improving the structure of my training. I am lucky to work with incredible coaches, Will who is helping me with my running, Szymon with my climbing and Ali for my strength & conditioning. They are all instrumental in structuring my training.
For me, it’s very important to delegate this activity. Even though I’ve been running and climbing for a good number of years, I feel I really benefit from their expertise and help to prepare for key events. I can sometimes be my own worst enemy and make training decisions which aren’t always in my best interest. For example, I’m the type of athlete who struggles to rest and be inactive, and I will always want to keep training even when I should be resting instead. Sometimes I just need someone else to tell me to get some rest, or to have an easy session.
I work differently with each coach for a variety of reasons. Will and I discuss and agree my running programme on a weekly basis; whereas my climbing plan is agreed with Szymon for longer periods at a time. Finally, I meet in person with Ali twice a week for each strength session in the gym. Their training programmes are based on periodisation of training, which I truly believe in, with the aim of competing in a key event at a specific date.
With training for multiple sports and the increase in my training volume, I’ve been putting more thoughts in structuring my OVERALL training. Once I understand my individual training plan for each sport for the week to come, I then structure my overall plan on a weekly basis.
I create my own overall plan where I ensure the input from the specific training plans and activities all fit together. I look at the bigger picture and optimise my overall schedule. For example, I might need to move sessions around so I don’t have a hard climbing session and an endurance long run on the same day so I don’t end up completely exhausting myself… Which I have found myself guilty of doing many times. On numerous occasions, I’ve tried to fit up to 4 activities per day whilst pushing myself in each session in each sport…. Just to find out I am actually not doing any session at my best as I am so physically tired!
In summary, I rely on experts to help me with the details of my training session for each specific sport. Nevertheless, I am in control of the bigger training picture, making sure I can fit in the training session during the week, ensuring the activities don’t hinder each other, and adapting and optimizing the training as required.
On a side note, all three coaches are also instrumental to my mental silo! Over time they have become true mentors to me. They are all such inspiring athletes, motivating me and teaching me to believe in myself.
With more motivation than ever before, I’m currently training hard, enjoying every minute of it, focusing on improving each little detail and aiming to become a better athlete every step of the way.
“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence” Vince Lombardi
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