Written by Sports Performance Coach, Meg McClurg
I speculate that there are some athletes that just turn up to training and go through the motions. And maybe they think that that’s all they need to do in order to get better and achieve their goals. But if you really want to improve, you really want to move towards the goals you’ve set, then these points may be beneficial to you in learning how to use your training for maximum benefit.
Raise pressure at training. If you are an athlete who is competing then you will know at EVERY competition there is going to be some kind of pressure. That might be internal or external, it might be a LOT more than at training or maybe only a little bit more than at training depending on the event, but there will be pressure. It wouldn’t be competition if there wasn’t. However, so often athletes train in an environment where there isn’t ANY pressure. Why not try increasing the pressure at training so that you can best learn and adapt to dealing with pressure. An example may be a sprinter waiting a few extra seconds to push off the blocks to practice handling the pressure that comes with having to catch up to competitors. Another example may be a motocross rider simulating a race in practice to increase riding intensity and practice quick decision-making. Talk to your coach about how you can create pressure sometimes at training. (You don’t want to always train with pressure for many reasons – a post for another day!)
Learn to welcome, accept and really utilise feedback. In some cases athletes respond to feedback in a way that is more emotional than logical. Feedback can, at times, feel like criticism. It is important to first understand the processes that happen in the brain when we talk about criticism. When we perceive that someone is criticising us, our amygdala (in our brain), perceives this as an attack and thus responds with the fight/flight response. When the fight/flight response is activated it makes it very difficult for our thinking area of the brain (the pre-frontal cortex) to function properly as all of our resources are sent to the amygdala. Therefore, if you are perceiving feedback as criticism you may find it difficult to process, understand and utilise. Having a healthy relationship with feedback is very important if you’re looking to improve your performance.
Understand and discuss with your coach what the FOCUS of the training session is for the day. And based on that, what do you need to do to use that session to further develop strengths or to use that session to work on things that need more work. To do this you FIRST must know, what are your strengths and what are the things you need to work on? In knowing your own focus points you can figure out how to utilise the session best for YOU.
Following on from that- know and understand what contributes to a good and a bad training session for you. What does that look like for you, what does that sound like and what does that feel like for you? What are the steps you can take to have a good training session and what are the steps you can take to turn a bad training session into a good one?
You might know that you don’t train well when you’re hungry or when you’ve had a big day you find it really hard to get excited to train and often feel that training starts off bad. How can you change that? First one is easy – eat some food. Maybe for the latter you could listen to music to ‘get pumped’, reflect on the purpose of training, reconnect with your desire to improve or remind yourself of how good it feels to be out on the track/field/court/arena feeling fit/strong/fast etc. and the necessity of training to make that happen.
Know your race plan. Practice your race plan. Learn to welcome pressure throughout your race plan. Contingency plan for your race plan. Training is the opportunity to become confident with your race plan and make necessary changes.
When you turn up to training, TURN UP TO TRAINING. Learn to leave what has happened during the day, the night before, on your phone on the way to training etc. behind you and turn up to training or practice ready. This allows greater capacity for attention towards the tasks on hand at training, allowing you to be more focused and ultimately get more from your training session.
‘We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training’ Archilochus
– Make it count.