An open message to athletes, coaches, parents and children.
It is in fact ok to have fun while training for and competing in sport
For most of us, sport is our hobby and as such it should be fun. I tend to think people go wrong by confusing having fun with not taking sport seriously, not training hard and competing at the highest level. It is in fact possible to train very hard, compete at a high level and still have fun.
Breca Bay of Islands - Outside the Duke of Marlborough - first pub in NZ - it would have been rude not to stop for a quick pint
My training / racing partner Andrew and I tend to train very hard however we still manage to take time to have fun even in the middle of a race. The above picture was taken in the middle of a race in the Bay of Islands. While I would not normally condone stopping for a beer in the middle of a race the simple fact is that the race when past the Duke of Marlborough hotel (the first pub in New Zealand) and our mindset was that it would have been rude not to stop. If you think we were clowning around then yes we were but on the flip side there are a lot of calories in a pint and we were in the process of fighting our way back through the field. We ended up with a top ten finish on the day despite being in a group of athletes that went the wrong way due to a missing marshal. We lost over 20 minutes, ran an extra 4km+ and dropped from fifth place to about 40th place before clawing our way back through the field. Yes we had fun but we still raced very hard.
The All Blacks for example are incredibly successful but despite all that they still lose the occasional game. And that’s the thing, you will always win some and lose some. However if you are so focused on the outcome you may be missing out on the fantastic journey and potentially destroying any enjoyment. While winning should always be the key objective often for most of us it should be about being the best versions of ourselves.
In context of the All Blacks I love when they try the razzle dazzle and it goes wrong but the players have that rueful smile of “man that nearly worked.” That is a perfect example of having fun at the highest level. Personally I also love the fact that there are a few of them that could not even make the school’s first 15.
Ultimately the question should be – how do you have fun. Or maybe that should be how you enjoy your sport. Maybe that fun or enjoyment comes from your passion to be the best you can be or your love of the battle for want of a better description. If you have passion, a love for what you are doing then that essentially is a type of fun.
From a few years ago - Cyclocross with my son Daniel - great fun - hard - and still loving it
I have some thoughts on how you achieve that based on 30 years of being an endurance athlete and hanging out and working with fantastically driven athletes from formula 1 racing drivers to Ironman champions. And while these tips often come from endurance sport they carry over to any kind of sport.
1 - For most of us sport is our hobby not our job so in all moments of crisis and indecision and taking oneself too seriously ask yourself “am I being paid to do this” if the answer is no then calm down
2 – Enjoy the journey. There have been a few times in races and in training when I am in the hurt box. I have learned to take a moment to look up and appreciate where I am and what I am doing. Not everybody gets to do the sport you are doing so sometimes it’s ok to remind yourself that.
3 – Enjoy the special moments in time. I am a huge fan of looking for those moments that make you smile. It could be as simple as that sunrise on an early run, or the views from a bike ride in the hills. I personally love that dive into the water at the start of a swim session. There is a moment when you are under the water and the world goes quiet, you have all the momentum from the dive and its a little magic moment when you get to enjoy the speed and take a pause before getting into the session- It’s ok to look for those moments and enjoy them.
4 – Dishing out the hurt can be awesome fun. Some of our hardest and most valuable sessions are when someone is putting the group under the pump. It’s often a case of who breaks first. Or when you are nailing that session you never thought you could do. While often that is very hard it can also be a rewarding type of fun or enjoyment.
6– Its ok to have a laugh. Case in point is Peter Sagan a three time cycling world Champion in what is essentially a lottery of a race. Yet in the middle of a world tour race there is footage of him in the Tour of California pulling a wheelie and grabbing a biscuit. Or the last Olympics when discovering the road course would not suit him he went and did the mountain bike race because it looked fun. This is one of the best athletes in the sport and the message is simple - fun
Peter Sagan - Those Rainbow bands on his shorts - meant he was the world champ - Green jersey means he was leading the sprinters category - and yet he can still do this mid race.
Funny thing about this is that earlier in the day I had been riding with my son Daniel who was 12 at the time. We were riding through the forest and I was watching him go over every little jump and bump and I was about to point out that the smoother line was faster. Before saying anything I realized that he was 12 and that was exactly the line he should be taking. It was not till later that evening and I was watching the Tour of California and saw the footage of this moment and thought – gee that says it all - fun.
As I said I think the confusion lies in the simple fact that there are different types of fun and that people associate the word with goofing off or not taking things seriously. So much emphasis on performance out comes and data driven training that for a lot of people they lose sight of the fact that it should be fun
Winning is still vitally important, however I think the priority should be about being the best version of self and the results will take care of themselves. . I believe that if you can have fun while doing that then you will ultimately perform better. Remember you can still train very hard and do your sport at a very high level, have fun and a love of what you are doing.
In the context of kids sport, I get that some kids are super driven, however it’s a case of ensuring that they are focusing of the process not the outcome. By all means let them strive to greatness but also taking a step back and focusing on the skills they need as well has having some fun may actually keep them in the sport long term. Instilling a great attitude and work ethic along with the fact that they can have fun will more likely lead to children succeeding long term
Too many kids are lost to sport from well-meaning but misguided parents who think that being good at 12 is a sign of greatness. Nope- being a world champion or an Olympian as an adult that’s what important. How we mange that is obviously different for everyone but there is a greater likely hood of getting there if you are having fun and enjoying your sport along the way
Finish line of what was one of the hardest Ironman's I have ever done - Still had fun, still smiling, oh and I also won a national title for my agegroup
The picture above is from Challenge Wanaka and it was some of the toughest conditions I have ever raced in. I walked away with a great result and had a great time despite how hard it was. I even stopped to check on a fellow competitor who was having a bad day, managed to have a laugh with the helpers at the aid stations, stopped for a kiss from my wife at the start of the marathon and even got to look at some spectacular scenery. I guess its a case of practicing what I preach - Train hard, race hard and have fun. What's not to love
So to sum up:
CALM THE HELL DOWN AND HAVE SOME FUN.
Yes there will be lots of hard graft but that can be a type of fun as well.
Peace out - John
When discussing what is essentially an overuse issue I often use the term dysfunction threshold.
While injuries can often be a result of crashing, falling or often doing dumb stuff, an injury through overuse can often be avoided. So rather than having to resort to pills, creams, K tape or health professionals after the fact this months blog is more about you being proactive - oh and booking in for a massage.
I sum it up as the following.
Dysfunction Threshold: The point at which our body can no longer balance training / life load versus imbalances and dysfunction.
What I mean is that most of us are not perfect and we all have some form of dysfunction whether it be from life, work, poor technique or genetics. In our normal everyday lives our bodies can generally cope with a certain amount of dysfunction. Often it is when you are training for an event without addressing any potential issues that you generally encounter problems. It’s the point that our bodies shout enough as it can no longer deal with the stresses we are loading on it.
There is a reason that you will often hear people talking about training for a big event and the comment is “it was going really well then six weeks out from the race I got injured”.
Interestingly six weeks out from a big event is generally the point of maximum load.
My perspective as an athlete, a massage therapist and a coach is how to avoid breakdown at critical training load. In accordance with the fact that everybody leads a different life there is no simple answer other than taking a moment to honestly assess you the individual and look at ways to reduce the risk of injury for you.
My top tips, in no particular order are:
Practice good form and technique.
Strength and conditioning relative to your sport is a good investment in reducing injury risk.
Change takes time so you need to allow the body to adapt to any change in training load or change in technique.
Never underestimate the power of recovery·
Often it is the things we do in our everyday lives that can have the biggest impact.
Just a little foot note to all this. I just want to remind you that we have all had life happen and that none of us are perfect and that when I talk of good form it is relative to you and where you are at. Most of us are not capable of swimming like Phelps or running like Mo Farah and trying to do any of those would
It is about what works for you the individual – case in point is Paula Radcliffe (pictured above - photo credit Ramon Smits). If you look at her run you would shake your head in dismay, yet she set a world record for the marathon and it is a case of her technique works for her and her body. And yes there is an argument that if she had better form she would go faster. I find that fascinating because would that hypothetical concept of good form just create more issues for her the individual or would she in fact have gone faster. That’s a conversation over beers in a pub if ever there was.
And while I have used sport as an example of the dysfunction threshold it also applies to other aspects of life. Work stress, relationship issues pretty much anything that tips us over the edge to either physical or mental melt down. Often those things are intertwined in a complex mix.
In some of those cases it is not always an easy solution of identifying what is the dysfunction in our life.
It might mean we need help, it might mean we need to listen to those who care or it might be a case of making change within ourselves.
So to sum up – none of us are perfect, be mindful of your weakness and just look after yourself by being proactive rather than reactive. Never lose sight of the fact that you are an individual and that no one lives your life but you.
So go have fun, live the dream and do not forget to book a massage as step 1 to being proactive.
Peace out - John
It is interesting times we live in. This month my planned blog was about the word acceptance. However trends in social media have been intriguing and it seems that so many comments provoke outrage.
Most of the nonsense out there I personally ignore on the basis that I can only make change in me and trying to illicit that in others is often a lost cause.
It seems fascinating that so many people feel the need to show how outraged they are on a particular topic. TV for example – if you do not like a show, do not watch it. You have the power not to watch and even stretch out for the remote and change the channel as opposed to leaping onto social media to show your outrage at a show you disagree with.
I made a post about tyre companies and the lack of pricing and how do we know actual prices and if we are paying a fair price. Someone had to comment on the fact that I spelt tyres as tires. I replied “gee missing the issue by being a dick - gee thanks mate that’s helpful” And that’s the point I am trying to make I guess. Are we too busy being outraged about things that are not important that we are actually missing the message? And before you get outraged yes grammar is important however if that’s all you focus on you may miss the message and yes grammar can change the meaning but let’s be honest most of us are smart enough to see the message. God knows I have enough typos in the things I do but mainly because I am too sentences ahead (and yes it should be two – I am making a point), I am seeing the message not the details.
Are we becoming so focused on what offends us, and essentially turning into an angry mindless mob?
Do we need to maybe focus on what is real and needs our attention and look within ourselves to see the good? My favorite band is OMD and there is a song called “New holy ground.” Here a few lines:
“We must now abandon, the people that we’ve been,
So take a look at yourself, and walk to the edge,
And take a deep breath, and be someone else,
Take a look at yourself, and see what is found
Step into the light.”
This song always makes me reflect on me and my behaviors and that sometimes taking a breath and being some else - as in being a better person may be a better option than venting in outrage.
Racism, sexism, cruelty to animals and the environment to name but a few, they are things we need to stand up for. However there seems personally so much outrage over inconsequential nonsense that it almost beggars belief.
Having said that environmentalists for example are all up in arms and would have us all driving electric cars. Again I think they are too outraged about one aspect to see the big picture. Personally I am not sure the technology is there yet and when it is I will embrace electric cars with open arms but right now I have a couple of thoughts on why I think it’s not yet time to go fully electric:
Do not get me wrong as I am definitely not perfect in any of this and it is a case of just reminding myself of what is important and maybe just taking a breath and being a better person is a good thing.
Sorry if that was a bit long winded as it took on a life of its own.
On the up side I have justified buying a classic car as it is saving the planet – go me. And an Alfa like this one would be just the ticket
Cheers - John
I am sure like most of you we are all pretty new to this swim run training. We (my friend Andrew and I – Team Shag racing) completed Breca Wanaka this year and have just signed up for Breca Bay of islands. I thought it might be nice to share some tips from our training that might helpful. We are both triathlon coaches so I thought I would share part of our training plan. The thought of swimming 8km+ with hand paddles and a pull boy may seem daunting and realistically while it is a challenge it is also a case of being prepared
So this is essentially how I evolved our Friday swim program to help prepare us for the load and reduce our injury risk. A couple of points of caution:
Hand paddles clipped to our race belts
Warm up –This was pretty much a standard 400 meter swim with drills focusing on body position and hand entry but essentially it’s about just getting ready for the main set. In a Breca build up its more about managing the shoulders with the load so we kept it at about the 400-500 mark.
Main set – this was built around 2.4km as the key component and then loaded up around that based on the fact that the longest swim in the Wanaka race is about that distance (more as it turned out on the day the way most of us swum) and I could break it down into manageable chunks.
So to start with 12 x 200 as 4 times through as 1 swim 2 pull (hand paddles and pull buoy)
Then we transitioned to 3 times through 3 x pull 1 x swim and added 500 swim at the start and 500 at the end so it now looked
500 swim, 12 x 200 as 3 times pull 1 swim then 500 swim
As we adapted to the load the next progression was changing the 500 at the start to 500 pull then also building the end of the session with an additional 500 so it became 1km broken down. So the main set now looked like this.
500 pull, 12 x 200 as 3 times through 1swim and 3 pull, 500 swim 500 pull.
The next evolution was to increase the pull and back load it more towards the end of the session. I also started to add in some 100’s at pace with pull gear on at the end of the session. The key here is not to overload the shoulders but focus the loading through the last part of the swim stroke where the shoulder stress is less. We added in some 50 easy sections to loosen the shoulders and often this was double arm backstroke (both arms at the same time) or breast stroke. We also changed the 12 x 200 into essentially 4 x 600 broken into 400 pull and 200 swim
So now the main set was, 500 pull, 50 easy, 4 times through (400 pull, 200 swim) 50m easy loosen then 600m pull 50 easy and then 4 x 100 pull going on 1minute 30 = 1minute 45 depending on how smashed we were – you may need to modify that time to suit but the focus was more about efficiency than raw speed.
Then the main set evolved to became, 500 pull, 50m, easy, 4 x (500m pull 100, swim,) 50 easy. 200 swim, 8 x 100 pull going on 1:30 – 1:45 then an easy warm down.
So that was last Friday session before the race. The next phase would have been the 2.4km as 2 times through 1km pull 200 swim followed by 10 x 100 pull going on 1:30 but we essentially ran out of time in this build up and it is always a tradeoff regarding load versus being broken.
We just went super easy and lots of double arm backstroke to ease the shoulders
Hopefully this has given you an insight on how to evolve your training (this was over 11 weeks of training) specifically for a Breca race and hopefully help get you to the finish
I am not sure where to start with this topic other than as a coach and a parent I sometimes just want to hang my head in despair as I think that we have lost the simple truth that kids play sport in general to have fun with their mates.
I am a huge fan of the need to teach kids the skills they need and a passion for their sport. While wining is important the fact is that in life you win some, you lose some and you need to learn to deal with that. However if we can teach our kids a love of sport, competing and maybe instill a life long journey towards being fit health adults then it’s a win.
If you think that makes me an all about participating hippy then you are wrong. I understand that all kids develop at different stages and they actually need to be nurtured and given the best opportunity to grow into their sport. Some kids might be super stars at 12 and some at 16 and it’s a case making sure both those kids have the opportunity to be superstars as adults. Sometimes with kids sport their birthdate has more of impact rather than actual talent. The kid who has just turned 10 competing against a kid who is just about to turn 11 is at significant disadvantage. All that evens out by the time they are adults and that's when we want then to be in a position to shine on the world stage.
What’s the solution?
Personally I do not know. As a parent and a coach I am just letting my kids have fun, find their own passion and I am trying my best to encourage them to enjoy what they do. For me I am trying to expose them to as many sports as possible and if they want to try something new then that’s ok. And yes while swimming is mandatory in our house its more about it being a great skill set to have especial considering the time we spend in and around water.
I think as parents we just need to be mindful of just letting our kids be kids and have fun playing sport. And if you need inspiration on what having fun in sport is all about watch a certain Peter Sagan. I am not perfect and sometimes I get it wrong when my natural competitiveness gets the better of me and I forget that they are just kids.
My son Daniel and I are doing Cyclocross together and it is fascinating. He is 11 years old and having a great time. We are having fun and he is challenging himself in an environment that is testing him but is not about the result rather than its just having a blast. The coach in me knows if I push him he will lose interest and I also know that by focusing on the fun aspect he is slowly developing the skills he needs and there are glimpses of him developing the competitive aspects he will need later on if he pursues this as a sport. On a side note as a parent it is cool as F**k actually doing sport with him as opposed to watching.
On the flip side my 14 year old daughter is on the brink of having to decide about swimming and if she wants to succeed it’s now time. She has potential and while she is way behind the kids that are currently swimming 8 times a week she knows that she has time to make that up and get to a point where she is not burnt out when it really matters. That’s going to be fascinating to watch as she is about to find out how hard the sport is. As long as she is chasing her dream and having fun despite the hard work then life is good.
To sum up – My personal thoughts are let kids be kids, let them have fun, support and encourage them in finding their own passion and the worst case is that they turn out as fit healthy adults who have a positive attitude to exercise, sport, health and in the scheme of things that’s not a bad result.
Driving kids too hard too soon and putting too much pressure and expectation on essentially young children to me seems fraught with failure so kick back and just enjoy watching your kids play sport.
Peace put John
It’s a funny old thing the ageing process. While we can fight it as much as possible we still sometimes need to accept it for what it is. As a continuation of my last blog and in the context of training for and racing Breca it was an interesting experience getting ready for that race.
As coaches we talk of consistency being one of the keys to success. I think as an ageing athlete having a consistent level of fitness means that if you decide to enter an event it is significantly easier to build from a solid base as opposed to starting from ground zero. That and also the health benefits of being a fit and healthy individual.
My normal base line fitness is that if you asked me to do a ½ Ironman with a couple of days’ notice then I would be able to get through the 1.9km swim, 90km bike ride and 21.1km run in ok shape. The reason I mention this because in January I was nowhere near my normal level when I entered Breca and that highlighted how hard it was to rebuild fitness from ground zero.
At the end of the first 4 weeks of hard training I was pretty train wrecked and my wife asked if I was ok. I replied that as a coach the training load I had completed in the last four weeks would normally have been after 8-12 weeks building, not straight into it from very little training. Oh and add the fact that I am not twenty anymore. And that is one of the other aspects – you do need a bit more recovery as you age and sometimes experiencing it under pressure of training for an event is a brutal but gentle reminder that yes in fact we are not twenty anymore.
And the key is accepting that you are not quite as young as you were and recovery becomes a vital part of the process. For me the rest of that training block was more about managing my body and knowing when to push and when to ease up and let my body regroup. That may sound simple but I guess with age comes experience and it’s a case of actually applying that.
While I may never be as fast as I was when I was younger and the above photo was taken the challenges change and it is often more about other factors in a performance than times alone. Do not get me wrong as being competitive is still very important to me but often its secondary to having fun and enjoying the journey.
So accept that life is what it is, have fun, enjoy your sport and if you watched the world masters games have hope that we can still be going to events when we are 100 years young.
Yes I am the first to admit that this updated website has been along time coming. The only excuses are that I have been the problem and that life in the last 12 months has been interesting to say the least.
So this is really stage one of the new site and to be honest a lot of the content is only accessed by my coached athletes. While you may wonder why it has taken so long it has been a case of this old dog learning new tricks and working out the direction for the business.
The new booking system will roll out shortly as I am still upskilling and learning the systems. However the text reminders are part of that new system becoming a reality and you should be getting those before your massage.
On the subject of old dog new tricks:
This is a picture of Andrew and I finishing the inaugural Breca Wanaka in 6th place overall. The journey to the start line was an adventure of discovery not only in the adventure of exploring our own backyard but also in working in the team aspect as well as preparing for the physicality of 8km of swimming and 42km of running all mixed up in a day of fun racing (there are pictures on the face book page). The race itself was stunning and a massive challenge that I would recommend to anyone provided they are prepared for it. Details on Breca are here:
So I hope you like the new website. I will be striving to expand and implement the new strategies in the next few months so stay tuned.