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“There may be people that have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do” – Derek Jeter
“So, what do you think you need to change or do better at training?” I ask this young enthusiastic athlete. This question came about when I was engaged to help and guide a young athlete with all the potential in the world, set some goal planning both in his sport and in his personal life. And with most young athletes, they do incredibly well with regurgitating things that they have heard their whole life but do not understand the meaning of it, but have learnt to answer a certain way or they need to respond to certain questions with certain answers, because this is what they are programmed and conditioned to do and sadly enough, it’s what some of their coaches want to hear. Even though if the athlete has no idea of what he is saying, the coach is happy hearing those answers. So in response to my question, the young athlete responds with the following;
“I THINK I NEED TO TRAIN HARDER AND I NEED TO TRAIN
WHAT A GREAT RESPONSE!!! That’s the answer we wanted to hear. They have responded well. This young gun has great potential. I mean, they really are focused and know what they must do, how to do it and have it all planned. So in such a state of euphoria I reach down to pick up the lifetime achievement of correct answers award to hand the young gun, but just before I hand them the award, I pause, look at the young gun and I ask just that one last question, “Explain to me what training harder and smarter means?”…… (PAUSE)….. (SILENCE)…….. That blank stare again.
Let’s firstly have a look and think about Training harder or to train hard. It’s such a common used term, in some cases it’s almost the same as a battle cry. By saying that I mean that it sounds great to say, but unless there is a system in your own mind or a logical thought process explaining this saying, then really it doesn’t hold any substance or depth within you. My view of training harder is a very simple view. And I’ll put it into an example.
Please note: for the purpose of this example, put aside loading/unloading cycles.
Session 1– in today’s environment with training athletes, the athlete generally will know what it is that they will be generally physically put through. They know what a conditioning, speed or weight session will entail. In this session 1 training session, we take our body to a certain limit, whether been intensity, volume or both. Today these things measured in many various ways. Most commonly, we use GPS systems. Let’s again for a moment put aside the sports science of it all. This first session will take us to a physical limit as suggested before and more importantly a mental limit.
Session 2 – we are aware of where we went with our physical and mental capacity in session 1, training harder to me means that in session 2, regardless of whether volume is higher or lower than session 2. Our intensity is to rise. We are to push ourselves harder to rise above any discomfort and pain that session 1 brought to us. Rise above and higher than that threshold that we have been at previously. We know that our body and mind can go to the level of session 1, but the challenge now is beat this session 1 and make that session our past and bring level 2 session into the present. You see regardless of what information we can give you back through the GPS system, it is only you that truly knows where you truly mentally and physically went in session 1, you could have felt great that day you did session 1 and done the hard things easy. Come session 2, you may for some unseen reason not be as energetic and alive. This is where training harder comes into play. Beat yourself every time at every new session. It’s a very simple formula which can be complicated by many. One way which I have found that helps you reach that new level is through a very simple but powerful sentence…….WIN THE MOMENT.
Training smarter is one of my personal favourite things to teach young athletes. It has so many different sides to it and if looked upon in a proper logical manner with a plan, it is one of your greatest assets in which will help you succeed. There are so many items which fall into this list for myself personally, that I will place them into a point form list
Do you have an existing injury? Are you taking care of your existing injury and doing all that has been prescribed for you to do? Are you also challenging your medical team, keeping in regular contact with them and pushing them and yourself to do more?
Are you doing your daily injury prevention (PREHAB) work? Are you increasing the work load to adapt? Are you again pushing yourself in doing this work or do you look upon it as a THING I HAVE TO DO?
Mobility/Flexibility work, are you again pushing yourself to strive to increase these area’s? Where are you least flexible? Are you placing extra time into that area?
Have you approached your coach/teacher and asked him of area’s you need to or he suggests you may need to improve.
Are you preparing for and after training? Have you packed all that you require for and after training?
Have you or are you making a conscious effort to learn more about your sport and its skill. Yes, you do have a coach/mentor who is teaching or guiding you, but maybe, just maybe, you make pick up and learn something or see something that they don’t which will help you in so many ways.
Are you spending more time on those things that you need to improve on, whether skill, strength, speed, power or conditioning. Are you ensuring that you are NOT taking time away from the things you do well, and giving it to those things that need to improve. What MUST happen is the time allocated to those things you do well, must remain the same as these things can also improve and get better. What MUST happen is more time is allocated to those things that need to get better. This is a very important point as it gives both your strengths and things which need to improve adequate time in the day to help improvement. Athletes will generally do more of what they do well. This makes them feel better and empowered. It also is very familiar and has familiar feelings which comfort them.
Are you doing what you need to improve on first of all in the session? Are you doing these activities whilst the body and mind are fresh? Especially learning new skill sets, this is best done at first whilst you are at your most focus. At the beginning of a session.
Are you looking after your body after training? And much more importantly in my eyes, are you looking after your mental wellbeing doing things which give you timeout.
Last but not least, have you placed this all in a plan?
In my first article of this series PLAY TRAIN part 1, we discussed the different needs of training but drove home the point of ‘YOU PLAY LIKE YOU TRAIN’. Raising your intensity and volume at training at a higher level than competition in order to perform repetitively at an optimal level of intensity when required, over and over. This then transitions into this article, where we endeavour and push to raise our level of intensity mainly to improve ourselves, creating an ability to do more workload at greater strength/power/speed and intensity in shorter time spans. Taking not just our body but our mind, our mindset, our confidence and belief into a higher performance bracket.
Intensity has been mentioned on a few occasions in this article and the first article part 1. Intensity of what we do, how we do it, how we prepare and mostly all things we do in life, will dictate the outcome. Everyone will spell the word the same….
I T E N S I T Y
But it doesn’t mean the same to everyone, so before we can put this into play, define intensity and give it your own meaning. As doing so, you will own the word and the action, as discussed in the ‘THE GOOD AND GETTING BETTER SERIES’ I wrote.
After going through this with my young athlete, explaining it all. I can truly and honestly say that they now know how to train harder and train smarter.