A couple of months ago I had the opportunity to travel to Europe with a few of our athletes for the European track and field season. What a privilege to live and breathe the lifestyle that so many young athletes are striving towards! It has been a while since I was a fulltime athlete but the mind-set still remains and with it opportunities to impart some guidelines to them to avoid the pitfalls that I made at the time.
From a personal point of view it was an opportunity to get away from my desk and the seated lifestyle that infringes on some many of us nowadays. For more than a decade have we been told that
sitting is the new smoking! And research also suggests that even if you run or cycle for an hour in the morning and then sit for the rest of the day you are not out of the woods either!
In a faraway land I was out of routine and the fact that I was sitting less, walking daily to get supplies for the guys, and getting into a relaxed routine of train-eat-rest-work-rest-repeat, a lot of my niggles dissipated and I was able to string together nearly 6 weeks of awesome training!
Again I realised the importance of a holistic development with different boxes to tick in all areas pertinent to each person individually. The two elite guys had fanatical routines from warming up, to recovery, timing of meals, daily and weekly recovery and regeneration sessions, gear, etc. For myself now, as master athlete (in terms of age not achievement J), the focus shifts continually to keeping the joints mobile, the muscles activated and strong, while remembering that I am not able to train as hard as before, and that recovery takes just that little bit longer!
Of course the nutrition box should also be managed continually both in terms of a health and performance point of view. With age the metabolism slows, even if you are doing 80-100km per week, and we tend to not only retain visceral fat easier, but also the unseen fatty deposits lining and protecting the vital organs! For the elite guys my focus was to ensure enough food for the main meals as well as for snacking. And even though they could get away with eating anything from a weight-management point of view, they have also sussed out already what makes them feel sluggish before or during training. First priority is quantity, i.e. having enough to sustain training and energy levels, but a close second is quality. By consuming below par nutritional items undoubtedly results in below par performances. Training and performing well at any level is hard enough with good nutrition, so taking shortcuts and making poor choices just doesn’t make sense!
Thankfully with good preparation comes good results. So an important box to tick is that of reward and celebration. So while a busy and competitive season needs ongoing focus, the occasional celebratory pizza and excursion to Belgium sports shop seems a bit tame, the need to celebrate victories and successful learning curves for the guys is as much fun as standing on a podium with flashing cameras!