Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Peaking- Competing with a Warrior Attitude

This is the time of year when the scholastic and collegiate throwers here in the U.S.A. are trying to get the best throws of the year. Being able to summon your best performance at the right time is a very individual and inexact science at best.
Not long ago I had a short conversation with one of our legendary American throwers, Dr. LJ Silvester, and he expressed the opinion that peaking for a single competition was not a realistic goal. He said that the best one could do was to train smart, stay healthy, and give it your best each day in practice and competition. When you feel good, train hard. When you don't, back off. In his opinion there are too many factors in life to try to control and reach an elusive optimal level on a given day. Just do your best under the circumstances, whatever they may be.
While I am not against a long range training plan (and I don't think he is either), I have to admit that my experiences as both a coach and athlete validate his opinion. While I have studied and applied the periodization models that are part of the "body of knowledge" based on science and research,the real life process of training and competing is much more art than science.

It is my belief that you should begin training with an end in mind. It is vital to have a goal to train for. Long range planning includes infusing variety and progression into training.
But can even the best designed progam insure success in competiton? Of course not. Feeling ready to compete is very individual. Many benefit from more rest prior to major competitions. Last year in an article in the Arizona Republic newspaper, Ryan Whiting mentioned that he did no weight lifting the last 2 weeks of the season. Yet there are others who prefer to lift the morning of a competition, although this is usually very light and quick work like hang power snatches with 50-60%. I have seen athletes who could sleep under the stands or on the bleachers until minutes before their event, while others were "wired" and nervous before a PR performance. I have had great performances when I was rested and also when I was under stress and tired.
There is a cliche that says, "Success is when preparation meets opportunity." Preparation should be a constant process, we can't always control when the opportunities will arise. A Warrior attitude does not acknowlege fear of failure. Warrior attitude is having the mindset of competing in the moment. When I was a teenager, we used to cut school early on Wed. afternoons and hitch a ride across town to workout in the Allegheny Mountain Gym (which was in Les Cramer's basement) Once I showed up with a bad cold and mentioned it to him that I was not feeling good. He told me that I should have a great day then because you are actually stronger when you have a cold. Low and behold I squatted more than ever that day. I really believed for years that having a cold made one stronger. It wasn't until years later that I found out that he was full of it. Still, the lesson was not lost on me. The mind is powerful and what you believe can affect the reality of a situation. Do not get so dependent upon a routine or program to the point that it dictates your performance. Poor nights sleep? Tell yourself that you don't need sleep. Sore? Tell yourself that you throw better when you are sore. Weather bad? Tell yourself that it gives you an advantage because your opponents will let it bother them. In the mind of a Warrior, every obstacle can be used to their advantage. The bottom line is that smart preparation is desired, but competitions are decided in the moment. Prepare smart, then compete like a warrior.

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