Team Nagi Coaching Newsletter – Jan 2022
I’m super pleased to be writing the first newsletter of 2022.
I decided to take a break from writing it over Christmas as I wanted to just have some downtime during that period. I think we’ve all learned the lessons after these particularly stressful 2 years that taking time out is so important when you need it. It really does re-charge the battery, so you come bouncing back with renewed energy and vigour. One thing is for sure I feel incredibly excited about the year ahead and I hope you are too. It looks like it could be one of the most exciting triathlon years for many years with 2 Ironman World Championships and scores of other great races planned. I think we will see more events going ahead this year and many more athletes getting to their chosen races.
It’s also been great to see all my Team back in training with a few new additions. It was clearly obvious that many athletes needed a longer off-season period before they decided to commit to the year ahead. I think the 2 years really got to a lot of people and affected them way more than they anticipated, which is totally understandable. But what is nice from a coaching perspective is to really feel that fire burning in all of you once again for the 2022 season. It’s well and truly game on.
The main topic of conversation I’ve had with my athletes this past month is in relation to a question I get asked frequently. It’s a question asked by many highly driven individuals who like to be at the top of their game in everything they do. That question is:
“What ‘extra’ can I do to improve performance and be a better athlete?”
My answer is always the same, rarely is it a case of doing more swim, bike, run (unless they are severely limited with training time). What is crucial to support the swim, bike run training is the amount of what I like to call ‘self-care’ processes they are blending into their training.
What do I mean by ‘self-care’?
Well, it’s the processes and routines that are specific to you that help you warm up, recover, strengthen, stretch and mobilise your body.
To highlight this for you I’ve included a great quote from one of my favourite athletes of all time, the legendary rugby player and New Zealand All Black Sonny Bill Williams:
“Many operations later, fast-forward to the start of the 2019 World Cup year. I had the regular routine check-ups to make sure I was in the best shape I could be. In the previous four years, I had dealt with an Achilles tear, a ruptured AC joint, broken bones in my shoulder, a few concussions and the old not-so-faithful knee on top of other small niggles, and every time I had done what needed to be done to be able to step back up. I still had the dream to play a part in winning three consecutive Rugby World Cups with the All Blacks, alongside Kieran Read, Owen Franks and Sam Whitelock. I was going to put my faith in my Creator and in focusing on the one per cent wins and do everything possible to achieve this World Cup goal at the end of the year. If I spent two hours on the field, I’d follow that up with at least three hours preparing for the next day just to be able to train. I’d stand in the ocean for twenty minutes, no matter what the weather conditions or the temperature – cold, raining, three degrees, windy, it didn’t matter. I’d get on a trigger-point roller and work my muscles before doing thirty to sixty minutes of yoga at home. To top it all off, I’d use the ice compression machine for twenty minutes every ninety minutes. I’d always have to ask Alana to fill it up for me, and she hated that machine almost as much as I did. In my final All Blacks years, from 2016 to 2019, I was always willing. That Achilles injury was a huge setback and coming back from that was a real grind. But I did come back. In 2017, I played in just about every All Blacks game.” (from “You Can’t Stop The Sun From Shining” by Sonny Bill Williams)
What is very clear with all of the world’s best athletes is the amount of time and energy they put into doing everything they can to be able to train and recover affectively. Only yesterday I heard Team GB & Olympic gold medallist Duncan Scott say he turned up at the pool 30mins before each session to do a warmup routine and he considered that short for an elite level swimmer. Sonny Bill was putting 3 hours of work into his body a day outside of training just to be able to train for 2 hours a day. This is not uncommon at the elite level of sport. Am I saying every athlete needs to do this, certainly not? But what you do need to work out is the short routines and must do’s that will help reduce your chances of injury. This will help you train optimally but also aid faster recovery afterwards.
Age groupers have a very bad habit of neglecting these elements, especially when training load increases. The usual excuse I hear is I just don’t have time. If you can’t find the time then your training schedule is already out of balance, so an adjustment is needed. All too often I see athletes that might training15 hours a week but want to spend all that time swimming, biking and running. That will only work for so long before your body starts to break down, especially as you get older. So, it’s worthwhile readjusting the scales to allow for a couple of hours of self-care processes each week in favour of some slightly shorter swim, bike and run sessions.
Typical self-care process can be listed as:
- Improving sleep quality & sleep hours
- Regular deep tissue massage / use of massage guns
- Foam rolling
- Mobilisation exercises
- Resistance band exercises
- Activation routines pre swim, bike, run
- Strength & conditioning ongoing & weekly
- Regular physiotherapy/ osteopathy
- Factoring in recovery days/periods
- Cold water/ ice therapies
- Recovery boots
- Optimal nutrition for exercise and recovery
- Meditation/ mindfulness
The list goes on and on and you really don’t need to do all of this, far from it. But over time through working with coaches, trainers, physio’s, surgeons, therapists and doing some self-experimentation you start to work out the key things that work for you. Then you piece them together over time they become your non-negotiables routines that you need to do to be able to swim, bike and run optimally and consistently.
As an example, for my body to be able to swim well and not aggravate a slightly dodgy right shoulder I need to follow this self-care process before each and every swim:
- Go to the gym first to stretch on the pull-up bars (like a monkey) for 5mins. This will help to loosen up my lats
- I then spend another 5-10mins doing shoulder muscle activation exercises (internal & external rotation/ tricep kick backs) with a resistance band to help warm them up.
- Then I swim
- When I get home, I will then use the foam roller to loosen up my neck & back muscles. This is done whilst watching TV or listening to a book/podcast.
- When my shoulder gets really sore I ice it with a packet of frozen peas a few times a day for 10mins at a time
- I then combine this with a longer S&C routine twice a week and have a deep tissue sports massage once every 2 weeks.
- I will also trigger point any gnarly tight areas, particularly through my rhomboids and scapula with a lacrosse ball twice a week
- Sometimes I will do a longer version of this warmup if I have time and a shorter one if I don’t
What I’m highlighting here is this is my weak area that needs the most attention in regard to self-care. If I’m able to continue to swim well and stay happy it has to be done. I actually thoroughly enjoy each part of it now because I know how beneficial it is for me and I feel that difference immediately in the water. We all have these weak more sensitive areas in our bodies that require extra attention. You just need to make yours specific to your body and give those areas the extra attention they need. Even 5,10 or 15mins is useful here and there, it all adds up.
All too often athletes just expect to jump straight into either swim, biking or running and expect their bodies to perform. They also then fail to help it recover properly afterwards. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. You need to help it along by not going from cold to hot too quickly. The number of athletes I see on a daily basis just jumping straight in never ceases to amaze me. Then when they start getting injured they realise the body can only tolerate so much of this for so long before it starts to break down. Your body is your most precious commodity so you better look after it in the best way possible because if you don’t you will only have yourself to blame.
I always say, “injury is the best teacher” and some of the most useful learnings will come from it because it tells you what’s missing and what might need to be done going forwards. You could also pre-empt this by just starting off by paying attention to it in the first place.
One of my favourite quotes was when former Triathlon World Champion & Ironman world record holder Tim Don was asked the question:
“If you could give your young self-one piece of advice if you were starting out on your triathlon journey once again what would it be?”
To which he replied:
“Do calf strengthening exercises every week and make them as strong as possible”.
Only those of you that have suffered with calf issues (and there are many of you, and it’s usually the guys!) will understand that quote because re-occurring calf strains are hugely problematic for many triathletes due to weak calf muscles and tendons. This was certainly the case for Tim.
There is no set routine or pattern for these elements, it is highly individual and will depend on the time you are prepared to make available. Just make sure you do. Have fun working yours out and if in doubt ask the team of people you work with. You can also experiment with different things with the overriding message that if it feels good to you it’s probably beneficial.
The best of the best focus on recovering just as hard as they train. This is simple high performance mindset. So, if you are looking to be the best you can possibly be this season realise it’s rarely ever a case of working harder or longer. It’s just about using your time more affectively to cover both of these bases. Then as the season progresses don’t let it slip because that’s usually the time it will come back to bite you as training load increases.
Book of the month
For anyone who knows anything about the fight game the Gracie name is synonymous with one of the greatest fighting dynasties of all time. Rickson Gracie is considered by many to be the greatest fighter to come out of this extraordinary family of Ju-Jitsu fighters. This book is a really fascinating insight into in the man, his methodology and the events that led him to being regarded by many as one of the greatest fighters of all time. This man is as spiritual as they come and the lessons he teaches in this book can be applied to any sport world over.
Podcast of the month – Chrissie Wellington
I always think it is a real honour and privilege to listen to Chrissie. She is one of the greatest female Ironman athletes of all time and someone who I admire immensely. Not just because of what she did but because of who she is. This is a woman with fearsome drive, determination, passion, honesty and intellect. She’s a one off and it’s always hugely inspiring to listen to her.
Film of the month
As a Coach I thought I’d heard about all of the worlds hardest, longest craziest running races. Then someone told me to watch this film and I have to admit it truly blew me away. If I tell you only 15 people have finished this race in its 35 year history I think that puts it into context. This docu-film is absolutely fascinating because there is simply no other race like it.
Instagram post of the month
Team out & About
Getting into the Christmas spirit. As far as Christmas day running outfits go can these ever be beaten?!
Swim Christmas outfit winner…it was only ever going to be one person!
The face when you’ve produced your fastest half marathon for years…but know there’s marathon to come! (Looking as for as Butcher’s dog JJ)
When on holiday in the Maldives be sure to make full use of the boyfie #poorTom
Logging some big quality Winter miles in the Yorkshire dales
Our Swede is back on the triathlon trail at last…motivation to swim is clearly very high!
This girl is already one step ahead of the Brownlee Brothers
Huge congrats to these two love birds on getting hitched…and best of luck for the new move to Singapore later this year!