I have said many times in this blog that mental toughness is in many ways is a myth. In my experience as a coach and athlete the athletes who produce in the competition are the ones who are there everyday physically and mentally in training doing what they are supposed to do with concentration, intensity and effort. Read more
Yesterday as I was working on some new training programs and evaluating the past training cycle when I came across a “new” exercise that I thought might solve a specific problem one of my athletes was having. The dilemma in this case always is, will the new exercise do a better job than what was being done before. Read more
After training with Peter on Sunday he asked me what my training plan was leading up to my first competitions over the next two weeks. On Saturday my club will be hosting a small throwing meet in Zurich and next week I will be traveling to Spain for the European Cup Winter Throwing event. I told him that I had no special plan; training will continue as normal. “Why compete then?” he asked.
He posed a good question. But I have a better question: “Why not?” I can list a dozen reason why I likely won’t have a good result. Most importantly I plan to do normal training up until and including the day before the competition, I will be throwing alongside six of my youth throwers making it almost impossible to focus on my own throw, I have worked with a coach just a handful of days in the past months, I have not touched a competition weight hammer for more than four weeks, and since we are in the middle of the tax season I’ve been working overtime the past few weeks. But there is still no reason not to compete. My fear of having a bad result next to my name vanished after a few bad seasons throughout my career. Why not compete?
The first day of training in the snow each year fills me with the excitement of a schoolboy arriving to the first day of class. The snow mutes the air, leaves a still, peaceful and relaxing silence to train in. I am not alone either. I was excited to see some of my young throwers not only train without complaint in the snow this year, but hit a few personal bests and brag about training in the snow on Facebook. It is a merit badge in winter throwing.
But it gets old. Fast. First is the physical element. I put together some tips for throwing the snow last year, and while it makes things better the weather still drags on you. Walking to retrieve the hammer drains the legs more and more every training. While you may think it would be good to be warmer, the slushy snow is just more slippery with throwing shoes on.
You have just had your athletes do a great workout. You have polished technical elements. The level of speed and explosiveness has been sky high. So now what? Of course you will now do a cooldown. Typically the athletes slog two laps for a cooldown. Think about it what you have just done. Read more
In order to succeed you must take risk, you must operate well out of your comfort zone. Risk implies that there is a chance of success or failure. I maintain that most of what holds coaches and athletes back from achieving ultimate success is not fear of failure, but fear of success. If they succeed then they must do it again and probably be expected to do it better. This brings pressure, most of which is self-imposed. That being said to be highly successful failure must be an option. Read more
Experience is one of the most underrated traits for hammer throwers. You mostly need it when training is going poorly, and at some point that happens for every thrower. My season started off terribly in May and June with marks consistently around just 61 and 62 meters. It was frustrating to hear the officials read off marks that I could have easily achieved six or seven years ago. A few small speed bumps in training set my training down the wrong path and I had to scramble to save the season.
One of the most difficult aspects of training alone is focusing. I no longer have a coach there that will yell at me after every throw and tell me that I need to push the hammer more. After a long day at the office, it is easy for my mind to wander about my latest work project, what I need to pick up at the grocery store after practice, or even what my next blog post will be about. If I don’t watch out practice will be over before I know it and I will have taken all my throws without really thinking about what I wanted to improve.
The flip side of this difficulty is that once I learned to focus better, it has added a new dimension to my throw. Training alone forces you to be an independent thinker; you cannot just rely on someone else’s input. It forces you make all the small adjustments on your own. All this comes in handy at competitions where you are often separated from coaches and left along with just your thoughts.
U.S. Olympic hammer thrower Loree Smith recently wrote a detailed post on goal setting for hammer throwers. She provided, better than any sport psychologist I have ever heard, the best explanation of how useful goals can be.
To summarize, athletes need long term goals, short terms goals, and flexibility. I believe the long term goals are the most important for a hammer throw since shortcuts and quick success are hard to come by in such a technical discipline. It takes a certain type of athlete to train year after year towards a goal that may be a decade away. But those as the type of athletes that succeed in the hammer throw. I’ve seen many talented throwers give up the hammer after one day since they were not able to throw further than their shot put best. That was probably the right move because they didn’t the mental prerequisites to be a good hammer thrower.