Archive for the 'Training and Drills' Category

Minutes make a difference

If you weren’t sure if practicing makes a difference, here is an interesting chart showing that minutes make a difference.

Minutes-hours-in-a-day-chart

Of course if you are going to practice, you need to use Deliberate Practice techniques to make sure you are improving while you are practicing.

Practice does NOT make perfect – Practice makes permanent.

Only perfect practice makes perfect

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Intensity: How Much is Enough? Too Much?

In peak training phases, Michael Phelps will swim at least 80,000 meters a week, nearly 50 miles. That includes two practices a day, sometimes three when he was training at altitude.

All elite athletes face the dilemma: How much is enough versus too much?

Most athletes however it’s a case of too little and too infrequently.

Too often, there is a reluctance to going full-on with training when it’s the fastest and usually the safest way to create breakthroughs.

Intensity, Focus, Drive, Determination, Sports Psychology, Champion Mindset, Mindset Of A Champion

The challenge is knowing WHAT to do to push yourself beyond your current limits into a new realm of possibility. Unless you “up” the intensity, you’re simply not going to get those all-important quantum leaps you want.

Depending on your sport and level of proficiency, intensity can means doubling your on-court time, doubling or tripling your running or swimming distance, increasing your gym visits, yoga or aerobics classes to 2/day instead of 3/week…

You are the best judge of what ‘intensity’ means to you – one thing is for sure, you need to go beyond your comfort zone – ideally to total exhaustion (without injury or pain) or as close to it as you can.

What you’ll quickly realise is that you’re capable of much more than you’re currently doing.

What set Michael Phelps apart from all other swimmers is that he aimed to become the best swimmer HE could become.

Michael Phelps and his coach NEVER set any limits. His autobiographical book’s title reveals his and his coach’s mindset “No Limits“.

My message to you today is simple and straightforward – what limits have you placed on your training or playing?

What time limits?

What frequency limits?

What intensity limits?

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Lessons from a champion

Mindset Of A Champion, Jahangir Khan, Squash Book, Rahmat Khan, Squash CoachingI recently visited a bookstore in Broadbeach on the Gold Coast (Australia), which has a great collection of used books, and found the ultimate squash classic by World Champion Jahangir Khan aptly named Winning Squash.

Once you’ve mastered the basic strokes and court movement principles, as an elite squash player, you need to get into “A Champion Mindset” as often as you can.

What I picked up from Winning Squash was Jahangir’s reliance on his cousin Rahmat Khan’s coaching skills and abilities. As a top squash player, reaching world #12 and a Khan, he understood and appreciated what it takes to be a champion.

Without a mentor, coach, friend and advisor, there is no doubt in my mind (or Jahangir’s) that his achievements would have been much less prolific than they were.

The key for any aspiring athlete is to get multiple points of view and then choose ONE that works. Listen, obey and respect that ONE voice. That ONE direction. That one FORCE.

Otherwise what happens is you get splintered into multiple, divergent directions and lose momentum and confidence. Confidence makes a big difference in a quick-response sport like squash. With mere fractions of a second to choose a shot (or return), the brain needs to feel it’s capable of pushing the envelope to select the best shot to make, instantly calculating the risk/reward ratios involved.

The second and almost as important revelation was Jahangir’s training regimen and mental focus. I expected this from the all-time-best squash player, but what I found interesting was how much of it was ‘trusting the coaching process’.

Even back then (the book was published in 1985), Jahangir noticed that young players had difficulty succumbing to authority (elders, teachers and coaches). I can attest to that with adults of all ages. There is something inherently arrogant with athletes who think “they know it all” even though they continue to languish in the “B” leagues.

Being coachable is a trait all champions possess. They recognise the need to have an outside perspective that focuses on them from a much more objective viewpoint with a set of skills designed and developed to extract the best from them.

You can’t be ON the court AND watch the game at the same time. Each has a role and responsibility to the process of creating and sustaining excellence. Today’s elite athlete has to invest in the best technology and training which now includes psychological training well beyond the traditional visualisation and pre-match preparation techniques.

Winning Squash is a classic – it captured the essence of the Champion Of All Champions – Jahangir Khan – at his apex of achievement.

For more outstanding books on the Champion’s Mindset and sport psychology books, click on the hyperlinks.

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Mental Toughness

Just in case you missed it, there is a new page on this blog with a list of mental toughness books that I recommend. They are primarily focused on racket sports, but I add to the list on an on-going basis.

I will also be creating a new list of sports psychology books that go more into the general aspects of elite peak performance in sport.

Mental toughness is not just for sports athletes – it translates to all aspects of life.

A few pointers before you embark on mental toughness training…

  1. You need to know the context you’re dealing with (the more specific, the better)
  2. You need self-awareness (or a coach to know you)
  3. You need to be willing to change and test if progress is being made
  4. You need to be honest with yourself because all the dialogue is internal (or have a coach who won’t let you off the hook)
  5. You need to have a plan (1 Percent Improvements)
  6. You need to be strong because it won’t happen immediately, but once it does – WATCH OUT!
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Take 1 step back to take 2 steps forward

Goal Setting, Achieving Goals, Set Goals

Take 1 Step Back To Take 2 Steps Forward

I often tell people it’s wise to “take 1 step back to take 2 steps forward”, but it’s rare those who actually follow through. The reason is that the brain operates with what academics call “positive intent“. The brain’s desire to please itself here and now rather than later on. It’s a complex psychological force that is much more powerful and persuasive than you might think.

In squash (or tennis) for example, during a long rally, the brain will feel the fatigue and will attempt to end the point prematurely to get some rest (instant gratification) rather than play out the rally and win the point (delayed reward). It is such a powerful force that it prevents otherwise skillful players from reaching the top of the rankings.

Overcoming this force is much easier said than done.

In business it’s not all that different. Going for the quick sale rather than the long-term market share building initiatives plagues most small businesses.

So what can you do about it?

First, recognise that a change or improvement is necessary.

Second, identify what needs to change and then commit to changing it when it’s most convenient (after a tournament is preferable to doing it just before…)

Third, accept that at first, the 1 step back means you’ll lose more points before you start to win. If you’re not willing to go through that, don’t bother.

“Lose now to win later.”

Again, easier said than done, but well worth the investment and eventual rewards.

BUT and there usually is a but…

But, when you do take the 1 step back, you have to follow through to take the 2 steps forward otherwise you only end up where you were (1 back, 1 forward = zero improvement) with a lot of wasted time and effort.

Therein lies the rub. You either commit or don’t even start.

My recommendation is  you make the investment during your “off season”, in-between tournaments. Give yourself as much time as possible because often, the change will take longer than anticipated.

Just remember that most athletes are not willing to do this, so when you do commit, the rewards will be there for you. Once you’ve had this much needed breakthrough, you’ll be at a whole new level, beyond your current peers.

That’s why you want to do this – to excel and become the best you can become.

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Symptoms Of Overtraining

In a previous post, I discussed how much you should train and introduced the concept of overtraining with Olympic training anecdotes. I got quite a bit of feedback with one common question: How can I tell if I’m over training? From The Sport Psych Handbook, here are the physical and psychological symptoms you should look out for. Over course if you see these symptoms in your training partner(s) – let them know!

Overtraining - Don't do it!

Overtraining - Don't do it!

Physical Symptoms Of Overtraining Continue reading ‘Symptoms Of Overtraining’

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How much should you train?

I don’t know about you, but I never thought I’d see the day when Mark Spitz’s record of 7 Gold Medals would ever be broken. Primarily because athletes today are so specialised that it would take a super-human to win THAT many medals against the specialists… But Michael Phelps did it with 8 Gold Medals – all in World Record Time in Beijing in 2008.

Sports scientists are suggesting that training loads are increasing by what some estimate as 10 to 20 percent every five years!

Mark Spitz, won his seven gold medals in the 1972 Olympics by swimming 9,000 meters per day. Within 20 years, the average COLLEGE swimmer was swimming more than this and by 1995, Olympic hopefuls were swimming a whopping 36,000 meters PER DAY.

That’s no wonder why elite athletes are complaining. 28% and 10% of 1996 Summer and 1998 Winter Olympic athletes cited overtraining as the reason for their sub-optimal results. Trying too hard didn’t work.

Michael Phelps 8 Gold Medals

Michael Phelps 8 Gold Medals

It’s not a question of poor sportsmanship, winging or sour grapes. Continue reading ‘How much should you train?’

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Accountability

In a previous post I discussed the perspective of champions, what gives them the winning edge and ended with an example of Mike Tyson, promising to explain what’s happened after his championship years ended.

The word is accountability. In sport, competitors are held accountable to the sports rules, regulations and rankings. The higher the level, the more exacting and demanding the accountability becomes.

If you don’t hold yourself to that standard, guess what? You lose, you fall in the rankings, game over.

Accountability

Accountability

It’s brutal and harsh. Continue reading ‘Accountability’

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Perspective

In a previous post, I discussed the concept of Competitive Performance Mentality. I got a lot of positive feedback from people saying that it was a simple and easy way to ‘extract’ themselves from the self-analysis process. Today’s topic is perspective. Champions have a different perspective than their non-champion colleagues.

ATT000044

Perspective is in the eye of the creator of that perspective!

3 Components Of A Champion Perspective Continue reading ‘Perspective’

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Competitive Performance Mentality

In previous posts, I introduced the concepts or orientation, attributions and other psychological variables to help you think, perform like a champion. The next step is to assess your mentality. Your Competitive Performance Mentality to be precise. It’s a concept I picked up in a great book called The Sport Psych Handbook.

Continue reading ‘Competitive Performance Mentality’

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