Cool And Interesting Stuff This Week (31/10)

Its Halloween, so in preparation for pretending I’m not in when the trick-or-treaters come, here is some possibly cool but certainly interesting stuff I have come across this week:

FOOD! – The Harvard Business Review this week discussed how what we eat can affect our productivity. A really interesting read, especially for those mixing training and full/part-time employment.

BACK INJURIES! – Obviously given my history, I tend to pay quite a bit of attention to the science surrounding back injuries. This article on back injuries in children is really interesting. Why are so many young athletes getting spinal issues? Is there something about our lifestyles that are contributing to this (i.e. sitting and poor movement skills?

GENES! – BBC Horizon ran an interesting article on how you genes can/should affect your diet. The nest big step in personal health?

ELITE SPORT PERFORMANCEDo you really understand elite sport performance?

BIOHACKING – Interesting article in Outside magazine about biohacking your way to a better life.

CAFFEINATED Caffeinated: How Our Daily Habit Hooks, Helps and Hurts Us – this book on caffeine in daily life is excellent, particularly in the face of an increasing market in sports drinks containing caffeine, which appear to be less safe than first thought. Really enjoyed reading it.

Cool and Interesting Stuff This Week (24/10)

STATS! – Stats are always cool, but stats about athletics are even cooler. Track-stats.com have this cool graph showing average age for runners. Did you know the average age for top-10 all time performers generally gets younger the longer the distance of the race?

CHESS! – Building on statistics, we move to mathematical modelling and the art of prediction. Nate Silver is like a god in this field, so watch this video on Kasparov vs Deep Blue, then buy Nate’s book The Signal and the Noise: The Art and Science of Prediction.

DOES OVER-TRAINING EXIST? – Well, does it? Read for yourself.

DANGERS OF PUBLIC WIFI – If you’ve ever logged on to public wifi, you should read this. It’s very scary!

FITNESS 2015 – Human Kinetics discussed the top fitness trends for 2015. Same as 2014 then?

CALISTHENICS! – Since I have a back made of glass, the majority of my training programme is low-weigh or body weight exercises these days. Ashley Kalym has a great book (Complete Calisthenics: The Ultimate Guide to Bodyweight Exercises) about the different calisthenic exercises you can use, which you can read about here. A great way to potentially reduce load for your athletes.

 

Cool And Interesting Things (17/10/14)

A weekly round up of cool and interesting (by my definition) things I have come across this week:

FREE BOOK – Like books? Like books on how to improve your performance? Don’t like paying for stuff? Then we are kindred spirits. Check out this free ebook from Lee Ness.

SUGARY DRINKS & DNA DAMAGE – If you’re reading this blog, hopefully you’re reasonably athletic and sporty, and therefore healthy. You should know that sugary drinks are bad for you. But just incase you aren’t, there is this from the guardian.

DELIBERATE PRACTICE VS GENETICS METANALYSIS – So, which camp are you in – genes/talent vs hardwork? The reality, in my opinion, is a combination of both. You need the genetic framework to give you talent, but you also need plenty of hardwork. This recent metanalysis on deliberate practice further fuels my theory.

TEA – From the guardian again (what can I say, I’m a lefty) on how to make the perfect cup of tea. If you love tea, you’ll love this. Maybe.

EATING WITH OTHER PEOPLE MAKES US FAT – the guardian (AGAIN!) has a really interesting article on how eating with other people is making us fat. Anecdotally, I can confirm this is true.

POACHING ATHLETES – My friend and sometime pole vaulter Paul Walker (not the actor) has written this on poaching athletes. It sums up my feelings on the subject perfectly. I’ve never understood the thought process that if a coach discovers an athlete, that coach has the right to coach the athlete for the rest of their career.

REF!Complaining to the referee has no impact on the amount of decisions given for or against a team. It does, however, lead to an increase in bookings for the player committing the foul. Don’t be that guy.

 

WHAT HAVE I BEEN UPTO?

And now for my weekly trumpet blowing. This week I had my birthday. I’m now 28 years old, but because I’m still a big kid I like to drag out my birthday as much as possible. This year, my girlfriend woke up early, placed out my presents and made me a very carb heavy breakfast that included indoor fireworks. She’s also taking me out to a posh restaurant tomorrow.

Aside from that, I’ve done some coaching, planned some training programmes for athletes that I coach online, and also wrote this article for FreeLapUSA.

I’ve started to read a new book too – Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs. It details him spending a year of his life trying to get as healthy as possible. If that sounds like something you’d be interested check it out- Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection

Have a good weekend!

 

Mistakes: Why do they happen?

You can find today’s blog post, entitled “Mistakes: Why do they happen?’ here. In it, I look at a high profile mistake that I carried out, and then look at what caused this. I then ask what can we do to ensure mistakes don’t happen in future.

I have been asked to write for Freelap USA, and so from time to time (or maybe even more regularly!) my Monday blogs will be on there. I will always direct you to the right link, so you will never have to miss any of my incredible wisdom (sarcasm).

I hope you enjoy!

Cool And Interesting Stuff This Week (10/10)

High Fat Diet For Runners – This article from Outside magazine (and written by a really good endurance scientist) looks at the changing role of fat within training. Whilst it is primarily aimed at endurance athletes, most individuals not taking part in regular high intensity exercise could do with a higher fat and concurrent lower carbohydrate intake. The scientific consensus on fat has slowly been changing, and over the last year or so this has really come into the public eye.

Play of The Day – This is just a cool video, that shows what is possible with plenty of practice. Reminds me of this from the All-Blacks – although this is funnier.

The Brain – Following on from the book I have been reading (The Future of The Mind), I found this article on the brain and elite athletes. Its an interesting read. I personally think that the brain is the next frontier to crack when it comes to improving athletic performance.

Roundup! – @bingisser post this roundup of his favorite online training content published in September. Well worth a read.

 

Stuff I’ve Been Doing

Sportivate Visit – Last week I visited a session with disability athletes in Exeter. You can read about it here.

New Book – I finally managed to finish my previous tome, so now I have made a start on “Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery” by Henry Marsh. It’s a fascinating autobiography from a brain surgeon, discussing operations he has done, and various risks that exist. I’m really enjoying it.

New Workshop – Finally, I am running a workshop at Crossfit Exe on Saturday 1st November. If you’re in the area and want to attend, tickets can be bought here.

Talent Transfer (Part 3)

In the last blog in my series on talent transfer, I discuss three more key points that I feel would contribute to a successful transition. If you missed the other two blogs, you can catch up with Part One and Part Two.

We will start with a quick reminder of the key points so far:

1. Consider Your Options

2. Approach People In The Know

3. Have a Taste

4. Commit

5. Set Goals

6. Become An Expert

7. Understand the Skill Learning Process

8. Compare Yourself To The Best In Your Field

 

So, without further delays, on with the final three tips:

 

  1. Accept That You’re Starting A Long Way Behind

 

The people that are already in your field can be ten years, maybe more, ahead of you in terms of experience and skill. The good news is that:

  1. Skill development is greatest in the first few years of doing something
  2. 80% of results are brought about by 20% of the causes (Pareto Principle).

This means that by doing a few things well, you can quickly catch up and get into the same ballpark as the experts.

 

There will be set backs that make you question if you can do this. For me, my second and third bobsleigh competitions went terribly. I was really really out of my depth (which in hindsight contributed to a lot of learning, but was incredibly uncomfortable), and I genuinely questioned whether or not I could do this. Fortunately, there were also times that reaffirmed my belief that I could be successful; my fourth bobsleigh competition in Sochi went exceptionally well, as did on-ice testing for selection before the Olympic Season. Then I endured a tough few months where I failed to integrate into the GB1 set up, and again I started to question whether I was cut out for bobsleigh, until I dropped down to GB2 and competed in Igls. I felt I competed exceptionally well there, which again reaffirmed my belief and spurred me on to being a part of the GB2 team that managed to qualify for the Olympic Games.

 

  1. Remember What Made You Good In The First Place

 

When you transfer from one area to another, something about you has made you think you can be successful. When I transferred from athletics to bobsleigh, I thought I could be successful because I was quick. Whilst I was learning all the new skills and becoming an expert (see #6), I still had to make sure that I kept the attribute that made me good in the first place; speed. It would have been a big mistake to neglect this aspect of my training whilst trying to make up for what I lacked.

 

Conversely, sometimes your strength can make up for deficiencies in other areas. Because I lacked the explosive power and acceleration ability of many of the top pushers, I played to my strengths by being as good as I could from 20m onwards. Instead of investing a lot of time and energy by trying to be the best over the first 5m, which would have been costly in terms of training time, instead I tried to get even better at what I was better than most at. I still worked hard on my first 5m, but I knew it was never going to be my strength, and so my focus was on not losing too much time in this area.

 

  1. Successful Integration

 

If you’re transferring into something new, you have to successfully integrate into the team that’s already in place. I’m a big believer that teams don’t have to get on and be friends to be successful, and I’ve definitely being part of teams where I have disliked someone, and in teams where I know I’ve been disliked. But there does have to be a mutual respect and shared goals. If you’re transferring, you have to work hard to cultivate that mutual respect. This was the element I found the hardest, and arguably was the element in which I was least successful. I found it difficult from the off, because I was immediately placed within the GB1 squad for competitions, despite having not gone through the qualification pathway. Again, with hindsight, this decision by the performance director enabled me to learn very quickly, but I wasn’t performing well, and I know that there was a lot of talking going on behind my back from both team-mates and staff. I also imagine that a lot of people thought that I though I was “big time”, which absolutely wasn’t the case; but I did whatever I could to try and remove that opinion of me. I also kept working as hard as I could and tried to perform as well as I could at testing, in a bid to gain the respect of the group.

 

Unfortunately, two incidents at the start of the Olympic season illustrated to me that I had failed in this aspect of my mission. I’ll only elaborate on one here in the hope that the person who made the comment has forgotten that it was him – I can’t describe the other incident as the person involved will definitely know who I’m talking about. Having scored really well in both single and team push testing, I was placed in the GB1 squad for the Olympic Season, and we traveled out to pre-season equipment testing in La Plagne. The brakeman who pushed at the back of the sled the season prior was injured, and I was taking his place. As we were preparing our bobsleigh for a training session, a group of competitors from another country came over and started looking inside it, and one member of my team remarked that some modifications on our sled had been made so that when the injured athlete came back and inevitably replaced me, he would be more comfortable. This made me feel like I really didn’t belong, and incidents like that continued throughout the year, to the point where I decided to re-asses my goals, and requested to move to the GB2 squad. I felt like I integrated into this squad much better. Due to this, I felt much happier and performed much better, and as a result helped that squad to qualify for the Olympics in what ended up being my last competition ever.

 

Hopefully you’ve found this blog mini-series interesting. If you have any other questions, or any other topics you want addressing, then please leave a comment or get in touch.

Interesting And Cool Stuff This Week (3/10)

Welcome to week 2 of “Interesting And Cool Stuff This Week”, where I pass on things that I have found interesting and/or cool over the last 7 days (with the disclaimer that you might not find the links either interesting or cool. If you missed last weeks post, you can find it here).

 

ONLINE DATING! – Obviously I’m a stud and in a very happy long term relationship, but I’m aware that not all my readers are. This article uses data to illustrate some of the dating trends that are being seen, which is really interesting, and provides some tips (should you need them).

 

SALAZAR – John Kiely shared this article on Alberto Salazar, coach to Mo Farah. The article is from 2010, but still an interesting and relevant read.

 

OVERUSE!Training-Related Risk Factors In The Etiology Of Overuse Injuries In Endurance SportsInteresting study highlighting the requirement for adequate rest, as well as age related issues (e.g. tendon overuse injuries are more likely the older you get).

 

NEESON! – Throughout his films, Liam Neeson’s characters have killed a lot of people. This map illustrates the reach and quantity of his reign of terror.

 

PLANK! – Athletics Weekly ran an interesting article on their website this week regarding the plank exercise, and whether or not we should be doing it. Personally, I still use the standard plank once a week as a “core” endurance exercise, but since my visits to the British Olympic Association’s Intensive Rehabilitation Unit (or, as the cool kids call it, the IRU) I have been using much more dynamic based stabilisations in my training. But then again, I’m hardly a good advert for spinal health.

 

SHARKS! – I like sharks. A lot. Not a weird amount, but a higher end of normal amount. I also like Hans Rosling. Here is his talk, which covers, amongst other things, how shark attacks affect what we know about global poverty.

 

Book I Am Currently Reading – I’m still plugging away with Future Of The Mind. It’s long, and I’ve been busy, but it’s really enjoyable. This week I have been learning about memories, dreams, CIA mind control, and mental illness. The mental illness chapter was interesting, it covered OCD, which is essentially a breakdown of feedback loops, and Joan of Arc, who heard voices from God, and therefore probably had temporal lobe epilepsy. In fact, up to 40% of temporal lobe epilepsy suffers have hyperreligiosity. You can use that as your interesting fact of the day.

Perhaps the most interesting chapter was on Einstein’s Brain. I found it particularly interesting as it provided a look at the genes vs. hard work arguement that is played out in various books, such as The Sports Gene, The Talent Code, Bounce, and Talent Is Overrated. The question of “Are geniuses made or born” was explored. The author concluded that Einstein was a genius because he spent a lot of time thinking (up to 10 years on each problem), and his personality suited it; he was a bohemian, and so it was natural for him to rebel against the physics establishment. The author also noted that Einstein’s brain was quite normal in terms of it’s physical characteristics. It was slightly smaller than average in size, but with larger than average areas associated with abstract thought. Overall, the author felt that “genius is perhaps a combination of being born with certain mental attributes and also the determination and drive to achieve great things.” This sums up pretty well my stance on genes vs. hard work; all the talent in the world won’t make you successful is you don’t have the determination and drive. Conversely, all the determination and drive won’t lead to success if you have zero talent.

 

Have a good weekend!