Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Athleticism Story

Stamina and musculature acquired

The above image is a dramatic illustration of athleticism.

Defined as being physically active and strong, a further adjective description of athleticism implies at having a well-defined and proportional body structure, where physical skills and capabilities are used as strength, agility or stamina. 

Anybody who is a sports fan can no doubt attest to witnessing this description in one form or another across the multitude of sporting codes, be it contact sports, equestrian and obviously endurance events. Yet what makes a good athlete and how exactly is one's athleticism acquired? While I'm not sure there is a conclusive answer to either of those questions, delving into what makes various sportsmen and women tick could provide some clues.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Real Coaches

The Gift of Instruction

Joel Filliol has started his own podcast.

Aptly entitled Real Coaching, the show is basically an informal chat, the first episode being with fellow high performance triathlon coach Paulo Sousa. Being a listener to several podcasts, I find that shows with a loose and free conversational format appeal the most. The hosts are more relaxed compared to a rigid Q&A template, which more than often results in true depth and insight into the discussion.

While specific to the sport of triathlon, Filliol's maiden show certainly fits this bill, with some true gems as far as elite sports coaching goes. Together with Sousa, the unassuming Canadian passively disparages the notion of online "instruction" where cookie-cutter training programs are doled out for a set price to the masses. True coaching favours a more hands-on approach, where the coach guides the athlete in person, being on hand to make adjustments and, above all, to observe. And in any high performance environment, this firsthand presence and application is critical to success.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Sport for Growth

Dirt Roads, Natal Wildebeeste and Bike Tests

The header collage pictures Cape Town's Mark Blewett ascending a monstrous climb somewhere in Ethiopia. 

Part of team of cyclists riding from Cairo to Cape Town, Blewett's own Swift Carbon brand are the bicycle sponsors for this world record attempt. Initially intending only to be an equipment supplier, the former professional cyclist and South African National Team captain couldn't resist the urge to be part of this undertaking first hand, deciding to join the group as a rider in what must surely be the ultimate – and most extreme – form of product testing as far as road bikes go.

But there are perhaps more important aspects than world record attempts and product testing as Blewett, David Kinja and co make their way down the Dark Continent. While the aforementioned factors are no doubt important and noteworthy, what about the notion of sport as a vehicle for adventure, self-discovery and even personal growth?

Monday, 26 October 2015

Small Teams Required

Lower Division; Higher Reason

Mike Creed is no wallflower.

In fact, neither is - or was - the now-defunct Team SmartStop, the small US domestic outfit that he has directed so successfully for the past two seasons.

Constantly punching above their weight and specializing in giant-slaying, the boys in blue, white and yellow have certainly achieved the amazing while operating on a budget that might cover some of the top squads' monthly food bill. Want proof? Check out the Creed's 2015 pre-season training camp gallery, where the riders are pictured doing yoga on cardboard mats outside their accommodation.

Monday, 19 October 2015

The Guessing Game

Adventures in Biofeedback

There is a great passage in Running with the Kenyans describing a typical group fartlek session.

Adharanand Finn does a great job in relating the use of a stopwatch by the participants, where the alarm function setting is merely a signal to either speed up or slow down. Two minutes on, one minute off; a simple beep being the sole indicator of an even simpler training session, a noise that allows these athletes to simply go about their business without even a glance at the elapsed digital numbers on the wrist.

Are you a slave to the numbers?

Not to be judgemental but the more athletes I see, observe, talk to or even coach, the more that statement rings true. It appears that many athletes, particularly us part-timers, are bound to a narrow and linear bubble of mediocrity that such modern technology encourages, too afraid too go too hard or too long, yet too competitive to saunter along at a true recovery effort enjoying the scenery. A sort of constant middle ground, an ode to the clich├ęd everything in moderation.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Life Writing

Morning pages, cursive and chess

Keeping a diary can be laborious.

Way back when, I would shake my head at my fellow athletes who would record every training session as well morning heart rate and the like in training diary. What are you really going to do with that information I would sometimes ask, and always think. The same with heart rate and power wattage downloads; do you print it out and stick it on your kitchen/bedroom wall?

I tried keeping a training log for about two years but it fast became a chore, so this experiment ceased in mid-June (or was it May?) of 2015.

Needless to say I tried and it really didn't bring much value to my life.

Scott Tinely once proclaimed that he did more than enough in a day that writing about it seemed like a senseless undertaking. Ironic given the articulate Californian's current career as a prolific writer and university literature teacher! In fact, reading any of ST's work can leave one with an impression of a serious and deep-thinking bloke, which is directly at odds with the seemingly laid-back surfer persona of his athletic peak. There might even be a lot of personal journals in his vault, although not of the training log variety I suspect.

Monday, 28 September 2015

The Entrepreneurial Hannele Steyn

Of Epics, kitchens and self-sufficiency

In 1991, Hannele Steyn was the foremost female triathlete in South Africa. With provincial and national titles over the three disciplines, the diminutive athlete's abilities were such that several elite men were looking over their shoulders. If Hannele was at a race, she was virtually assured of the win - and and high overall placing.

Yet there is a catch, something which is almost paradoxical with the Hannele Steyn of 2015.

With all of this mesmerizing athletic talent, Steyn was sponsored by a Cape Town pizza restaurant, frequenting it regularly. Surprising considering her current occupation as a health food entrepreneur and lifestyle coach.

"There were a few of us sponsored by Pizzaz in Rosebank," recounts Steyn at the annual Ride2Nowhere mountain bike event. "Carbo-loading was en vogue at the time and our training and racing habits meant huge appetites. I remember being invited to a dinner party one night where the portions of lasagne were simply not enough. We ended up at our sponsors' restaurant on the way home!"