Thursday, 21 August 2014

Diversity Par Excellence

Adapting, plotting and swimming to marathon success

Sometimes the shortest of blog pieces are the most informative and this recent post certainly fits that bill. Outlining the pitfalls of being an over-specialized “one trick pony,” the writer goes on to laud those athletes who “are focused on what they can do and optimize those abilities.”

The world of endurance sport is awash with all-rounders, although I sometimes do wonder if the term “all-rounder” is becoming less and less applicable in the seemingly increased specialization of modern athletics at all levels. Why is that? I’m not sure if I have the answer but it does provide some food for thought.

The recent Commonwealth Games and European Athletics Championships have been most entertaining, particularly in the athletics stadium. While I am not partial to track running as a participant, the sheer variety and intensity of the events definitely excites me as an armchair spectator. The decathlon events in particular were most entertaining to watch; well-muscled sprinters hurtling around the track in the 1500m leg of the competition was and is a sight to behold. Decathletes are perhaps the most rounded and versatile athletes around. Take Brian Clay for instance, whose sheer athleticism and adaptability saw him post the highest ever score in NFL fitness testing.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Brian Smith Interview

Of old friends, experience and cultivating belief

With Team MTN-Qhubeka’s maiden Grand Tour voyage just around the corner, both staff and riders are no doubt immersed with final preparations for this historic occasion. While performing well in the Vuelta a Espana is most likely foremost in their immediate thoughts, the management team are already looking towards 2015, intent on bolstering the African squad’s depth and credibility on the greater world stage.

Brian Smith’s appointment as Team MTN-Qhubeka interim general manager last month is therefore quite telling. Tasked with building the team in preparation for next year and beyond, Smith certainly has his work cut out. Attracting marquee riders to a Pro Continental team is but one challenge he faces, not that the term “challenge” has ever deterred the engaging Scotsman in his own eclectic career pursuits.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Ariane Kleinhans Interview

Performance, rest and not setting an alarm clock

It is the penultimate afternoon of the 2014 ABSA Cape Epic. After a week of hard racing and extreme weather, the female riders of Team RECM are salivating at the thought of wrapping up their dominant victory in the world’s premiere mountain bike stage race.

As the sun shines amid a gentle breeze, the tranquility of the afternoon massage treatments is shattered by the squawking of neighbouring birdlife. While this might be pleasurable to some, the riders are a little perturbed by this disturbance, which could affect their planned siesta.

You see, peak performance in any endurance sport is heavily dependent on adequate recovery. While the fans all like to read about reported training volumes and impressive power outputs, rest is perhaps the single most neglected factor in many an athlete’s arsenal.

For Ariane Kleinhans at least, recovery is everything, where adequate sleep is perhaps the most pivotal factor in maintaining her innate athletic ability. Currently back home in Switzerland visiting family and friends as well as fine tuning her preparation for later this season, Ariane graciously agreed to the most insightful of interviews.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Assimilation

Out of Africa, pronunciation and soaking up foreign culture

There exists many a cliché when trying to outline the exact reasons for the continued East African dominance of middle and long distance athletics. From studies of genetics to the overused romanticism of kids running to school and back every day, we may never truly see a blueprint on the exact path to athletic stardom. And why should we?

A few years ago whilst attending a trade show, I was engaged in a conversation with a military man. Whilst the crux of the chat was obviously industry-related, my enquiry of what life was like whilst away on deployments in African countries drew a simple – yet logical – response. He basically relayed how we cannot realistically be truly grateful for what we have here in South Africa until we have spent time living and working on the ground in another African country.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

La Femme par Excellence

Trust, coaching and lunch stop relief

I recently wrote glowingly of women athletes, where I intimated how they tend to perform far closer to their true potential than their male counterparts. That is quite a bold statement, yet I truly believe that it holds true in many cases, particularly in top flight international endurance sports. While this observation formed the tail end of a piece more dedicated to non-conformists, I do feel that this notion – as well as a few others – deserves a more detailed mention.

Sporting results and social media content, whilst an integral part of daily information, tend only to scratch the surface of reality. If one takes a look at the weekend results of two female Olympic medalists, you could be forgiven at wondering where their future intentions lie.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

A Frenchman in Paris?

Tradition, passion and the question of science

So the French are doing rather well in their home tour are they? That is most certainly not a bad thing, especially given the dearth of French results in the post-Jalabert era. Thomas Voeckler’s decade-long exploits aside, it has been quite some time since the podium in Paris has had French-feet upon it. From the teary-eyed Laurent Fignon to the boyish charm of Richard Virenque, the sight of a French rider adorning overall rostrum has become but a distant memory. Yet this could change come Sunday, as Le Tour enters the streets of the capital city, marking the end of three weeks of toil.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Understated Sages

Of non-conformists, weirdos and the slightly different

Conventional wisdom is a term that frequently pops up in websites and blogs over the broad scope of health, fitness and sport. Credited to a 1950s economist named John Galbraith, its meaning is essentially those ideas generally accepted by experts in any particular field, the result of conforming effectively preserving the status quo of whatever.

In today’s modern society, particularly athletics, there seems to be an increasing demand for “how to” guides in almost everything: how to complete an ironman triathlon on eight hours a week; how to boost your immune system in seven easy steps; how to ride a bicycle faster uphill. Whilst this plethora of information is no doubt useful to a point, it is important to remember that most of this regurgitated advice - if blindly followed - can actually limit an individual’s true potential.