637 Days To Go is my blog, which was originally started with exactly 637 days until the start of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. And now it's been re-started with 637 days until the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Get With The Plan

A few weeks ago I was in Ireland with the entire Irish Paralympic Team (all sports, not just cycling) for a pre-London 2012 preparation camp. It was an opportunity to meet athletes from others sports, train with your own squad, meet people from the Paralympic Council of Ireland (that help make it possible to actually make it to London) and get a lot of information to prepare us all for the whole Paralympics experience.

The idea is to get you as familiar as possible with what to expect, so that when the time actually arrives to go to London, there are no big surprises and you can concentrate on the task at hand. There will be a series of these mini-camps over the next 2 years and they are an invaluable tool in getting ready to compete on the biggest stage in the world.

While there, there were also a series of presentations from various guest speakers. The highlight for me was a presentation from a current Irish Olympic athlete – Olive Loughnane. Olive is a World Silver medalist in the Race Walk and is preparing for the 2012 Olympics. She was able to share some of her insights into success and failure in the sporting world.

The one thing she said that really stuck with me, is that it's great to have goals. But without a plan to achieve those goals, you have little chance of success.

So I can sit here and say I want to win a medal at the Paralympics – but the way to achieve that goal – is to put a PLAN in place to get there. And it has to be a realistic plan. Seems obvious, but I had never thought of things in these terms before. I suppose I just thought that if I train hard enough, I'll do well – but it's not always that simple.

I am now 'on the plan'. It's MY plan – unique to me – and designed to achieve MY goals. Of course it involves lots of training, that's a given. But it's the other details that make the difference. Things like a nutritional plan designed to help me not only get to my ideal race weight, but make sure I have enough energy to train at the optimum level on a daily basis. A psychological plan to help make sure my mind is in the right place, and stay motivated. A strength and conditioning plan to help build the right type muscle. A medical plan to ensure the entire body stays healthy. And it goes on and on...  I think about my goals every day now – and everything I do is leading me towards them. It is my sole focus.

Many people reading this will also be cyclists. Many of you train and probably race on a yearly basis. You will also have a 'plan' so you know what I mean. Some might train a little, others a lot. You might look at what I do for training and think to yourself, "That's easy! I do way more than that!" Others may think, "There's no way I could spend that much time training. I've got too much going on in my life."

So for those of you that are wondering, here's a peek into what I do in an average week for training. It does vary from week to week and the closer we get to competition, the harder it gets. Right now I am training for track racing, so the focus is on shorter efforts – later in the year when I go back to road racing, the efforts will become much longer.

So, without giving too much away and in no particular order, here's what I do in an average week:

2 Gym (Weights) Sessions and Core Work
1 Pilates Class
12 hours of road rides with 9 x 10 minute high intensity efforts and 8 x 1 minute sprints
4 hours of recovery rides (low intensity rides)
Standing start efforts (practicing starting from a complete stop)
2 hours turbo work at high cadence (practicing spinning the legs)
And lots and lots of rest!

Team Sprint, May 2010. Me on right.
In January, I'll also be spending a few hours a week at the Velodrome as I start gearing up for the Track World Championships in March. My efforts will probably become shorter and more focussed with less emphasis on the longer rides.

Everything  do is monitored by my coach and changes are made along the way in order to maximize my performances. It's all very flexible - but always follows a structure.

So if YOU have a goal next year – don't just dream about doing it – put a plan in place to make sure you can actually achieve that goal!