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Mind Training: Switching Off And Tuning In

By Alun Woodward, ironguides online coach, ironguides.net

Its that time of year again, the race season is pretty much wrapped up and it’s time to take a little downtime and refresh the body and mind for the new challenges ahead.

I like to look at this time of year as a time to switch off and tune in, by this i mean switch off the noise, the digital media and all the distractions its brings and tune in to how your body is really doing.

Our world is changing rapidly and digital media is becoming more and more part of our everyday life, now thanks to applications such as Flipboard we can have a daily newspaper that features only stories we would be interested in and these are collected from all over the world creating a never ending stream of information. In a typical day we wake up and now the first thing people do is check in with social media or applications such as Flipboard to make sure we are not missing out on anything. The same tends to go for any free time in the day, instead of relaxing we immediately turn to digital media.

I have athletes who are sending emails and reports during their warm up on the trainer, a time when you should be listening to your body and seeing how the muscles feel ahead of the main session.

Last thing at night we are no longer reading books or winding down but having one last check online before the lights go out, a situation that is leading to many sleep disturbances.

This state of being constantly on and up to date has created a situation where we are becoming less and less aware of what is going on in our bodies and how we are responding to training and other life stresses. When i ask an athlete or anyone how they are the most common answer is busier than ever, never seem to have a moment to themselves! If you are honest though how much of that busy is now a result of digital media and the need to be constantly up to date? How many times do you just quickly check in to Facebook or a newspaper app during a typical day, how many times do you get distracted by emails arriving as your email app is set to update you on every new email? – i would bet a lot more than you may think!

As we enter the off season this is a perfect time to start looking at how you schedule the day and making some changes to tune back into how your body is feeling.

I am not saying don’t use digital media rather just schedule it at certain times in the day so we can get back to a more relaxed body that you are in touch with.

Waking up every morning resist that urge to go online straight away, rather add in some gentle body calisthenics to wake the body up and tune in to how the body moves and how the muscles are functioning, not only will this have you feeling more awake but will have the body functioning optimally and you will feel more alive. If you have been suffering during the season with postural problems make this time in the morning the time to do any corrective exercises. Modern life has led to most of us having various postural problems and very basic exercises that may take just 30 seconds to complete are rarely done as we put off and put off during the day and then forget about – putting these exercises into a morning routine after waking up will make a big difference.

An example of such a routine may be going through the following exercises 5 times each

  • Arm swings/ circles – this will open up your shoulders and add range to movements
  • T-Spine rotations – adding mobility to your thoracic spine is something we all could use
  • Side twists to mobilise Sacro-illiac joins
  • Body weight squats
  • Push ups
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Go through this routine twice and then get on with your day – you will notice a big difference in how you feel and move within 10 days.

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Listen to your body when training, if you always have music playing while working out then try some sessions or warm ups without and just focus on how your feeling and moving. Turn off your phone or notifications at least while you train so you are not distracted during training time – amazing how much calmer your body will be and how much more you will enjoy your sessions.

As its off season adding something new to your schedule for a change and mental refresh is always good and think about adding in activities such as Yoga or Pilates which not only will aid your relaxation but will provide positive feedback that you can take into your triathlon training.

Full body relaxation techniques are another great tool that used to be common practice at schools and sports clubs but has become rare practice today. Again this is about getting in touch with your body relaxing without any other distractions. To do this you need to lie in a dark place with no distractions – in bed before sleep is a perfect place to do this. Now lie down and the idea it to start at your toes and work up to the head systematically relaxing all the muscles in your body, to do this we can first create tension within the muscle and then relax the area, so if your working on your hands make a fist and squeeze hard this will make the muscles in your hand and forearm contract and then open and relax the hand and feel the tension disappear – breath deeply for 3 breaths and then move onto the next area. Spending 10 minutes at night going through this routine will lead to improved sleep quality and can help if you are finding it hard to fall asleep in the first place.

Finally as in the morning try to have a period of time before bed where you are not checking in with digital media, instead read a book or a newspaper if you wish and then go to bed and go through the relaxation method i describe above.

This off season make a change and get back in touch with your body, learn to switch your brain off and stop the over thinking that is leading to much of our daily stress. We always say at ironguides that we have to balance the stresses of life, if you reduce the noise of digital media and have a more relaxed body you will be able to cope with more training stress and see some good gains in your performance.

Enjoy your training,
Coach Alun “Woody” Woodward

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