One of my favourite parts of being on Warm Weather Training camp is just sitting at the track or in the gym and just watching the massive variety of weird and wonderful ways coaches from all over the world have come up with of achieving the exact same goal; how do I make my athlete faster/stronger/jump higher/throw further. I like trying to find the value in every exercise, what I’d really like to do is sit down with every coach and see how they fit that exercise into their program, but who has the time, and the multi-linguistic skillset. It’s rare that I actually see something I would add to my own programme, I can usually see a benefit, but likely either I don’t prioritise the skill being developed, or I feel that I already work on that aspect adequately in other ways, or that particular exercise may take away from another aspect of my training which I deem higher priority. Interesting nonetheless, some of my favourites so far were:
1) repeated resisted block starts: A giant elastic band provides resistance as the athlete executes a sprint start from blocks, after about 4-5 strides they come to an abrupt halt and rush to get back into the blocks to perform another rep, repeating this exercise about 5 times in a set
2) resisted leg switches: using a similar giant elastic band, the athlete stands in a split stance position with the front leg being pulled forward by the band and back leg being pulled back, both at relatively low resistance. The exercise has the athlete scissor the their legs, moving the front leg backward and back leg forward, effectively providing resistance to the reflexive action of scissoring the legs
3) punchbag 1 rep maxes: in between sets of cleans, wander over to the nearest punchbag and throw the hardest singular punch you possibly can at the bag, then walk away looking really proud as the bag swings noisily around (not sure this was actually in this dudes program)
The real aim of the camp
The real reason Welsh athletics have organised this training camp out in Portugal is that this is where we’re going to have our preparation camp prior to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. “Prepare for Glasgow in Portugal?” I hear you cry, well personally I’d far rather rock up to Glasgow with a tan having had two weeks of awesome training than having had to deal with similar wet and windy conditions as we will probably end up experiencing at the games.
Coming here now gives the athletes a chance to experience the environment and know what to expect when it gets around to game time. Personally I wanted to use this as a learning experience, so almost purposely cam a little under-prepared, finding it a lot easier to learn from my mistakes. Below I’ve compiled a list of things I definitely won’t be forgetting next time round:
Pillow: The pillows at the hotel are entirely acceptable, its just that one is just a bit too thin for my preference, and two becomes too thick. Its just not really worth the neck stiffness for the hassle of just bringing my own pillow. As an athlete, all of your voluntary movement will start in the brain and pass down through the neck to reach other parts of the body, do you really want to reduce the efficiency of signalling that early in the chain.
Coffee: The coffee at the hotel is entirely not acceptable. Instant coffee at breakfast, and every place I’ve tried for espresso has been a stale, dark roasted, over-extracted mess. This may be slightly more problematic, but if bringing a small kettle (no kettles in the rooms? Outrageous to British consumers), my aeropress and some beans (I’ll decide whether pre-ground or to bring my hand grinder closer to the time) means I still have access to a decent pre-workout brew, then I’ll have to accept the hassle, either that or I need to get my massive coffee-snobbery under control.
Coffee based aside: I’m not sure which I morally object to more, instant coffee with its stereotypical flavor profile, trying to hit the flavor generally accepted as “coffee” but missing all of the nuance, or a poorly executed filter, at least they’ve made the effort of approaching the real thing and maybe its just human error which has dragged it down.
Butter, Coconut oil, mcts: The food at the hotel is not bad, loads of veg and choice of acceptable carbohydrate sources. Where it falls down is the low quality protein sources and the over abundance of vegetable oil usage. Without deeply researching it and moral objections to the inferred factory farming aside, I’m pretty sure that cheaper meats won’t necessarily be affected in terms of amino acid profile, but less that optimal diets for the animals definitely lead to a drop in the quality of their fats. Adding that vegetable oils probably shouldn’t be consumed by humans, ever, then for an athlete who considers themselves quote unquote “fat adapted”, this could lead to issues. A couple of sticks of butter, some coconut oil and my trusty mct’s should be enough fat to supplement the other solid options available and keep me tip top running into the Games.
This wasn’t supposed to be a moan
Its pretty impressive really, a whole two week training camp designed to accommodate the different needs of sprinters, throwers, distance runners and jumpers and I can only manage to find three small grievances in the setup. And even these can be put down to predominantly to my over-thought snobbery. The facilities are awesome, the hotel amazing and it is literally built right on a beautiful beach. These are just the small tweaks that I’ll be making to my preparations for next time we come here, when every base needs to be covered.