This past weekend at the British Universities Championships we sat down with Dan Cruse and Jordan Niblock of Solent University's High Performance Academy (HPA) team and heard their thoughts on the best ways for athletes to improve their performance. The team at HPA have worked with West London Track and Field pole vaulters Max Eaves, Courtney MacGuire, Laura Edwards, Kieran Apps and Dan Hoiles - three of whom opened their outdoor seasons with new personal bests over the weekend.
Here are their top 10 ways that you can improve your performance:
Willingness to Learn - A common trait among all great athletes is an insatiable desire to get better. Each training session and competition is a fantastic opportunity for you to learn and improve – imagine how much better you could be if you embrace this for the rest of your athletic career?
Open To Constructive Criticism - This is very important in our opinion, and something that a lot of athletes can struggle with. Part of the learning process is being able to take on board constructive criticism, and harness that as fuel to improve in future sessions and competitions. Good coaches have your best interests at heart, any criticism is designed to help you get better - not as a deformation of your character!
Get On Top Of Your Nutrition - An easy way to gain an advantage on your competition, given it’s a performance variable often overlooked by a lot of athletes. How can you expect your mind and body to perform at its best, if you’re fuelling them with foods that give you nothing in return?
Surround Yourself With Like Minded People - “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with” (Jim Rohn). Make sure that support network is allowing you to be the best possible athlete and person that you can be.
Don’t Cut Corners In The Warm Up - Sessions and Competitions start with the warm up – this is the perfect time to get your mind and body best prepared to go out and execute. Cutting corners and missing elements of your routine, just lends itself to poor preparation. Focus your mind on what you’re there to do.
Flick The Switch Approach to Training and Competition - This leads on nicely from our last point about not cutting corners. Some days, we don’t want to train. We don’t want to work, and we find distraction wherever possible. Flicking the switch affords us the opportunity to leave our bags at the door when it’s time to train, and make sure that we leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of excellence.
Use Your Time Away From Training - Every day is game day by Mark Versteghen summarises this point quite nicely. Time is a precious commodity, and recognising that every hour of the day is an opportunity to improve performance can help you get even more out of your training. Taking the time to consider things such as a bedtime routine, or even preparing food ahead of time can help to form long term habits which will make your time away from the track more productive. Count up how many hours you spend at training against how many you don’t, and then tell us you couldn’t be doing more!
Keep A Training Diary - Keeping a simple log of how long your sessions are and how hard they are on a scale from 1 to 10 is a great way to keep track of how much your training is progressing week to week, as well as showing trends in your wellness over the course of a season.
Ask Questions Of Your Coaches - Not surprisingly, coaches love what they do, almost as much as athletes love winning. Questioning the process may seem counter intuitive, but asking your coach about the rationale behind what you do in training is a great way to help reinforce your own understanding of how each session contributes to achieving your season goals. It also creates accountability for your coach as well. Some of the best changes we’ve made to an athletes programme have come off the back of their own ideas.
Play The Long Game - Nobody wants to be a glass cannon. Reframing adversity as opportunity is a great idea, rather than sacrificing long term progress for short term gain, which can cost you success in the long run. Not only that, but making sure you are consistently prepared to train and compete by managing your workloads and recovery strategies will mean more chances to succeed every season. So many potentially great athletes have their careers cut short by injuries and setbacks that could have been avoided. Don’t let this be you.
Dan, Jordan thank you for your time and all the best to you and the athletes you work with on your future success. There will be plenty of West London Track and Field athletes hoping to maximise their own performance this weekend as they start their outdoor campaigns at their respective British Leagues and U.K Women's Leagues. Good luck!