1) When things aren’t going well, you find out who your friends are.
Obviously, this year was less than successful for me. I ran a season’s best of 10.38, compared to my personal best of 10.14. In times like this, you find out who your friends really are. And so I would like to say thank you to those people who continue to help me work towards achieving my life goals. Here is to a more successful 2011.
2) Overtraining – It can easily happen.
Potentially, one of the reasons why I underperformed MAY have been that I was overtraining. I am being vague about this, because overtraining is very, very difficult to diagnose correctly, and there is always a grey area between “over-reaching” (which all athletes need to achieve at some point in the training year) and “overtraining’ (which is a drop in performance, and hence negative). I certainly do not feel like I added too much volume to my training programme. However, after discussions with a few Sports Physiologists on Overtraining Syndrome, it appears that sometimes you can overtrain without actually adding more volume. I now have a monitoring programme in place to guard against overtraining, and its something that I am more interested in now.
3) Eating slightly more calories and having regular cheat meals can actually help you achieve a lower body fat.
This seems counter-intuitative. How can it be that if you eat more on a daily basis, and, once a week eat what you want, and yet achieve low body fat. Well, that’s what I have been doing for the past year. It’s all about not putting your body into starvation mode (where metabolism is slowed down), so you can train harder and hence burn more calories. The cheat meals allow you to control your cravings for the whole week, as you have something to look forwards to. I also assume that the large increase of calories at cheat meal time further prevents your body entering starvation mode. My record for a cheat meal is an XL pizza, tons of chocolate, and a tub of ice cream. It only works if you are still on a calorie deficit for the rest of the week though, and I wouldn’t dream of doing it on a regular basis.
4) I am apparently addicted to knowledge
I have always been interested in the human body, training, nutrition, etc. However, this year I have gone into overdrive. I spend a large portion of my non-training life reading tons of blogs, reading scientific papers, books, listening to podcasts, and onwards. My girlfriend loves it. Not!
5) Twitter is great fun!
I resisted getting facebook. Well, that’s a lie. I had it in 2007 for 3 days. However, the social pressure of having it was huge – I got well over 300 friend requests in those three days. I just don’t want people I don’t know knowing stuff about me that I might not want them to know (those pictures of me a 2am dancing on the speakers in a club, for example. Or the picture of me eating a 1kg chocolate bar). However, I am just too nice to reject people. That’s why Twitter is perfect for me – I choose exactly what to put out there. And its addictive – I am constantly checking Twitter on my iphone. Follow me - @craigpickering. Ill try not to be boring.
6) I might well have a mushroom intolerance
This isn’t really that interesting, but I am putting it anyway. Mushrooms make me ill.
7) Running technique is very, very important.
Oh, how I used to laugh at those people doing endless hours of technical running drills. I used to think they were neglecting their physical attributes at the expense of trying to run correctly, something which they couldn’t change. Turns out my new coach is very big on technique. Turns out one of the reasons I have slowly got worse since 2007 may well be because my technique has got worse year on year. Turns on I now do hours of technical work every week. And guess what? Doing technical work does make a difference – you can change your technique. Mine is already much improved. So a big apology to everyone I laughed at for doing technical work – I wish I had converted sooner.
8) I love Christmas
My birthday is October 16th. On October 17th, I start to get excited about Christmas. It builds nicely until mod-November, when I start to get super excited. December is hell; I just want it to be Christmas already. Every day when I open my advent calendar, I get more and more excited. I’m 24. Is this weird?
9) Exercise magazines are all the same.
In my life, I have subscribed to Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Muscle and Fitness, MuscleMag, and Flex. I get excited at the thought that I might learn something. I don’t learn that much really. I also find out that they are all very, very similar. And yet I still buy them! I’m strange like that.
10) You can prepare for something all you want, but someone else can cause you to fail
This is primarily the main reason why, as a rule, I don’t like playing team sports. I used to get so frustrated in football or rugby when I could play well, and the team would lose. What I like about the 100m is that it is black or white; you either win, or you don’t. Until the 4x100m relay comes along. In the relay, you have to get the baton around the track as quick as possible. The team is only as strong as its weakest link. This year, going into the European Championships I was running terribly in my 100m, but putting together decent relay legs. We had come second at the European Team Championships to Italy, and then beaten them and France, our two biggest rivals, and a Diamond League race two weeks prior to the Europeans. As far as I was concerned, this was an opportunity for me to salvage something from my season, and win a gold medal. I prepared like crazy for it, and was ready to hopefully do myself justice. Unfortunately in the relay, mistakes happen. I don’t blame the people who make them, as I know that in the heat of the moment things often go wrong. I have been there myself in the biggest competition of all – the Olympics. But someone else’s mistake can cause you to fail in your goals, and that is not something I like.
11) I probably want to become a sports nutritionist
This past year I have been working very hard on the nutritional side of my training and competing. I have thrown myself into it with my usual style – reading everything there is on the subject. As such, I have found that it is something that really interests me, and so there is a good chance that I would like to take this further as a possible career path. Which is positive, as otherwise I have no idea what to do when I finish doing athletics!
12) Fascia is very important
This is something I have come to learn through getting various forms of physiotherapy treatment. Time and time again the physio won’t actually treat the muscle, but the fascia around it. And it makes a big, big difference. It seems that you can treat the muscle all you want, but if the fascia remain tight, you wont see any improvements in the muscle itself.
13) I have learnt loads about shin splints
Unfortunately, I often suffer from shin splints, or, to give the correct name, Medial Tibial Shin Stress (MTSS). After seeing a host of different physios, doctors, and foot specialists, my knowledge base regarding this condition has grown significantly. It appears that mine is due to a multitude of factors, including poor hip biomechanics, poor left ankle dorsiflexion capability, lack of movement through my mid-foot, and insufficient calf strength. I have found the best form of treatment to be deep tissue massage, acupuncture, and standing in a bucket of ice for 10 minutes. None of which are fun.
14) I owe a lot of gratitude to a lot of people
This is something I have never really thought about before. However, on a long plane journey, I started thinking of all the people who have helped me in my athletics career. There are far too many to mention, but obviously my parents have played a big part in supporting me both financially and emotionally. The three coaches I have worked with throughout my career, along with the many physios, massage therapists, doctors, psychologists, nutritionists, osteopaths, strength and conditioning coaches, physiologists, and lifestyle advisors have helped. Whilst it is their job to help me, many of them go above and beyond their job description in order to help me, so that I am truly thankful. My (long-suffering) girlfriend also deserves a mention here. She puts up with my constant travel, dieting, the fact that we cant lead a normal life because of training, and my bad moods when I do badly without moaning. Well, moaning too much anyway! So thank you Claire.
15) Sit-ups are bad
I have been reading quite a lot of Stuart McGill’s work recently. He is a spinal biomechanist, who states that the discs of the spine only have a certain number of flexion cycles in their life time before they become damaged. I used to do literally tons of sit-ups. I have dehydrated discs, and suffer from lower back pain. Needless to say, I very rarely do them now!
So there you go, 15 things I have learnt this year. Not all that interesting, but I thought I would share. What have you learnt this year?