Reflecting with a Winter Strategy

Winter is coming! Dark, wet and wildly windy days and nights are here for the next few months and the thought of working from home, training from home and quite frankly spending all our time at home/ indoors is very unappealing for many.

Despite the lack of a 2020 ‘season’ it is still important to spend time reflecting on the year to date, the outcomes, outputs and your strengths and weaknesses. Athletes who are self-aware and adopt an approach whereby reflection is a part of training and performance will more often than not develop where others don’t and improve at a quicker rate.

Now, this will not be a one-size solution we can all practice like we train. The process of reflection will be highly individualised and should be encouraged by coaches but led by the athlete. Coaches should provide the questions, tools and space for athletes to carry out their own self-reflection and then seize the opportunity to support the development of any strategy off the back of that reflective analysis and evaluation.

As we reached the point in the year where it’s typical for endurance athletes (racing in the summer months) to wind-down from the highs and lows of the season gone by, now is the time to really focus some effort to reflection.

Recently my athletes have received a ‘Winter Strategy’ questionnaire to provoke some thoughts and evaluate their season and athletic ‘status’. This will be a chore for some, challenging and potentially very rewarding for others; to be honest, even just the fact it’s a document they sit and read is enough provocation for some reflection!

Following some time to reflect on this document the following discussion will allow for me to challenge some of those thoughts or reflections and perhaps provide a different perspective for athletes to consider. This isn’t about ‘right and wrong’ or hierarchy of opinions. It’s important to remember that as a coach you’ll never be in the shoes of any of your athletes and therefore shouldn’t predetermine their thoughts, but use them to co-develop the plan to achieve their objectives.

A recent interview with Frank Lampard on the High Performance podcast has some poignant words for any coach or leader in life: ‘everyone goes through life and sees it differently’. By facilitating a pause for reflection and promoting it as part of the train lifestyle, a coach can open up a much deeper analysis of performance and truly build a plan suitable for that person. Cutting this blog short without referencing the current pandemic would devoid it of an important point: as coaches we have a responsibility for our athletes, and yes setting appropriate training plans is important to this, but please don’t neglect the mental health of others. More than ever it’s important to reach out, to care for one another and ensure they are aerobically fit and happy.

Stay safe & take care of each other.

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