Train Like an Olympian


John Walmsley

Seeing the Olympics played out in London over the last 17 days reminds me of something I learned a long time ago.

An average athlete will go to a training session and practice the skills and techniques he or she has already mastered.  An elite athlete, an Olympian, will practice those aspects they have yet to master.

It came home to me last week, hearing about Mo Farah (GB’s 10k and 5k gold medal winner) and his training regime.  He runs 120 miles a week to get ready for a 10k race (that’s roughly six miles). He goes 20 times that race distance each week.  Those 120 miles will include race-pace, sprints, splits and so on.  He does far more in practice than will ever be called upon in an actual race.  But it means he’s fully tested himself in all circumstances on the practice track, away from the public eye.

One of my fellow MBA students was a commercial airline pilot.  He came to class one day and told his study group how he and two colleagues had broken a flight simulator (the box-on-hydraulic-rams type).  They were tackling particularly hard scenarios – the sort they never hoped to face with a plane full of passengers – and had fought against the simulator so hard they had ripped it off its moorings, doing real and expensive damage.  But it was still just training, for an event none hoped would ever happen for real.

Back to us.  When we train, are we coasting or stretching?  Are we trying new things or hitting the familiar groove?  Is a training session an imposition on our day, a relaxed time with teammates and friends, a warm-up prior to playing for real or an opportunity to test ourselves outside the glare of “reality”, in a safe practice environment?

When you practice, are you practicing what you’ve mastered already, or are you pushing higher and faster in wholly new directions – getting stressed, bruised and maybe hurt in the process – but also getting stronger for when you’ll need it for real?

For more on what makes Mo Farah exceptional, click here. 

tagged under: olympics, athletes, training

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About John Walmsley

John Walmsley

John was chair of BaseballSoftballUK from 2011 to 2017, a non-executive directorship. He is a past-secretary of the British Baseball Federation (2007-09) and past-president at Richmond Baseball and Softball Club (2006-10), in Surrey. John enjoys coaching and developing people, both in sport and in business. John and his partner Robyn split their time between Surrey and Lancashire. John is an executive with a global consulting and technology company, where he focuses on the commercial management of large-scale engagements.

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