5 Decisions for High Performance in Sport

Okay, so you love Weightlifting and you really want to be a part of a future Australian team to the Olympic or Commonwealth Games!

If you have any chance of achieving such a goal, you will need to make some tough decisions.

Decision 1: Can you devote 30 hours a week to this goal?

Before everyone throws up their hands and says “What!”, consider the following. If you want to be a High Performance sports person, then your training is your job. You will need to train 8-10 sessions per week, each of which will take approximately 2 hours. As a more serious athlete, you will spend more time warming up and more time on flexibility. So 2 hours per session is not unreasonable. You will incur a significant amount of travelling in order to attend training. If you live close to the gym, you might be lucky to keep travelling down to around 4 hours per week. The remaining 6 hours a week will be a combination of many factors including visits to the physiotherapist, injury management, planning training, monitoring training, discussions with your coach, and travel to and waiting around at competitions. This does not even take into consideration that you may need extra sleep.

Decision 2: Can you take responsibility for your own learning?

High performance in sport is no accident. It occurs as a result of a meticulous well-organised process in which the athlete changes from being a raw beginner to a highly knowledgeable individual. There is a lot of learning to do and it is very important that the athlete takes responsibility for this process.   The athlete must develop in-depth knowledge of technique, training methodology, injury management, nutrition, bodyweight control, mental preparation, time management, personal organisation for travel, performance planning and competition rules. It is almost like doing a university degree course.

No matter how physically talented the athlete may be, not everyone will pass the course. Some athletes will set about, from day one, seeking answers to endless questions and learning all they can. For these individuals, their need to learn is 24/7, and within 3-5 years they will be remarkable in their knowledge and understanding. But unfortunately for many athletes, there is a failure to take charge of their own learning process. Such individuals will be reliant on their own coach to “feed” them with knowledge and know-how and, of course, coaches will always greatly differ in knowledge and understanding.

Decision 3: What will you give up?

In view of the time commitment that is required, there is an obvious need to diminish time usage on other aspects of life that are not essential to the pursuit of High Performance. Ask any champion and they will talk about the sacrifices made in regard to social life, home life, holidays, careers, education and other sports and hobbies. The question “what will you give up?” goes to the very heart of whether the athlete has the right psychology for high performance. Athletes are often highly talented in more ways than one but to be successful it is necessary to focus one’s effort. The life of a high performance athlete is very demanding and difficult, and not for those who want a comfortable existence.

Decision 4: Can you lead a very disciplined life?

The pursuit of high performance is a very character building and monastic existence. Your life is highly organised and disciplined in regard to hours of sleep, training, diet and all other daily habits. As a want-to-be high performance athlete, you will need to forgo distractions that prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep such as midnight Facebook sessions. You will also need to be strict with your diet. The idea that a high performance Weightlifter can just eat and drink everything and anything is not correct. All weightlifters, except the 105Kg+ category, are subject to an upper limit of bodyweight for their category. It is therefore necessary to maximise lean body mass i.e. reduce body fat. It is not even helpful to the 105Kg+ athlete to have large quantities of body fat that must also be moved during a lift as well as the bar. If an athlete is very “disciplined”, it will be manifest in many different ways including keeping to daily routines, reducing unnecessary risks and managing one’s health. For those who might think this is “over the top”, well, I guess you will never know the conviction, the strength of mind and the will to win that discipline brings!

Decision 5: Stay Clean

History tells us that “doping” has been a part of sport for well more than half a century. Amphetamines became available in the 1930′s and replaced Strychnine as the drug of choice to boost endurance performance (1). In 1952, there was widespread suspicion that the Russians were using synthetic testosterone at the Summer Olympic Games (2).

In 1968, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) conducted the first official drug testing of athletes competing in the Olympic Games. Today, 45 years later, ”Anti-Doping” tests are commonplace in sport and every serious athlete is likely to be tested several times a year, either at competitions or in training prior to competitions.

There will always be some athletes who will endeavour to gain an advantage by doping.  But for those athletes who would consider doping, the risks are far too great. Quite apart from the lengthy ban an athlete will suffer for a first offence, the shame and humiliation can be crushing. Athletes have been known to descend into disabling depression as a result of being publically named as a cheat. No matter what the history of doping has been, the only decision an athlete can take going forward is to avoid doping at all costs and stay clean.

References:

(1) Kremenik M., Onodera S., Nagao M., Yuzuki, O., Yonetani S.,  A historical timeline of doping in the Olympics 1896-1968.

(2) Kremenik M., Onodera S., Nagao M., Yuzuki, O., Yonetani S.,  A historical timeline of doping in the Olympics 1896-1968.

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