Continuous Improvement in the Training of the Athlete

From day 1 in the training process, an athlete learns how to train. Initially, this learning is fast but as the months and years go by, an athlete has fewer and fewer opportunities to learn something new. The athlete, and their coach if they have one, must work hard to continue this learning and if learning ceases it is likely no further improvement occurs.

Asking questions is essential in any quest to improve. For the athlete, questions might include:

  • “how can I improve my technique further?”
  • “what more can I put into my training?”
  • “is my training as effective as it can be?”.

For the coach, questions might include:

  • “how can I facilitate the athlete’s learning better?”
  • “how can I improve monitoring the athlete’s training better?”
  • “is my coaching as effective as it can be?”.

The athlete and the coach must address these questions together and seek to avoid the assumption that everything is as good as it can be. If the coach is no longer in a quest to improve their own coaching performance then how can they expect their athlete to do so?

It is common for athletes, especially in Weightlifting, to think that their ultimate potential is governed by genetics. In reality, most athletes are stymied by their motivation and personal discipline rather than circumstances beyond their control. Ultimately, sport is so competitive at the highest level that only those who master the learning process will emerge as winners.

The following are among the many possible ways that the training process of the athlete can be improved.

The athlete can:

Develop an understanding that the form of the Weightlifter rises and falls as a consequence of the training process i.e. stress – recovery – adaptation. It is therefore necessary to build fluctuation in intensity into the training program.
Develop an understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses, and learn the value of working conscientiously, creatively and consistently on improving their weaknesses. The athlete is only as good as their weaknesses will permit.
Closely observe the effort of other athletes in the training environment and begin to discern the factors that lead to more successful training outcomes. In reality, the training habits that lead to success are obvious if one looks.
Appreciate that the purpose of training is to improve their result in the competition arena. This requires that the athlete focuses on perfecting their technical execution in training so that in the toughest pressure of competition the athlete has full confidence in their own ability and is more likely to succeed than to fail.
Learn to maximise the value of their training time. Ultimately, poor usage of time in training, hands the advantage to the athlete’s competitors.
Learn to self-monitor and self-regulate their own training performance, and strive to understand the positive and negative effects of the training that they undertake. By engaging in such self-monitoring, the athlete will be better able to understand how training can be improved to achieve optimal effect. The keeping of a training diary is helpful in this regard.
Organise your daily regimen (nutrition, sleep, work, study, recreational activities, shopping, household chores, and family responsibilities). Add time for work on flexibility, planning of training, mental rehearsal, and reflection on training performance are important constituents in the daily regimen.
Love the process of learning and discovery of new knowledge. Optimal learning occurs when the athlete is fully engaged in the learning process. The mere completion of prescribed training is not sufficient to create full engagement in this learning process. The athlete must frequently reflect on their own training and keep asking questions.

The role of the coach in assisting the athlete to develop a process of continuous improvement is critical and largely this is the purpose of this article. The coach and athlete must avoid the idea that it is the written training program itself, the schedule of exercises, reps, sets and intensity that causes success. Instead the coach must facilitate the athlete’s learning of the process of training, and more especially how to continually improve their own process. Sometimes the athlete is want to experiment with their own ideas and this is not always a bad thing. The coach can assist the athlete to learn as much from their failures, as from their successes. However the coach does play a supremely important role in shaping the athlete’s continual improvement process by providing a caring and supportive environment, helping athletes to reflect on their own experiences, and fostering a belief that further improvement is possible if more learning can be achieved.