Having just come back from my coldest session so far this year, a brisk 3 degree tech session, now felt like as good a time as ever to write about why I picked Liptovksy Mikulaš to start my winter preparation.
Liptovsky (for anyone who hasn't been there) is a small town sitting at the foot of the Tatra mountains. I think mountains can bring a couple of mind sets. I could understand why a certain type of person would feel enclosed or restricted; the mountains surround you, and they have that unavoidable, volatile mountain weather. It's easy to get entrenched in daily routines, because they're easier than trying to walk around in the snow and rain and ice every day. Being alone with your own mind can be pretty tough too.
So that's kind of what makes Liptovsky better for hard training than a load of places I've been. There's the slalom course, which has everything that a paddler could need to learn and develop. There's a big flat section of water, for when you want to suffer and do loops! The mountains are there to help you fly, not weigh you down, because once you know you can climb one of the biggest ones, you realise you can go anywhere you want to go. You have to be absolutely comfortable with being alone, because things like walking in the cold every day give you an opportunity. You can choose to brood, or be impatient. That's so easy to do here; you know it's the home of some of the greatest slalom paddlers in the world. There's always that little voice in the back of your mind screaming RIGHT NOW! I want to be the best NOW.
Or you can choose to live in the moment. Enjoy being tough in the cold. Choosing to think about what makes you happy, or inspired, or calm, rather than annoyed, or down, or frustrated. It's not a comfortable topic of conversation for a lot of sports people, to discuss mindset. It's sort of stigmatised as a big mystery, and I suppose it sort of is a big mystery. Nobody can see inside anybody else's head. Although then I don't think it would be anywhere near as interesting. At the end of the day, athletes are encouraged to give 100% in every single session. In terms of physical output, that's ridiculous. We'd never get anything done. But you can give 100% effort, and 100% commitment, and 100% attention. It's fascinating to play games with mindset and observe the outcome on your training. It's even better when you realise how easy it can be when you stop thinking about it. Once you're giving 100% effort, the session does itself. You can just enjoy.