Everyone has difficult days on the water. I don't think I've ever seen or spoken to a single athlete who would claim that every session is perfect. What I HAVE learned, from the very best people, is that sometimes progression is more like damage control. You take a difficult session, where maybe you're not quite focussed like you normally are, or you're tired, or nothing seems to be going to plan; and you use it. It becomes an opportunity to identify what has upset your balance, and figure out what it is that will get you back to square one. Not necessarily immediately in the session. But say you identified the same catalyst in a race, or in an important preparation block. You would be able to identify it a lot quicker, and also REACT to it a lot quicker. It's like having the tool in your hand before there's even an engine problem.
(I looked this paragraph back over, and think it could do with an example. So, say I'm having a full runs session. It's on Nottingham, and I'm just having a bit of a nightmare. I prepped like normal, warmed up, mentally rehearsed everything, but I'm still wobbling down the course and touching every gate in sight. I get a bit raging. I go to my coach, who brings my attention to the fact that there are a lot of people on the water, and I don't seemed to be as focussed as normal. I have to bring my focus back to the gates, because nothing else matters. The next time I do full runs, the session is even busier. But I am prepared: I know that it requires a little more time and effort from me to focus properly during a busy session. So I react to this environment accordingly; the session goes more to plan, because I keep focussed on what I am doing.)
So obviously, because we're really complicated humans, there's about four thousand million different tools it would be great to have. For me personally, I generally only come about these tools once I've needed them, and not had them to hand. I wanted to write this post on the back of a tool I picked up this morning, in another full runs session (funny how these often seem to be the best sessions for 'picking up tools').
Now, I rate myself as a pretty hard working athlete. Actually that's British of me - I think I work seriously hard, and give 100% in every single session. So I was a bit surprised this morning, after two pretty slow full runs, when I identified what the problem was. I wasn't PULLING. Looking at the video, I was hesitating into every upstream, using reverse strokes where normally I'd extend all the way around for a big bow rudder. Instead of smashing through stoppers, I was shying away from them, throwing edges where I thought it could save me some energy and generally backing out of loads of big stroke opportunities.
I'd like to think this is most unlike my normal style. I've been training hard in Nottingham for a week now, so naturally I'm pretty sore. I'm also not used to having gym the afternoon before a full runs session, so my body felt slightly more fragile this morning than I am used to. But the fact lies in that I was just not putting as much effort into everything I did, as I normally do. The CAUTION button in my mind was flicked on, and I was letting my body try to protect itself by moving slowly and carefully.
I guess it's silly to come to the conclusion that I should be more ruthless and ignore pain in training - I mean, DUH - but sometimes it takes a reminder like that for me to remember to get the tool out, and having it lie there just in case I need it. Muscle pain is normal, it shows you're developing and training hard. Obviously there are some kinds of pain you really shouldn't ignore. But this time I got the balance a little bit wrong. Luckily for me I noticed this after two runs, and was able to do another two with that CAUTION button turned off. But that's definitely not always the case; it can take a bit longer to find the right tool!