“Make your weakness your strength” my pee-wee hockey coach told me after a horrible game where I failed to put-puck-in-net. That coach was my dad, and while we both knew I could skate all day long (the endurance athlete in me), handling the stick left a lot of room for improvement. With hours logged in the driveway and on the pond shooting pucks into goals made from PVC pipe and duct tape, I improved my skills enough to eventually make my high school Varsity team. Instead of spending time getting more fit, as I had that part covered, I invested in technique and hand-eye coordination. I’ve used this philosophy ever since – from the erg to the water to the triathlon course.
We lean towards doing what we’re good at, instead of just letting that carry us while putting focus on our Achilles heel. The first order of business is to identify your weak spots (or ask your coach), and then set up a plan to strengthen and improve them. It’s amazing what a dedicated, consistent focus can do for you.
Here are 5 common weaknesses I see with athletes and some tips for positive change. These are ways to make your weakness your strength.
Most of us all seem to know how to hydrate, so why are we so terrible at it? We mistakenly count sodas, coffee and beer as our watery liquids, but what about water? Try scheduling your intake. For example, begin your day with a downing of a pint (of water). Then set your watch alarm for a couple times a day (10:30am and 2:30pm for example) at which you pop up from whatever you’re doing to visit the water filter or grab a bottle of water from the deli. Then, be sure to carry and use your water bottle during the workout and hit the liquids again after the shower. If you’re not peeing several times a day, you’re not drinking enough.
For rowers, remember the bigger you are, the more weight you and your teammates carry down the course. The smaller you are, the better your technique should be if you want to go after the “giants”. Spend some extra time in the tank breaking down your blade work, get your friend to video your stroke on the erg for review, and take a few looks at your blade as you set it in the water during practice. Be your own best coach and fine tune every movement.
The young think they don’t need it and the old inherently avoid it like I did erg tests. It is easy to get “stuck” or injured from moving the body the same way stroke after stroke, day after day. Stretching and dynamic movement (taking the body through different movement patterns) is key to performance. Try a yoga class to carry you through a comprehensive routine. Just getting to ‘Shivasana’ (the flat-on-your back part at the end) will guarantee you reap the benefits. I created a stretching area in my house where I keep all my trigger point therapy tools. When I watch the news or need to supervise my girls at their dollhouse, I make use of the five to ten minutes for bodywork.
We all know that it’s tough to get out of bed and onto the machine, a boat or treadmill. But in order to be good at anything, we have to put in the time; consistent time. Set realistic expectations with what you can do, but commit whatever that may be. For example, if in training mode, I may set my sites higher, but these days I am committed to “moving” 30-60 minutes, 5 days a week. My fitness is solid and I feel good when I get that done. Try working on consistency within a workout as well. Holding a certain split time can not only improve fitness, but give you focus to make the time fly by.
Many of us our sabotage ourselves from truly realizing our potential. We either lack the confidence to go after big goals or we beat ourselves up along the way for not meeting the day-to-day standards. Set smaller goals en route to the bigger ones; attack them and give yourself credit for achieving. The small accomplishments lay critical foundation for a fully-confident race day.