Staying In One Piece

That’s the name of the game and fittingly this month has been one big battle to do just that! Besides financial stability, injury and illness are unquestionably the two biggest threats facing me, and any other athlete for that matter, in achieving success in the run up to the 2012 Olympics and for the duration of my career. Pushing your every boundary in training whilst at the same time ensuring you reach the start line fit and healthy is ultimately half of the fight. Unlike other sports where teammates can help to take the weight off you at times or implements, like say hockey sticks, bear some of the brunt, in track there is no hiding. It’s just you and your body that’s asked to deliver optimal performance every single race outing. 2008 Olympian Andrew Steele recently wrote an interesting piece for the BBC about his experience of this rarely publicised ‘darker side’ to athletics and professional sport.

This month the intensity of training has been upped yet again, but with much of the winter slog now in the bank and an indoor race schedule looming on the horizon, extra care has also been taken to monitor my sessions and track how my body is adapting. This has been in order to prevent over-training, as the last thing I want is to be denied the chance to show a glimpse of the progress I’ve made this winter, during the upcoming Indoor Season.

Although with Christmas to navigate things were always bound to get a little hairy. Don’t get me wrong I love Christmas and the entire festive period, but admittedly it doesn’t half mess up an athlete’s routine! Your first race in over 4 months is just around the corner and: most tracks and gyms suddenly close, your coaches and physiotherapists either stop entirely or reduce working hours, you have to find a way to accommodate family gatherings/location/travel with training plans, oh and then there’s Christmas lunch – which threatens to annul, in one gluttonous swoop, all of the core and abdominal circuits you’ve winced through in the gym for the last 12 weeks! Bahhh Humbug!!!

That said I have to say up until the 22nd December things were going suspiciously well! At which point, and right on time, I developed a phantom pain in my achilles tendon – a part of the body where if it hurts history suggests you should probably stop and listen to it. This was swiftly followed by a couple of 3 hour stints in A&E on Christmas Eve, to address “that awkward moment when your butter-fingered training partner/‘supposed’ spotter drops a bench-press bar on your skull” (- during the very last rep and very last set of the very last exercise of the training session, might I add). To add insult to injury, having avoided catching even a sniffle since winter training began back in October, I then went down with the delightful Norovirus on Christmas Day, just for good measure. On the upside all the enforced rest this week has given me ample time to write another blog post; albeit from my sickbed, with my leg on ice, a summit the size of Mount Sinai chilling on my brow and the contents of my large intestine staring at me from a bucket across the room. Brilliant.

But as they say: All’s well that ends well. Fast forward a little, today is New Year’s Eve and I’m pleased to report that the bug has now passed, my head is healing – scans revealed I managed to escape without a fracture to the skull or internal bleeding, and the rest has done my achilles the world of good. Looking back at my training diary, the last two weeks actually compare favourably to the same period last year, where a strained groin and Wensleydale induced food poisoning actually kept me out of action for longer – maybe I really don’t like Christmas? So here’s to a fit and healthy 2012, my first race is in a couple of weeks and I can’t wait. Stay tuned!

Season’s Greetings and a Happy New Year to you all!

~ Julz ~

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About JA

professional athlete
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