Readiness For Sailing and Fitness [23]

Feature Image has OPEX Athlete Stephanie Roble sailing the 49erFX.  Photo credit: @wricketson

Readiness can be defined broadly as the state of preparedness of persons, systems, or organizations to meet a situation and carry out a planned sequence of actions …

Readiness in sport has been an area of investigation and research for some time. However, in the sport of sailing, there is a lack of understanding and implementation of using “readiness” as a tool for tracking athletes training both on and off the water.

The ability for someone to recover faster than another for the same work is fascinating.

WHY do some athletes not recover as fast as others?

  • Some athletes have a food misalignment, which causes an increase in recovery time.
  • Some athletes have an emotional night and poor sleep and recover poorly.
  • Some athletes do too much recovery work – which overrides their Central Nervous System (CNS) and causes undue fatigue – which hampers recovery.

Being ready would indicate that all things are a go.
GO meaning the ability to put into the training session what is required so something is learned every session.

From my past experience in training for the Olympics, there were years, months, training camps I looked back and realized we (sailed the 49er – so my skipper and I) didn’t do a great job of understanding our “readiness” day in and day out and as a result not much was actually learned in those sessions.

Same goes with training in the gym for physical fitness; early on in my career I didn’t understand how much I needed to train and at what points I needed to rest, as well as have an understanding of how my training affected my readiness for on the water performance.

Are you helping or hurting your training? The goal is to continually adapt to your physical fitness program and your sailing specific training – If you feel these things aren’t happening, you need to gain a better understanding of your “readiness”.
Some athletes can “train just to train” but not a lot comes from the session, only to say they did the session. This is automatic in training and IS required at all times.

In MOST cases, one would hope the brain, organs, muscles, blood, and lungs are READY before attempting to tax either or all of them again in a subsequent next session.

Some ways that have been investigated into HOW TO determine how ready someone is: check through an AM “out of bed” Heart Rate (HR) monitoring, Heart Rate Variability (HRV) applications through a application on a smart phone, a low intense motor control daily test, Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) self recorded scores, soreness self reported scores, stress response inventories and questionnaires etc…

You can see that the list is long and there are some better than others.

In my experience, I want to have the relationship built with the athlete so they just KNOW when they are or are not recovered.

In the eyes of the scientist this seems crazy, EXCEPT in the real world, this is practiced as an ART with a lot of coaches and athletes.

Noticing is first key with education.

This awareness is the key.

Creating a healthy feedback loop for trying to GAIN on the readiness of a person is done through:

  • Creating open lines of communication
  • A noticing of what IS and what is NOT “being ready”
  • A SYSTEM shared between athlete and coach that is SIMPLE and repeatable – and you stick with it for a LONG TIME – to learn about trends
  • A debriefing when readiness is or is not achieved
  • An action plan built each time to ensure the readiness is achieved over and over as the athlete progresses in their phases of training

Easy take home things athletes and coaches can use for readiness assessment are simple tasks repeated consistently. The athlete just KNOWS what it is SUPPOSED to feel like each time they start a session.

Some simple awareness tests that I use while sailing to gain insight into my readiness are:
1. What is the accuracy of my steps and hands in maneuvers (ie, am I landing in the same spot every tack or gybe or am I off)?

2. Is my head out of the boat or am I zoned into just the mechanics?

3. Communication with my teammates is clean and crisp or emotion and frustrating.

4. How snappy I felt during the warm-up prior to racing.

5. I would ask others to compete or train against me – a sign that confidence was high – need for more challenges.  I would joke and have fun in the training while still being focused.

6. I would have a plan but I was ready to be free in the training if needed

[The more subjective ones are good tell tale signs also as it dictates emotionally where people are sitting prior to a session.]

These aspects provided great insight and awareness to me while training and competing and as a result I would know to either de-load (reduce the volume of training) or know that I needed to warm-up longer prior to racing if my readiness was not all systems GO.

For all sailing athletes and teams, the next level of training is to have you and your coach create certain on-the-water tests to determine the level of readiness for the training day, block, competition, etc.

Specific sailing training tests that could help indicate readiness as an individual and team would be:
1. How many tacks or gybes can be done do back to back without fault.

2. Starting practice precision (consistency).

3. How many pulls and at what speed does it take to pull the spinnaker up.

[Choosing skills like these, relative to the position and boat I am sailing, allowed me to assess the same things every practice – this created routine which led me into FLOW, or it made me realize what I needed to work on before the upcoming event]

These types of physical tests and indicators are also built into the programs of my athletes for their physical fitness training. As an example, if I see the pace of a bike, row, ski-erg, run. etc decrease within aerobic sets of training sooner than normal for that athlete – it is a indicator that they are not in a READY state. This begins the healthy feedback look of noticing and awareness between athlete and coach.

As all of us sailors know, our mental and physical games are critically tied to performance. There is a fine line to have for perfect arousal in pretraining states. When fine tuned, that athlete is able to create the conditions necessary to performance at an optimal “readiness” state.

I would still train while recognizing I was in a possible low readiness situation by focusing on a few things within the session that made the day fulfilling, as well as keeping me from tipping over into over-reaching/over-training:

  • Gratitude; don’t worry, I wont tell anyone that is in your head, but allow yourself in those times to say “it’s all good, there will be another day, just be grateful for having these other things in your life”
  • Helping others; this may come as a surprise but when you are LOW in readiness, getting others up by helping them is another way of “training through teaching” that can enhance your continued progress
  • What you CAN do; what CAN you do RIGHT NOW?; what CAN you take care of this moment?; focus on the things you have control over
  • Lastly, keep smiling – as hard as it is to do – free yourself – the smile can help a lot in dictating positive emotions and this DOES help in recovery as well as pull you back into the straight and narrow towards being MORE ready.

My goal as a coach is to educate athletes so they are aware they are COMING to the session READY. I want my athletes to know that not a lot will be learned or transferred over to long-term progress when they are not READY to work and learn each session. Coming in tired is a LOSING battle over time. Educating them to come in ready is key. They then appreciate what is required in the preparation to do fitness for life.

Things I teach coaches, for those interested in sailing as a sport, is we MUST continually monitor trends in training:

My recommendations for sailing coaches is you MUST continually monitor trends in on the water training.  Create litmus tests you can revisit repeatedly to monitor progress and readiness. This allows the athlete and you as a coach to create numerous awareness points to monitor the training and eventually know when its time to push or pull back.

OPEX Athlete Westy Barlow with Team Aqua briefing for the day’s racing

The number one reason why athletes unintentionally get into fatigue and over-reaching states is due to a lack of communication between the athlete and coach and/or the athlete and themselves. The coach and athlete committing to allow NO judgment in the way of how each person is feeling easily fixes this. The open discussion leads to forward progress so they can speak to one another when needed. This allows the coach as well to know when they are tired, truly fatigued, possibly just anxious, or more importantly TRULY ready to go.

*This blog has been adapted from OPEX Readiness For Sport.

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