After months with little to celebrate on the athletic front, the thought of getting back on the track or trails is particularly exciting. Returning to our energetic community means different things for all members, a notable consideration amongst training groups. Given the wide variety of competitors returning, it’s worth splitting a series of tips into subcategories.
Returning to Competition: Physical and Psychological Considerations
The New Competitor
You may have recently become involved in running, jumping or throwing. Athletics or cross country can involve a learning process of sorts, mostly around the processes that take place before your event. Particularly in a time where returning to competition has safety modifications, always be sure to read up on the rules and regulations of your event prior to attending – and leave plenty of time to warm up and find the venue.
Many newcomers haven’t previously participated in an individual sport. This can be a little daunting at first, but often quickly turns into learning that your new team includes club members, coaches and competitors. Familiarise yourself with key club members, ask plenty of questions, and make sure to have fun! This can seem a cliche line of sorts placed at the end of most sports promotional material, however enjoyment of a sport tends to be the key reason for initial interest. Remember that throughout your first season, and you’re likely to finish the season with new mates and a deeper appreciation for your preferred events.
The School Age Athlete
In a year where the regular rhythm of training and racing has become quite disjointed, allow yourself time to get back into preparatory phases. A discussion with your coach or training partners should highlight the time you’ve had away from a competitive period. Outline the goals for your season and the timelines behind each training cycle. In returning to training on a track in the coming months, prioritise a gradual implementation of familiar concepts such as training in spikes, race-pace efforts or full run up’s. Whilst it’s tempting to rush back into all of these training activities, the time you’ve likely spent in a winter base period will take some re-acclimation to all things track.
As a young athlete, personal bests tend to flow freely. Every athlete is going to react differently to a return to competition, which is why it’s imperative to set realistic goals and enjoy the social aspect of seeing familiar faces at competition again. Your coach is going to have your best interests in mind, and will be a valuable sounding board as competition options develop.
The Seasoned Competitor
Not too dissimilar to enthusiastic school-aged athletes – jumping back onto the track and belting out 10x400m in spikes… possibly not the best idea. A return to competition provides a great opportunity to test out a new approach to competing, possibly off a lengthy winter base. As competition options are likely to change throughout this season, now is a fantastic time to make the most of the events available. If that means racing an odd distance or using a different run up, use the change in formar to focus on smaller goals built into each week. This approach will keep each week exciting, providing coaches and athletes with new information on how a training group responds to the methods you have trialled during winter training.
Communication between athletes and coaches will be more important than ever this season. Athletes can be harsh on themselves at the best of times, and this season provides a new coaching challenge in managing expectations and planning for a variety of possibilities. Focus on completing the training processes behind competing to the best of your abilities, this will hold you in good stead for the length of the season whilst minimising perceived competitive pressure.