Tuesday, October 11, 2005 - Exel Racing team
Exel Racing Team Update: Energy

- By: Gordon Jewett

Five months ago in May the winter seemed like an eternity away. My planning for the coming season was in its infant stages as I began the lonely job of deciding how to go about accomplishing my goals, and even what they would be. Although I have spent years going through the same ritual, it had a new twist and an unknown caveat: I now had the control to do exactly what I wanted to do, although limited to the resources that I could secure independently. Winter, and the chance to test my preparations, is now just around the corner, and the signs of the coming season are everywhere.

Probably the most telling sign of the coming races is the rising tension level in the ski population, among both athletes and coaches. Everyone is keen to test their preparations and training innovations, but of course is nervous to see whether the outcome will be positive or negative. Despite the vested interest that we all feel, I've attempted to remove myself from these nervous feelings that often lead to second-guessing and failure.

What I view as my biggest training innovation this year is about as simple as they come, and centers around one very basic principle: energy. I've come to believe that with few exceptions I've been in the best shape of my life every season since I began training seriously 15 years ago. Again this year I've achieved an optimal level of fitness. The one thing that has been absent through so many years of my career has been energy, and it is maintaining that elusive element which has been the focus of my year.

Although it seems so simple, merging energy and fitness is an art of the highest form, and very few athletes ever find the optimal combination. Those that do are the rare wonders that become the best in the world. I have long believed that I am not the most talented athlete, and that to achieve international success it will be through hard work and perseverance. The hard work was never a problem, but I was missing the all-important restraint, which for the most part prevented me from reaching the rested state that is required for optimal performance.

This year I have taken to the practice of conducting a debriefing after every training cycle (which for me is 5 weeks long). The Haig Glacier is where I do a lot of my debriefing and where I create status reports that help guide any changes or modifications that I need to make to my preparations. The quiet atmosphere, and most importantly the level of focus that I can achieve away from the distractions of home allow me to properly prepare reports and then revisit them over a period of days to ensure that I haven't missed anything. The first question I always ask myself is “how is my energy level”?

At the Haig in late August I also sat down to make a list of how I wanted to feel after my focus event - an exercise that is recommended by just about every high performance psychologist. The list was short, simple, and really only contained a few key points: After the Canadian World Cup races in Canada I wanted to 1) feel accomplished, energized and satisfied, 2) like I had done everything I could to ski fast, 3) like I'd taken a step towards my ultimate goal of the Olympic podium, and 4) like I'd had a perfect race to look back on and learn from.

It took me about 3 days of rereading this list to realize the truly important lesson of the exercise: I can achieve all of these feelings before I ever set foot on the start line. For me, this was revolutionary. No longer do I have to head into races feeling overwhelmed by nerves and fears of failure, because success can be guaranteed months before I even pull a bib over my head. All of these feelings should be achievable before I know the outcome of the races, and instead of focusing on the result I can now focus on that one key element: energy.

Over the weekend at the Western Canadian Rollerski Championships I had a great chance to test myself. The nature of rollerskiing is such that wheel speed can vary dramatically between brands, and even amongst similar skis, and the only predictable result is that nothing is predictable. For me these races were a chance to test my race readiness, fitness and energy, and not a chance to scour the world for the fastest wheels to ensure a win. It was an unimportant surety that I had no chance of winning on my relatively slow and worn roller skis. Instead, I focused just on myself and my performance on the day, ignoring those that flew by me on genetically enhanced wheels. I passed this test, keeping my focus purely on myself and turning in a performance that I am happy with.

That early May planning session yielded a list of thoughts and ideas that was several pages in length. As I spent a week going over my list and making an action plan, I realized that what I really needed to accomplish my goals could actually be summed up in only one point: I needed energy so that come race day I could turn in a maximal performance. The clarity I feel now as I look back at a summer of hard training and equally hard resting is pure. My action plan has become my goal. What began as concrete and results oriented has evolved into something much simpler, that in the long run will take me much closer to excellence than any other approach: I want to race with energy. Can a goal get any simpler?


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