A couple of weeks ago I was invited to an event in London to celebrate that August 4th was one year until the start of the 2016 Rio Olympics. The event last week was hosted by Fitness First, the official fitness partner of Team GB.
The event was at a Fitness First gym in Bishopsgate in London with workshops run by Team GB coaches.
This sounded amazing and I was keen to get involved. The workshops including Strength and Conditioning, Nutrition, and Psychology. And there would be Olympians just casually strolling about as well, such as Jason Kenny and Keri-Anne Payne.
I was also pleased that someone else I knew had been invited too, Mary (the ultra running superwoman – she’s just smashed a 70 mile trail race. Yep.). Going to London for me is always a bit of a faff so it was nice knowing Mary was going too.
Anyway the morning started quite badly when, as per standard procedure in my life, I only gave myself just enough time to get to the station within minutes of the train arriving. No contingency time for a) paying for parking and b) getting my ticket from the machine. I didn’t think I had any change for the parking machine so I automatically rang the number on the side of the machine to pay that way (I’ve done this before, it’s very handy). Like the genius I am not, I decided it would be quicker to multi-task and do the train ticket at the same time. This involved me managing somehow to crash the ticket machine and mess up my parking on the phone. So I had to go into the station and get my ticket that way. Then run like a mad person to get onto the train, while still trying to sort my parking out.
In the end it took about five phone calls (let’s not forget how intermittent signal is on the train – another genius Anna move) and two car parking payments as I got the registration number of my own car wrong the first time. I was sweating with nerves and stress by the time I finally sat down on the train. As I put my payment card away I noticed I did indeed have the three sodding pounds to pay for the parking. GARGHH.
Thankfully I got to London and successfully met Mary at Liverpool Street station. There ensued a rather comical amount of time for us attempting to find the gym. We walked up and down one road about four times trying to follow Mary’s printed map (very organised, you can tell she’s a teacher) and Google Maps on my phone. We asked random passerby’s as we started to get desperate and each person told us a completely different direction. Finally we found where we were meant to go. Only about a five minute walk from the station we started at. *Sighs* Mary and me are clearly not natural Londoners!
Our first workshop was run by Dr. Duncan French, a leading strength and conditioning expert with 11 year’s experience as a coach. He’s looked after Olympic, World Championship and Commonwealth Games medal holding athletes and a current world record holder.
This session involved Duncan going through several fairly complicated strength moves using a light bar. It wasn’t about the weight of the bar nor our personal strength. It was about our coordination and form.
We started with a fairly simple move of a squat, which then progressed further and further into a jump, snatch, squat routine which really did involve my head more than my body as you had to get the order of it all correct as well as the form perfect.
It was like I was back at school because I found myself glowing with pride when Duncan complimented my “hip mobility”. Though he did point out an improvement I could make and then made me repeat it with everyone watching. Oh the pressure… 😉
The next session was led by James Collins, a leading expert sports and exercise nutritionist, who was heavily involved in advising Team GB Olympic teams and individuals in the run up to the London 2012 Olympic Games, and now towards Rio 2016.
This was probably the weakest of the workshops. Understandably nutrition is such a vast area and the amount of time he was given to go talk to us was short and I think he tried to cover too many areas as it was a bit vague and textbook.
It was interesting though. He talked about how different athletes need different and specific diets because they have very different needs. And that this also changed throughout the year as their individual training peaks and declines depending on what they have going on. He also mentioned how he helps coach athletes with regards to living in the Olympic Village because the sheer amount of food available to them is vast. They need strategies to ‘cope’ and to make the sensible options for their bodies in order to perform at their best. This is especially true for those athletes that need to carefully monitor their weight, such as judo players and boxers.
The third workshop was led by Sarah Cecil, a technical lead sport psychologist at the English Institute of Sport. She has over 10 years of experience working with a vast variety of different athletes and worked with Team GB athletes across both the Olympic and Paralympic Programmes in London 2012.
Her session was by far the most interesting and enlightening. She talked about how she helps athletes cope with the pressures of the ‘big day’ and facing crowds of thousands of spectators. She went through a psychological theory (which I believe is the Triune Brain Theory though she never said – but I’ve since Googled) that our brains are broken into three areas: one being very primal focused purely on survival, the second area more emotional and to do with innate motivations, and the third is where reason, knowledge and rationalisation comes into play.
I’ll probably do a poor job of explaining it here, apologies, but the theory is that if we we overload our more rational side, then the less rational and more emotional side with take over and see a situation in terms of it being a threat rather than an opportunity. This can easily be extrapolated to Olympians just about to compete. They over-think the situation and then panic. She works with them to make sure that they see the situation in terms of an opportunity, and that nothing has changed from when they were training. Basically it’s a choice you can make to take a sep back, breathe, and then take charge of your emotions and perform better.
It’s funny because when preparing for smaller events she says she always tells her athletes she hopes everything will go wrong, so then they can deal with it and then for the more important events they know they can cope.
I found this so interesting! And Sarah was very personable, friendly and knowledgeable. All three workshops were interesting, but they could have been longer to be honest, but I think this was more the style of the event.
The Fitness First gym was fantastic and we were allowed to use it after the event. As I wasn’t really in the mood and I had intervals planned for the evening I declined. But there was a cool running strip, loads of amazing looking machines, weights and other cross-fit style equipment. There was also a huge TV screen on the wall demonstrating loads of different exercises (I got distracted by this several times).
After the event, Mary, Helen and I headed to find some lunch. Thankfully Helen is more London-savvy and took us to a great little spot called O-Food, a Nordic sandwich bar.
The menu was really good and I could have had anything to be honest. I went for a smoked mackerel salad with a side of roasted potato wedges with a sour cream dip. Oh it was divine!
They also served water with cucumber slices in it for free which was fantastic too.
It was lovely chatting to Mary and Helen, discussing racing (Helen was a fellow Cakeathonner!), bogging and what we’ve reviewed on our blogs in the past. Perhaps the event wasn’t as long as it could have been (and the goodie bag could have been better!!) but I did enjoy the day, especially the lunch and chatting 😉
How do you find getting to and being in London?
What great little food places have you found in London?
And just for fun, Team GB have created a questionnaire you can fill in to see what sport your most suited to HERE. I’m a footballer apparently!
**Full Disclaimer: I was invited to the event for free but paid for all my own transport and food. All opinions are my own honest ones.**