Balance Your Body

Eternal Glory is a series aired on iTV on a Tuesday night. Next week, Tuesday 3rd November, are the semi-finals.

Eight retired professional athletes have been sent to Croatia where their sporting skills have been tested through various challenges. Each week, the two athletes who have the lowest scores must fight to remain in the competition by competing in the ‘night duel’. Read more about the programme here.

The athletes underwent a gruelling fitness test prior to leaving for Croatia. The test assessed different aspects of their all-round fitness. The athletes strengths and weaknesses were consistent with the sport in which they competed. However, when it came to competing on the show, there were a few surprises. Those expected to have good balance for example, ended up not doing as well as expected. Certain athletes though, have shown that they are true naturals with good all-round sporting skills and have excelled in all the tests so far.

The show got me thinking (hence this post…!). These athletes’ training, as would be expected, would have been specifically for their sport. Some sports require a variety of skills and fitness levels and their training must be varied to encompass this. Some sports though are much more specific. A javelin thrower such as Fatima Whitbread, will need to be strong and powerful, but won’t necessarily have the lungs of a rower such as James Cracknell. However, James Cracknell will still require strength and power. Although he too, requires stamina and endurance, but is it as much as say Liz McColgan, a long-distance runner? The show aims to test their psychological endurance, reaction speed, agility, hand-eye coordination, strength, stamina, visualisation, strategy, adaptability, and recovery time. As the show progresses the athletes have noticeably used tactics to try and win. After all, they are all champions and losing will never have been an option.

The difference between being specifically fit and strong for ‘your’ sport, but also to be fit, healthy and a well balanced individual is becoming apparent. Challenging the body in a variety of ways ensures there is a balance of skills, strength and fitness so that it can complete day to day and sporting activities with as much ease as possible. When you become a professional, honing the specifics is obvious to do, but maybe maintaining a decent level of other skills and areas of fitness and well-being, less so.

When I worked at Fitness First, some of the body builders could not do their shoelaces up without lifting their foot onto a higher surface because they couldn’t reach their feet (and maybe DOMS was preventing them from wanting to crouch down). Their flexibility, to be blunt, was appalling! Some bodybuilders are aware of the importance of being flexible and practise yoga and stretching to work the muscles in different ways and help them recover.

I am in awe of athletes who compete in multiple events such as heptathlon and decathlons. The planning that goes into the training programmes must be meticulous to ensure that the athletes perform to their best in each event. I struggle to balance swimming, cycling and running and then skiing during the winter.

Instagram and BurnThis provide me with inspiration through photographs and video clips of people, particularly women (as I am one), doing pull-ups, balancing acts in the form of yoga poses, headstands and handstands, lifting heavy weights… I want to be able to do all that, too ā€“ competitive soul, yes! It can be achieved, but it takes a long time to gradually build up skills in all areas and finding the time to dedicate it to.

Balancing between a variety of workouts will ensure that interest and motivation stays high. Setting goals and targets monitors progress and that what is being done is working. Those competing in sports at a high level may be restricted by time to perform other forms of training non-specific to their sport, but they should ensure their health is not jeopardised.

This autumn I have spent more time focusing on doing other exercise I enjoy besides swimming, cycling and running whilst I await to put skis on. Completing short hiit (high intensity interval training) sessions in the form of burpees and other exercises, running longer distances, sprinting up hills, hopping and jumping over ladders and up and down stairs, getting back in the gym and lifting weights, trying new exercises and drills out with different intensities, challenging my body to move in different directions, at different speeds means that I am enjoying my workouts and having fun with training. I hope it also means that I have a fit, healthy and well balanced body.

Headstand practice. My face says it all - it's a work in progress.

Headstand practice. My face says it all – it’s a work in progress.