No ice? No worries: John Farrow's Blog4 June 2013
Skeleton athlete John Farrow suffered a major injury in 2011, but is determined to compete at his first Olympic Games in Sochi. Here is how the 31-year-old is preparing for the Games...
BLOG: One of the biggest differences I see between being a skeleton athlete and other sports is the large six month off season where no ice sliding is possible. In other sports you can plan some downtime and back off the sport-specific training. You can start again by travelling to the opposite hemisphere to chase the snow around the globe. But in skeleton we have a full six months of zero sliding time possible for any athlete.
This can be a good and a bad thing, but it is something everyone in our sport has to deal with. On the good side, it gives us a lot of time to recover from injuries and racing fatigue. It also gives us time to make technique changes and plan for the season ahead.
The challenging side is that we have no chance to train in the actual skill we are trying to perfect. It can be hard to keep motivated to train hard when you have such a long period of no races or results to show your improvements. If you get an injury at the wrong time, a six month recovery period can instantly turn into 18 months no ice training and a huge setback in any Olympic preparation.
In saying that, I think this unique aspect of sliding sports actually gives me an advantage. I set up and plan my training to take advantage of these six months to get an edge in my preparation for Sochi.
My first step is how am I going to use this time to be the absolute best I can be in this sport? Training to be the best at something requires a whole different mindset… Training in general for an athlete is easy- go to the gym and lift some weights and you will get stronger. Go for a run or get on the bike and you will get fitter… easy right? But your competition is doing just as much of this as you are. To be the best you need to believe that you posses something nobody else has at the Olympics- that something better is within you. Whatever goal you set, a solid belief and desire is the first step to making it a reality. I truly think we all have something we can do better than anyone else and the hardest part about personal success is finding that thing or that moment, believing in it and making a clear decision to do it.
For me, this decision was to chase an Olympic gold medal in skeleton.
My training to prepare for Sochi has now been finalised and I am into my weekly training programs. I do my usual strength and conditioning training with our winter sports group and John Marsden and my usual sprint training. In addition, I have decided to focus on adding three key areas to my training in order to bring out my best:
1. Fast feet = fast starts
The start is an important aspect of this sport. Although skeleton is mainly a driving sport, the start is the first area to get ahead and carry speed down the track. In years previous I have focused on being strong to push the sled, but this year I will focus on developing speed. Muhammed Ali once said “last night I cut the light off in the bedroom, hit the switch and was in the bed before the room was dark- FASTTTT!” This is the kind of speed I want to develop. This year I'm aiming for Ali Fast. Drill after drill, week after week, month after month, fast is what I'm building for in Sochi.
2. Fast mind = fast sliding
After the start you are on the sled and soon reaching speeds of up to 140km/h. A slip of concentration and your whole run can turn upside down real quick. So how do we train the mind when we can't have ice training six months of the year? This part is where I feel I am strong, crossing over from a sport like downhill mountain biking puts a lot of racing experience in my back pocket. I have raced downhill since I was 16 and in that sport we do runs for over four minutes negotiating 120+ corners inches from trees roots and rocks. It makes focusing on 16 corners in skeleton seem like a walk in the park, and for that reason plays a large role in my off-season training where I can do run after run in Australia.
I have the advantage of living and training with Chris Barlin and Lachlan Mckillop who race downhill mountain bikes at World Cup level and are two top shelf riders and athletes. Surrounding myself with amazing people continually makes me push myself. Having these two guys around helps me push my riding which pays benefits to my skeleton skills. If you want to see how far you can go in something, then surround yourself with people better then yourself. Other sports like motorbike racing and go-karting are also in my programs to all keep a fast and focused mind.
3. Clear. Calm. Confident.
This is a term from our Australian coach Eric Bernotas and is one I am focusing on making a strength of mine. It is a mental state that will give a person’s best performances. Remaining calm before a race is an important technique, being clear with what you need to do will keep an unshakable mental focus, and being confident is something you get after doing something again and again and again. You cannot be confident at something you have only done a handful of times- a solid repetition of training and success will build confidence. Yoga, breathing exercises and mental training programs are all new things that are now in my preparation for Sochi. Hopefully I can go into more specifics over the next few months as to how they are going and let you follow along with what I am learning.
With most of my training fitting into these three areas I will be able to show you some exciting areas of growth in the upcoming months.
Until the next blog… have fun!