It's been quite a while since I last wrote a blog post for POWERbreathe. The truth is, I've been so busy that I simply haven't had time to sit down and put it all down on paper. I've posted a number of my greatest moments from the current indoor season on POWERbreathe's Facebook page, so some of you may recognise bits and pieces here and there. I hope you enjoy reading this anyway. Happy reading everybody.
Since I last blogged, a lot has happened. For starters, I was out with a shin injury for two weeks after a failed jump exercises at the track mid December. The cut was deep, so the wound required 2 whole weeks just to close properly. During that time I couldn't run nor didn’t strength train, but it stop me from POWERbreathing. As soon as I was allowed to return to strength training (only light core stability), I took my POWERbreathe with me to up the challenge and I can tell you that it sure did. Try doing the exercise right and controlling your breathing to match it at the same time. It's like patting your head and stroking your stomach and then switching and end up patting your stomach and stroking your head. It was a nice physical and mental challenge to get my mind off missing out on the real tough workout on the track. After that it was still another week before I could get back out on the track. By that time it was almost Christmas and I flew home for the holidays, with my POWERbreathe tucked into the left side-pocket of my laptop back pack.
While I was still abroad, I kept up both POWERbreathing and strength training as best I could to maximise my chances of getting ready in time for the indoor competition season. The first comp was a test drive and it was run purely on the strength in my legs and my POWERbreathe strong lungs. After working on the start a bit, things started to look very promising. On January the 20th, I set a new PB in the 50m and just two days later I equalled my 60m PB in the first round and later that same day I set a new PB. I didn't do much on the 22nd, but a good physical and mental warm up was what pulled me through. I started by warming up with my POWERbreathe, then some jogging, then sticking to what I had planned out for the drills and finally some short sprints. All I remember from that great PB race is that I reacted to the gun and the next moment I was already crossing the finish line. What an amazing feeling! You might be surprised that I use my POWERbreathe so much even though I am just a short distance sprinter, but it works. There is not a whole lot of breathing involved in sprinting as it is an anaerobic activity, but the strength of the lungs required to set the body in motion is a lot more than one would think. During practice many sprints after each other takes its toll and strong lungs and good breathing can minimise that fatigue. It is also the overall physical strength of every muscle involved in sprinting, which causes the amazing relaxation down the stretch that I felt.
On the 29th of January I took part in a comp in Düsseldorf. After two hours of driving I reached the Indoor track and field sports arena. When I got there I felt thirsty and physically tired; my mouth was dry and my legs felt stiff. As the 60m drew nearer, I began my warm up. As always, I started the warm up with my POWERbreathe and surprise surprise, once again it came through for me; the dryness was gone and the stiffness was reduced. The POWERbreathe not only helped me physically, but mentally as well as it got me back in my comfort zone and set into motion what I have come to experience as the natural chain of events leading up to my race ready state. When it was time to set the block for the race, I was ready to take on the field; unfortunately the block was wobbly and I almost false started. Despite the weak start, I did everything in my power to set things right. Eventually, I fell just a tad short of setting a new PB, but with a start like that, it was a wonder I even got close. Next up was the 200 and if you would have known how much practice I had had for the 200, you would most likely not have encouraged me to try it; since November, when I was pretty much cruising through the 200 in 3rd gear and still setting the times on the clock, I had run absolutely nothing above 70m. However, if you would have had enough faith in me and my POWERbreathe, you would have encouraged me anyway. I went out hard of the blocks, then went into 'cruise control' mode for a while, then coming up to the curve I switched it off and put the pedal to metal to power up and through the curve to hit the home stretch, there I went into cruise control mode again and across the finish line. Life is not a fairy tale and I do not always win, but it was good none the less; no new PB, but I come close despite my zero 200m preparation. That 200 was pure power, POWERbreathe and guts.
When the big freeze hit Europe, all hope of a good preparation for the big meet on the 11th were dashed. The snow covered the track and the freezing cold temperatures impacted the muscles and lungs negatively and heavily. Despite the cold, I was on that track with my coach, sprinting with 15kg weight resistance and exploding out of the blocks. I can tell you that the air feels a lot colder when it hits you full in the face, gets in your lungs and cools your muscles even while you are sprinting down the stretch. As if that wasn't enough, the snow under the spike shoes turned to ice and made it even harder to stop. Not many people would have tried it, but we had little other choice and I can tell you that despite the harsh weather conditions, I improved a lot and I became more and more consistent in my technique and my stride frequency. But as it often happens, I came down with a heavy cold as a result of being exposed to too many hours of sub zero temperatures. Luckily though, my POWERbreathe pulled my lungs, breast and throat through quicker and a few days later I was back on the track. If you've ever tried exercising while you have a heavy cold that hits your breast, lungs and throat hard, then you now that it feels like a very slow crawl up a steep icy cliff and after every step you take you want to give up. I felt that way too, but I didn't give up, because I was determined to do everything in my power to reach my goal. So, with the last strength left in my body, I POWERbreathed the full 30 breaths just under the level 2 marker (high resistance) and then fell asleep. The next morning my cold had greatly reduced and my throat was good to go. I then had another three good trainings in the cold. On Thursday the 9th of February the mercury was down good on the thermometer and I decided to put my POWERbreathe to the test. I warmed up my lungs with my POWERbreathe prior to going out to sprint in the freezing cold and it came through for me; the freezing cold took its toll on my legs, but my throat and lungs got off quite lightly. Another great win for POWERbreathe! Friday the 10th of February however was not as rosy. I had a long day at Uni and as the minutes and hours ticked by, I was feeling sicker and sicker, but I made it through the day. At home, I succumbed to the cold once again. With the big meet the next morning, which was the reason I had put in all those hours of hard work, I began to seriously worry. I even feared that if I went to bed, I would wake up with fever the next day and not be able to compete. Pretty stupid of me to worry about a meet, when my health was at stake, but having put myself through all that, I was so close to my goal and I didn't want to miss out. So we prayed and I decided to go to sleep and hope for the best. Before I switched off the light however, I once again tried the POWERbreathe method. With the very last strength and breath left in my body, I POWERbreathed (level 2 marker, high resistance) and exhausted, I fell asleep.
The big meet
It was the 11th of February, the day of the big meet. Feeling better and able to breathe freely despite a painful throat, I got up, took my ready packed bag and drove to the big meet. I was not sure at all, but after warming up with my POWERbreathe, everything once again fell into place, but at the starting line my throat was getting worse and doubt was in control. I pushed my doubts away, ignored my desert dry and burning throat and set the thought of a painful knee joint out of mind. The gun went off and the race wan on. My start was not sharp enough and I was losing ground quickly, but then I fought my way back through the field and heading for the finish line I had made up a lot of lost ground. I did not win, but I did set a new PB once again. I rounded off my race by cooling-down with my POWERbreathe. Later that day, I equalled my PB in the final despite the fatigue and nausea from the cold having the upper hand. Had I been able to bring my A-game, then I could have literally smashed my 60m PB. A sign of things to come?
The reality is that the PB, set on the 11th of February, run on nothing but physical power, POWERbreathe and an iron strong will, is still the result of a bad race. Moreover, I came less than a tenth of a second short of the PB of my club mate who was top fit and having a great day. As it turns out, my new PB is also just two hundreds of a second away from my club's top 10 all time indoor ranking. So much gained already, but so much more is still within my reach at this very early stage in the year. Despite the ups and downs, I have enjoyed more or less every minute on the track so far in 2012. I have rediscovered my joy, passion and talent for sprinting and I can't wait to get back out there and perform. With this 60m pretty much nailed and my 200 well on its way, I am already that much closer to smashing my outdoor PBs as well.
For those of you who are interested, this is my game plan on race day (hence the title of this blog post):
1. POWERbreathe warm-up
2. Light jogging and stretching
3. Sprint specific drills
4. Full on sprints
6. Chocolate milk
7. POWERbreathe cool-down