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Bread and butter, chicken soup, getting back to your roots



After setting the first half of the year on fire in my training, the last 2-3 months have been everything but. Old niggles crept in; I’ve ignored them and have plowed forward in ignorance and nothing changed. I think whenever these sorts of behaviours creep in, it’s driven through an anxiety that you’re missing out on something or that you’re leaving gains on the table. You’re trying to catch up to something and you feel short on time. This is also just a behaviour that I’m sure many self-coached people share because no one is there to hold them accountable and call them an idiot.


After catching up with some of my best mates from high school over the long weekend, I had a reminder of the importance of slowing down and reconnecting with yourself and with nature. Despite it being a very hedonistic weekend away, having deep discussions and going on late night walks along the beach under a full moon did good for the soul and I came out of it with immense clarity.


Within any endeavor in life, I do think at various points you need to re-engage with the cliches of Bread and butter, Chicken Soup and Getting back to your roots. I think seeing old mates on a bender-lite long weekend at the beach ticks all of these cliche-boxes for me from a social and mental standpoint, but I’ll try to outline what that means in the context of training and how it can help guide you if you’ve fallen astray with your training.


Bread and butter


Something you can do everyday.


If you’ve been training for long periods of time, there are things that you could do with your eyes closed and with your brain turned off. It may not be the most exotic of activities, but like a humble slice of bread and a sliver of butter, this activity when done right feels incredible in a rustic and humble way. For me, I know that I can always throw medicine balls with immense violence and do hill runs until my glutes seize up. They’re both training modalities that, for whatever reason, my body has become resilient to and even in my most beaten up physical or motivational state, I know that ’ll be able to get a good workout which pushes me towards my goals of speed and power.


It’s worthwhile journaling for this very reason and to look back at the training that led to personal bests. I’m always surprised at how much the ‘cooking on low heat’ type of training there is leading up to these personal best events as I tend to romanticise the intensity of pushing physical boundaries while underselling the consistency which leads to a breakthrough.


On the way home from work, I pass a ‘Germany Bakery’ at Central Station and I’m always tempted by a Nussschnecke or maybe a Berliner Donut or something sweet - whenever I take the more indulgent option, more often than not, I regret it and wish that I had taken the humble path, just a classic Broetchen or something along those lines, because it both tastes incredible and feels good once it hits the stomach. Bread and butter cannot be beaten.



Chicken soup


Something for the soul


This is a little different to the Bread and Butter type of option in the sense that it sparks something within you by prodding your spirit. It’s something to reignite and excite you for training after being dormant and unmotivated. I think that tasks which fit in this category contain elements of problem solving (which is a distinguishing factor between this and the Bread and Butter) and they test your mental fortitude. I’ve had a decade long duel with the power clean; and even if it’s meant to be an ‘easy tempo session’, anytime I do a big circuit, I have a feeling of wanting to give up halfway through it, but I perserveare and get it done. Even if I’ve push myself to the limit, I generally feel amazing coming off the back of a day of olympic lifting or hard tempo running both physically and mentally.


If I’m very beaten up and neither running or lifting is viable (or wise), shooting hoops at a local park is another thing which makes me feel good. For my Year 12 exams, I started playing basketball as a ‘quick study break’, as a way to 'refresh myself to study even harder’. What started as 15-20 minute shootarounds turned into 2-3 hours at a time spent at the park, by myself, trying to replicate Hakeem Olajuwon baseline fadeaways. Years after that, I got my friends into playing and following basketball and we ended up forming a few social teams which were a load of fun. I remember it also being a vessel to talk about some tough life stuff as well. When I broke up with an ex, I asked my mate to come and shoot hoops with me and as we were draining threes, we were talking about the tough stuff associated with ending a relationship. It’s a great way to get in the sun; to find rhythm with your body (especially as you get hot) and to experiment. For some reason, it just hits the soul perfectly like Chicken Soup.



Getting back to your roots


A reconnection to why you begun in the first place


This is super corny but I’m going to put down some lyrics down here from ‘One More Year’ by Tame Impala which resonate with me and make me question my own actions.


'Cause I get this feeling and maybe you get it, too

We're on a rollercoaster stuck on its loop-de-loop

'Cause what we did one day on a whim

Has slowly become all we do

I never wanted any other way to spend our lives

I know we promised we'd be doing this 'til we die

And now I fear we might

Oh, now I fear we might


I’m pretty sure that Kevin Parker isn’t talking about athletics training in these lyrics and instead about staying young and partying forever; but it does make me critical about how I spend my time now. One day I just started athletics training at age 10, it accumulated momentum and now 19 years later, I’m still doing the same thing. Sometimes it feels like I’m not even conscious of myself being someone who trains multiple times a week; and sometimes I’m absolutely in love with that reality.


I think that fundamentally at my athletics origins, I was drawn to the hurdles as it was an awkward problem solving activity that not many others were able to solve and I loved competing. I loved watching footage and studying some of the great hurdlers at the time such as David Oliver, Dayron Robles and Liu Xiang (and of course Bolt and Powell in the sprints) and trying to bring elements of their style to mine. I was also playing Aussie Rules Football at the time and as a Sydney Swans fan, the Bloods were well and truly at their peak, winning the grand final in 2005. I loved watching Adam Goodes, Michael O’Loughlin, Ryan O’Keefe and for some reason, I remember really like watching the eccentric Jason Akermanis.


For me, reconnecting with competitiveness and problem solving; and also studying some of the great athletes of our time is something which puts me back on track in training. Even as I’m almost getting into my thirties, I still have favourite athletes - Stephen Curry and Errol Gulden are my favourite athletes right now and watching them genuinely makes me feel lucky to be alive to watch it.


There is a commonality amongst all the listed athletes and that is they play the game in the most beautiful, aesthetic, creative way without shortchanging effort and determination. They all made themselves outliers stylistically - they’re all one of ones - and pioneered the sport for years to come. To me, they’re always reminders to embrace your own strengths and that you’re only your strongest if you’re true to yourself as an individual and to be a fierce competitor.


(Me winning my first national title back in the glory days receiving a medal from former Australian hurdles record holder, Kyle Van der Kuyp))


Know yourself


All of the above cliches require an understanding of yourself - how you respond to training, what ticks your boxes and why you do what you do. You need to be consistent enough to have a Bread and Butter skillset, know what really pushes your buttons to be able to whip out a Chicken Soup when needed and to occasionally revisit your origins and inspirations as a way to remind yourself what you actually like about sport or training all together.


Knowing yourself (physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, socially) is the ultimate goal in order to develop skills that push through ruts and stagnation.


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