A few people have been asking for a bit more input from the team. As luck would have it the worm has turned. Rare footage of Toni working out, as opposed to overseeing others working out, has emerged. The undercover filming operative was none other than Karla Drew who managed to secretly capture the big man doing a chest session last week.
The quality may be poor but the scarcity of this type of footage makes it priceless viewing. I’ll leave it to you to enjoy.
Fast forward to my most recent conversation,
“You’re doing what?”
“Putting up Karla’s footage of you working out. Warts and all remember?”
“Why don’t you talk me through the workout”.
“I can tell you I’m still aching”.
“Four days later? How often do you do that session”.
“Once. That was the first time. I decided to smash my chest”.
“Is that a good idea?”
“Would you coach someone else to do that?”
“We should do a workout for the elderly next time I come up”.
“Definitely. No-one else in the gym though”.
As we say goodbye I wonder what I have let myself in for?
The Karla Drew Mystery
Back to Karla. When she’s not operating undercover to film Toni she’s either training for hurdles or studying.
Here’s Karla in her own words.
Tell me your favourite Toni story.
I made him so angry once that he punched a wall. I forgot to run off the last hurdle in training, I made sure I never made that mistake again!
What’s the first thing to enter your mind when you wake up on a training day?
Urghhhh I need a coffee.
You’re training to be a sports psychologist. Why did you choose that career?
When I moved to Sheffield I began studying a BSc in Psychology with the intention to pursue a career in mental health. Whilst training with Toni he suggested I see one of the Sport psychologists at EIS (Chris Marshall) to work on my own mental approach to competition and training. It was through working with Chris Marshall that I started to develop an understanding of the importance of psychology within sport irrespective of the level. I really developed a passion for the subject and every session I had with Chris I was keen to learn and expand my knowledge. The sessions with Chris helped me to improve many aspects of my approach to competition and ultimately improved my performance. This is where my fascination with sport psychology began which lead me to go on and study an MSc in Sport Psychology at Sheffield Hallam, in which I loved every second. I will now be starting a PhD at Liverpool John Moores in September this year!
Toni talks about the importance of ‘not thinking but doing’ in competition. How hard is that with all your sports psych training?
I think it is important to understand that all athletes are unique and there is not one magical psychological approach that fits all (all though that would make life easier).
Certainly there as some athletes in the training group that like to go into competition and just do. They think “I’m just going to throw the shot as far as I can” or “I’m going to run as fast as I can from A to B”. When you break down athletics, I guess it really is that simple… however I like to go in with a plan. A plan of how I am going to throw the shot as far as I can!
Personally when I used to do heptathlon I would approach each event (certainly at least the field events) with two or three key points for me to focus on, these were often technical instructions that had been a key focus in training during the build-up to the competition. This was often just to help keep me on track if anything wasn’t going as well as I had wanted or I was getting flooded with too much information. My key points would help bring me back to my focus and I know that if I did A, B and C correctly then I would end up with a successful result.
However, with an event like 100m hurdles I would rarely think of anything too technical, this could perhaps be because I feel the most comfortable and confident doing this event. Like Toni said “don’t think, just do”, this event comes automatically to me and paying too much attention to specific movements or technique can negatively impact performance during competition as it hinders the automaticity of the skill. When I am on the start line for the 100m hurdles I think of a specific metaphor (that I created years ago with Chris) this evokes an emotion that helps me to be aggressive and explosive at the start of the race. After that I just get into my rhythm and run!
I feel my knowledge of sport psychology has helped me to understand how I best approach a competition and what will give me the best opportunity to produce a good result. I think it has also helped me to cope better during situations when things may not be going how I would like.
To what extent do you think your education has helped you perform on the track?
I think studying alongside training fulltime can work really well as long as you are organized. I already mentioned how I like my plans and to-do lists so I actually cope quite well being in fulltime education and training. I have to make sure I am very organized and know exactly when all my deadlines are throughout the year to ensure that I don’t end up with too much work piling up during competition season. But if you are well prepared it can actually fit really well with training, and would be much easier to balance than a full time job, in my opinion.
Obviously, studying sport psychology has helped my sporting performance because it has helped me to develop an understanding of how I should best approach a competition as well as what can hinder my performance, amongst many other things.
Finally, I also find it really important to have something to do away from the track whether it is a job, being in education or just another hobby. I think it can be exhausting if all you think about is training and competition 24/7. I think it is really productive to have another identity to focus your attention away from being solely your sport. For example, if I have a bad training session I can use my university work to take my mind off it and vice versa.
What’s your usual pre-race routine?
My pre-race routine would be my usual warm-up. A couple of laps warm up whilst listening to some music followed by stretches, running drills and then hurdles drills and block starts to get me moving fast. Whilst warming up I would probably also consume my fair share of caffeine!
What’s a typical training week look like for you?
Lots of hurdle drills and running drills trying to create the right shapes. I will also have two proper hurdles sessions a week – 1 short hurdles session over 3 hurdles and one long hurdles session over 12 hurdles. I lift weights three times a week and do one longer running session on a Sunday.
Describe the perfect 2016 for you.
My perfect season would be to run another new personal best and get the European champs qualifying time of 13.10. Preferably before the deadline…
Quick fire round:
Favorite training music?
Hip Hop, RnB and Dance.
Favorite chocolate bar? (if you have one!)
Favourite film and why?
Shutter Island. Lots of twists and turns!
Finally, what’s the best bit of advice you’ve ever received (that you can share)?
CONTROL THE CONTROLLABLES: Focus on yourself as you only have control over what you are doing. You are not able to control what your competitors are doing so don’t waste your energy being concerned by anyone else. Instead channel your energy and your thoughts on what is required to produce a good performance for YOU.