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June 9, 2016 at 10:36 pm Leave a comment

Ultimate Intelligence – Ultimate Rob!

Recently I was approached by Ultimate Rob and asked if I would like to become a contributor on his site. I was really happy to be provided with this opportunity and one of the main drivers was knowing that my thoughts on ultimate would be exposed to a broader audience – hopefully helping more people as a result.

My future ultimate-related posts will be published over at Ultimate Rob. My latest one was published recently and can be seen here:

Ultimate Intelligence – Calm under pressure

If you’re interested in ultimate-related content then Ultimate Rob is a great resource. There’s heaps of good material there already and more to come  – keep an eye on it!

As for this blog, I have a few non ultimate-related posts floating around in my head. One of them is a review of the bike I purchased recently for commuting duties. Apparently my previous review of the Tatonka Barrel bag has been useful for people judging by the traffic to that post.

June 19, 2012 at 9:26 am 2 comments

Running with a backpack – Take 2!

Whilst browsing through some statistics about the traffic on my blog I noticed that I receive a reasonable amount of visits from people looking for information about running with a backpack.

I have written about this subject in the past however I feel that it is necessary to clarify my stance on the subject. The original post was written in haste and was more of a general whinge about some injuries that I was dealing with at the time. In reality I have very little experience running with a backpack.

I feel bad for the people who stumble across my original post when researching this subject only to find a piece of work that hasn’t really looked at the subject in any seriousness. I didn’t provide any useful advice for people who are looking for backpack running options or techniques.

As a result I did some research myself to try and help people along. I only did some brief looking around but I think the following pages will help:

How to run with a backpack – from The Blogging Joggler

A Good Backpack for Running – from Cool Runnings Australia.

I will edit the original post and add a note at the top directing people to this post. Good luck to any backpack runners out there!

May 9, 2012 at 6:23 pm Leave a comment

Ultimate Frisbee Tournament – 6 week training program

I recently attended the inaugural Australian Division 2 Nationals tournament in Melbourne, Victoria. This was a two day open tournament and I was playing for the Tasmanian representative team, Quoll.

As far as tournaments go this was a fairly typical 2-day affair in terms of game schedules. We had a good run through the pool-play which resulted in us skipping the cross-overs but playing right through to the grand-final. All up we played 3 games per day, most of which went to full time.

This post details the training program that I used to prepare myself for the tournament. I put this together 6 weeks prior to the weekend of the tournament and started straight away. The program is designed to provide improvements in as many Ultimate-relevant aspects as possible. That said, there’s a few things to note before getting started:

1 – The program wasn’t specifically “new”

Last October I attended Mixed Nationals, a 3 day tournament. I put together a similar training program in the lead up to this tournament. There were a number of differences here and there but I had something to work off before putting together the program detailed in this post.

You can read about my Mixed Nationals preparation in great detail on Freak Outs’s blog. Our team blog is available here (Note – the link auto-filters to show my posts).

2 – This program doesn’t include enough focus on team-training

Ultimate in Tasmania is a relatively small affair. Things are growing but our representative team was made up of geographically separated players. The core were from Hobart but we had five players (out of 12) who were from other areas. From the Hobart group, only a few of us were able to regularly attend training. As a result, the first game of the tournament was the first time we had played together as a team.

Ideally a training programme would include at least 2 team training sessions per week. Working together on skills and more importantly, tactics, would be a very important addition to any training program for a team-sport. The program I will detail leaves little space for these activities but, if they were available, I would have made room for them.

3 – The training program was for me, based upon my needs and interests

Whilst I think the program is quite comprehensive and would be relevant to any Ultimate player preparing for a tournament the fact is that I developed it knowing I would be the one completing it. The general ideas and concepts are suitable for everyone but I chose exercises that I know I enjoy, and activities that appeal to me. For example, road-riding is a passion of mine but could be replaced with any long-term cardio such as running, swimming or ideally playing lots of Ultimate! I also had a few minor physical niggles that I had to cater for.

With those things in mind, here’s how I laid out my week. I will explain each of the exercises in more detail after the schedule:

Sunday
Morning: Upper body workout
Afternoon: Leg and core workout

Monday
Lunch: Sprints
Evening: Summer League (Intermediate Division)

Tuesday
Morning: 45k ride
Evening: Leg and core workout

Wednesday
Lunch: 5-8k run
Evening: Throwing and team training

Thursday
Lunch: 20k ride
Evening: Leg and core workout

Friday
Rest Day

Saturday
5k Run
Throwing

As you can see, a pretty full on week. This schedule was repeated 6 times over to fill out the 6 week training program. That said, our Summer League finished half way through so I added in another Throwing session to replace it.

Admittedly I didn’t do every single exercise every week. I think there was only 2 weeks where I did everything I had planned. If I did miss something it would normally only be one thing per week, such as the shorter ride or a sprint session.

Here are the details of each exercise and why I chose them:

Upper Body Workout

I include an Upper Body Workout in my program to add a bit of a balance and to also ensure that my upper body has some strength for throwing the disc and the general athletic demands that a frisbee tournament places on your body. My legs get a good workout from my regular running and riding but I need to specifically target my upper body to help it keep up.

The Upper Body Workout is called the 1-3-1-3 workout. You need a chin-up bar for this workout. I was introduced to this workout by watching Ultimate-related videos by Brodie Smith. He has a video that I have included below that explains the workout:

Leg and Core Workout

The Leg and core workout is included to ensure that my legs and core have the strength and flexibility to deal with the demands of the rest of the training program, and ultimate the tournament. I was doing this three times a week but for most people 1-2 times would be sufficient. I had an increased frequency in order to cater for a few niggles I was experiencing in my knees and lower back.

The exercises were as follows:

Legs:

3 X 15 single leg calf raises per leg – 30kg added weight

3 X 15 single leg step ups per leg – 30kg added weight

Forward hops over obstacle – 15 each leg

Sideways hops over obstacle – 15 each leg

10 minutes of skipping (2 steps right, 2 steps left, 2 steps both)

Core:

Side-plank – 3 X 45 seconds per side

3 X 15  – fitball exercise involving lying face-down on the fitball and raising your torso in the air (kinda like anti-sit ups)

A few other stretches to target specific problematic muscle groups of mine.

Sprints

Whilst I generally run a few times a week as a matter of course I always add in some sprints to my regime when preparing for a tournament. Ultimate involves a lot of stop-start motion on your feet, running from point to point and then doing it all again. Your legs need to be ready to respond and your heart rate needs to be used to rising quickly, then settling back down again as soon as possible.

Overall I want to maintain an ability to run into space, run into another space, clear out of the way and then do it all again as many times over as required. Sprint training is excellent for getting your body used to the efforts required in a game. This then lets you just get into a space, get the disc and be able to concentrate on important things like throwing instead of how fast you are breathing and how fast your heart is beating.

I also use sprint sessions to practise my sharp-turns. Using the chop-stop technique I aim to get my centre of gravity low, in a controlled manner, and be ready to spring out in any direction as required.

For the sprint session I normally undertake something along the lines of:

5 minute warm up jog ( I run to a field or something similar)

6 X 20m sprints, back and forth between two points. I repeat this around 6 times with a 30-40 sec jog between each set.

6 – 8 X 50-60m sprints with a 60-80 second jog between each sprint. For example, jog around an oval but sprint flat out up one of the sides.

5 minute warm down jog (running back to home/work)

Alternatively if I am feeling like something a little less structure I will do a 20-30 minute Fartlek session. In either case the sprints will start to get hard towards the end. For inspiration I imagine I am chasing a disc down towards an imaginary end-zone. You wouldn’t stop running in that situation would you?

45 and 20k Rides

As mentioned above, these exercises are in the program to introduce some longer-term cardio workouts. They are a fairly selfish inclusion. Arguably it would be more beneficial running but I love riding too much to not get a couple in a week. That said, riding does use different muscles to running which means you can run your legs to fatigue in the running sessions and still get a good cardio workout on the bike on different days.

5k and 8k Running

Running is a fundamental part of the game of Ultimate. I’ve talked about the importance of sprint-training above however I believe that distance running is equally as important. 5 – 8k runs are not really that impressive in terms of distance but they definitely get your legs, lungs and heart working at a good rate for a good period of time. I find this distance sufficient for Ultimate training, although more is always better if you find the time!

For me the distance running is key to being able to last on the long points. Towards the end of the game late in the second (or third) day of a tournament I want to be the guy who can run hard throughout a long point and still have the legs and breathe to cut long to the end zone to score. Alternatively, I want to be the guy who hounds his opponent on D relentlessly throughout the game, and has the ability to cover a long cut and contest the disc in the end-zone if required.

It is those things I think about when the running gets tough. The rest of the time I just enjoy running and trying to crack that 4min/k barrier over 5ks (which I managed at the end of this training program!).

Throwing

One of the key bits of advice I have learned from other Ultimate players who provide advice (Primarily Ultimate Rob and Brodie Smith) is that you need to work on your throws, a lot! I particularly like this post from Ultimate Rob that explains about where his passion for Ultimate began, and how it started with hours and hours of throwing practise.

As a result I try and get out and throw as much as possible when preparing for a tournament. Throwing sessions are the one thing on my training program that I actually did more of than what I aimed to do (actually I might have got a sneaky ride or two in).  For me throwing sessions fall into two categories:

1 – Solo-practise, long throws.

This makes up the bulk of my throwing sessions when preparing for a tournament. I take 5 or 6 discs for a field and work on whatever throws I need to for a good 30-40 minutes. Music is optional. Sometimes it distracts me whilst at other times it really pumps me up and I get a really energised throwing session going.

For me, my primary weakness in throwing is the reliability of my long throws. As a result most of my solo sessions are spent working on both my backhand and forehand hucks. A pretty simple formula of throwing one disc as far as I can, then trying to throw the rest as closely as possible to the first.

On most fields I will get about 50% of the way down the field with a throw so I can get two throws in per field length. I will often do backhand in one direction and forehand in the other. However, if I feel my backhand is kicking I might just work on my forehand after warming up with my backhand for a while. My forehand is never kicking more than my backhand 😦

On fields with soccer goals I sometimes aim to get it through the posts. Throughout this regime I also wanted to work on my hammer so I used this throw to gather my scattered discs together before changing direction.

2 – Friendly practise, shorter throws.

My partner also plays Ultimate and we like to go and practise together sometimes. Some of my team mates also appreciate a dedicated throwing session before training. When these occur I’m focusing on my shorter throws, backhand and forehand. I will practise various release points and also my inside-outs/outside ins.

So that’s it! A comprehensive set of exercises that should provide goor preparation for an Ultimate tournament. None of this needs to be set in stone, the schedule can be manipulated and exercises swapped in and out as per your preference. Having one rest day a week is very important and I did also lighten up on the training in the few days leading up to the tournament.

As for the results, our team didn’t lose a game until the grand final, where we were beaten by two points. As a result we received a silver medal. Fitness-wise I was pretty happy with my performance. I was able to contribute to the team consistently throughout the tournament and was still outrunning opponents right up until the end.

Due to our team situation we were running out of subs by the end of the second day. This played on my mind mentally a bit and my performance suffered a bit as a result. Unluckily for me I was landed on quite heavily by an opponent in the third last point of the tournament resulting in some serious ligament damage to both the inside and outside of my right foot. As a result, I can’t say I played through the whole tournament but it wasn’t really my fitness that let me down.

The one aspect I was disappointed with the most was the reliability of my throws. I didn’t back myself for many longer throws and the ones I did attempt didn’t come off as well as I would have liked. That said, I still assisted with plenty of goals and am very happy with my tournament performance overall.

If you have any questions about the tournament, the training or any of the specific exercises please feel free to leave comments below! More sports-related posts coming soon.

April 30, 2012 at 10:44 pm 5 comments

Ultimate Intelligence – The Power is Yours…. The O advantage

I have received a lot of advice about Ultimate Frisbee in the years that I have been playing. Due to the nature of our community much of this advice has been welcome and positive. I’ve definitely been able to develop my game based upon things that other players have said to me.

That said, certain pieces of advice have stuck in my head more than others and over time I’ve been able to experience the relevance of those gems and also come to appreciate how accurate and important certain advice can be.

In this post I want to share some of the most prominent advice I have received. It’s not necessarily revolutionary or some sort of hidden advantage. Like most good advice, it’s common sense but the trick is in adopting it and making sure you use it.

So here it is: When you have the disc in your hand you control the outcome of the point.

I don’t think these are the exact words as they were told to me but the idea is there. In a broader sense the point is that there is no better time to make decisions with a cool head than when the disc is in your hands. It’s up to you to take the best option in order for your team to score the point.

Often this may go against your instincts. Just two days ago I attempted to huck a backhand well before the stall-count had even started. The cut was great and there was a player to throw to but alas my skill and patience were not up to scratch. Perhaps if I had taken a second to settle myself the throw would have hit the target. Even more likely is that I would have re-assessed and waited for a cut that better suited my throwing capabilities. This could well have been a dump-cut.

Thinking about this in a broader sense recently I realized that this particular piece of information is part of the fundamental balance of the game of Ultimate Frisbee. There are lots of factors that contribute to the “fairness” of every sport. If it was overly unfair between offense and defense then no-one would play, or rules would be adjusted to remove the swing.

In Ultimate Frisbee a large swing in favor of the fairness for offense is the fact that they have the disc in their possession. This is a huge advantage! A team with a reasonable skill level of throwing and catching could potentially dominate a higher skilled team providing they kept their heads cool and focused. I have seen the success of teams be very hampered by their desire to play with a flourish, rather than in a focused, team oriented frame of mind.

Don’t get me wrong, I love risky throws and huge catches. They make the game all the better and fun to play. The point is that these opportunities will still occur due to other factors, you don’t have to create them.

So after all that here is my spin, my advice. Next time you have the disc in your hand and you are staring up the field looking for an option, try and remember that the outcome of the point you’re playing depends on what you do next. You’ve got your 10 seconds, you should have a dump cut just waiting behind you. Make your move.

On top of that, approach any offensive point in a positive way. Your team has been handed the advantage and it’s up to you to make it work in your favour.

September 28, 2010 at 9:51 pm 2 comments

It’s official, running with a backpack sucks!

Edit – May 9th 2012 – This post has been superseded by a more useful post on running with a backpack! If you’re actually after some advice or options please read this new post – Running with a backpack – Take 2.

I have often seen people running with a backpack and thought that it would be extremely annoying. As a kid I ran with a backpack a few times and found it to be very uncomfortable. However, I thought that with a decent backpack and some running experience maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. I can confirm that it is as horrible and uncomfortable as you would expect – even with your bag strapped on nice and tight.

Today I went to the physio who told me I wasn’t allowed to ride my bike for two weeks. This came about as I have some fairly intense pain around my left knee and calf muscle. In short, some instability around my hips and riding with my seat too low has allowed my knee to be unstable whilst riding. This has stretched the patellar tendon and my calf muscle has been overworked to compensate.

$120 later I’m equipped with some daily strengthening excercises (which I will do!) and a no-ride policy for 2 weeks. Given I ride to work every day this is going to be inconvenient. In fact, I now needed a way to get home!

I had a number of options:

  • Ride home anyway – one last time before starting my two week break
  • Catch a bus home
  • Stay around at work late until Maz rides home and then comes back to get me
  • Run home

Given I’m not riding for two weeks I needed to find an option that would suit me tonight and for the next 10 working days. I decided that, having never run with a backpack, I would give it a try. I was planning on running at lunch time today anyhow so all my running gear was on-hand.

Well it was horrible. Despite the tightness of the straps my bag still bounced around all over the place. It was moving so much that my iPhone, which never skips, was skipping! After giving up on music I continued running but ended up having to hold my backpack to stop it from moving. Running without my hands looks and feels ridiculous and is hardly any fun. My top was riding way up my back due to the friction of the backpack as well.

I did track the run and you can see it by clicking here to check out the Runkeeper log.

As you can see, it was rather slow and I walked in many places as I was too fed up with the bouncy bag., It’s just over 3k to get home so really I should be able to do it comfortably under 15 minutes (which isn’t that much longer than riding really!).

So now I don’t know what to do. I think I might try minimizing the need for a backpack. I use it to carry food and clothes primarily (given I normally wear riding gear). If I bring a bunch of food to work in one go along with a bunch of clothes I should be right for a week potentially? Not sure yet…

I should be able to carry the essentials (phone, wallet, security card and a house key) in my SPIbelt.

I miss my bike already…

September 22, 2010 at 5:36 pm 2 comments

Ultimate Intelligence – Focusing on the positives….

Last night I played in the grand final for our Tasmanian Ultimate Challenge (TUC) league. This league is considered the “premier” league of Ultimate in Tasmania which essentially means that it is the highest skill level game you’re going to get without joining a state team and heading to a mainland tournament.

The team I play for is called “Bread” and its made up of a great group of people who have played together in a number of leagues and, maybe most importantly, all have a similar attitude to Ultimate.

Throughout the TUC league Bread had mixed success. As with many Tasmanian leagues we suffered various absences as key players were unavailable for games. This occurred due to illness or overseas travel. Two of our players were off representing Austrlia in Germany for a number of weeks.

As a result we had to fight for a place in the finals. Being a 4 team league (Tasmanian Ultimate is by no means a large community, especially at a “premier” level”) we essentially had to work our way from the bottom of the ladder to the top. This involved beating every team possible in consecutive games over the course of a few weeks.

Last week we played for the right to play in the grand final. This was a very challenging game and our entire team was nervous throughout the proceedings. HUC (Hobart Ultimate Club) are known for their relentless accuracy and also a sweet dosage of speed that serves them very well.

Despite our concerns we managed to come away with a win. In my opinion this was the best game of Ultimate our team has played in a long time. We had most of our players avialable and everyone stepped up playing with a precision and level headedness that was most impressive.

On a personal level I was extremely pleased with my performance. My throws, difficult and easy, came off well and I managed to pull of some great catches as well. I felt very valuable on the team and haven’t felt happier after an Ultimate game for a long time.

Which brings me to the subject of this post. Sorry its taken a while to get there but as I haven’t written anything for a good while I thought I’d better provide some background information.

As mentioned, last night we won the grand final however I came away from that game feeling the exact opposite how I felt after our semi-final. Sure, I was very happy to have won and so pleased that we had pulled through as a team. The score was 9-8 and we scored the last point after the final siren.

Despite the victory I played rather badly. Realisitically speaking I reckon I dropped 70% of the throws that came my way. This included easy swings to me across the field, throws directly at me from a cut out of the stack and also flying one handed grabs for hammers deep in the end-zone corner.

During half time I had to take a moment away from the rest of the players to try and contain my frustrations. Things didn’t really improve in the second half and I started feeling like I’d be better off staying on the sidelines than being on the field.

After the game I commented on my dissatisfaction to several people and they tried to cheer me up. I also tried to cheer myself up and together we all came up with a number of excuses:

  • The conditions were bad (It was very windy)
  • You’d been sick for a week and were still recovering
  • The throws weren’t ideal
  • Your marker was playing harder than normal

None of these really fit however and truth be told I’m still not really sure what the answer is. Probably a combination of all of the above and other factors I haven’t even thought of. Despite all those things, the fact I kept focusing on was that the disc was in my hands several times, very catchable. In many of the opportunities I wasn’t even under pressure.

In typical Gen Y fashion I pointed my need for a pep talk towards a popular social networking site. Other team members had posted their happiness with our success and in an embarassingly needy fashion I complained again about my performance and how I was upsest with what had occurred.

Our captain, Steve, replied and basically said that he’d thought I played well. He pointed out several throws that, in the difficult conditions, had come off really well and been important to several of our points.

After reading his comments I felt much better and as I continue to think about them the feeling of annoyance at myself is decreasing. In my haste to focus on my catching (which was undeniably sub-par) I had forgotten about the other valuable aspects I had provided to the game.

Personally I think that happens a lot in Ultimate. I’m not a particularly needy person and I’m quite happy to tell myself I’m doing a good job most of the time but its evident that at times I need to get someone else’s positive perspective to keep me going.

From this entire experience I have concluded a couple of things:

  • A good captain is encouraing and focuses on the positives as much as the negatives
  • A good player focuses on their positives as well as their negatives
  • A good player focuses on other people’s positives. Whether you’re on the same team or not a compliment can go a long way.

It’s easy to applaud the big things in Ultimate. The run-on hand blocks, the desperate sprinting cuts into the end-zone. Layouts in both defensive and offensive situations.

However, the solid offense, the willingness to keep running and keep trying are often overlooked. Personally I think that keeping your offensive player (when you are on defense) under careful control is one of the most overlooked skills and abilities in the game.

Lets start applauding our defensive players who keep on top of their offensive counterparts. If a cut isn’t successful its not just because the offensive person failed to cut well, its also because the defensive player knew what they were doing and moved in the right way at the right time.

Lets also start focusing on the positives of our plays. You can lose points and lose games whilst still doing great positive things in your points.

September 21, 2010 at 6:02 pm 5 comments

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