Posts tagged ‘Training’

Ultimate Intelligence – How to train your mind…

All developing Ultimate players will eventually face the reality that they have a physical shortcoming that needs work in order to continue their growth as a player. For example, your long-range forehand may not be very reliable, or you may suffer from fatigue on longer points.

In any sport it is a reality that each person’s unique physical makeup will create a combination of strengths and weaknesses. Some people’s natural physical state allows them to run fast, others may be able to jump high. Training is required to develop those natural skills but also to fill in any gaps.

It is important to recognise that the same can be said for the mental attributes that a player brings to the field. A person’s upbringing and experiences in life all add up to produce their unique state of mind with far more potential for variance than the same person’s physical attributes.

For physical shortcomings there is generally a reasonably well established path for improvement. Regular throwing sessions with a focus on weaker throws, or setting up a more regular running routine, are two approaches that would work to improve the physical shortcomings mentioned above. The question then becomes, how do you train your mind?

Perhaps the same approach used for physical improvement could be used for mental improvement. My interpretation of that approach includes the following steps:

  1. Identification
  2. Measure
  3. Goals
  4. Train
  5. Measure
  6. Implement

For example, in the examples mentioned above:

Long-range forehands

  1. Identification – You’re struggling to maintain accuracy over longer distances with your forehand. Your reliability and success rate is low.
  2. Measure – Figure out how far you can throw reliably at this point.
  3. Goals – Set yourself a realistic goal. This would be how far you want to be able to throw reliably, and the time you’ll give yourself to get there.
  4. Train – Practise throwing, as often as you can. Mark out and aim for your current distance and maybe your goal distance.
  5. Measure – As you train, keep measuring to ensure you’re progressing towards your goal.
  6. Implement – After a while your confidence will grow, deservedly so. Time to throw some long-range lasers into the end-zone!

Fatigue on longer points

  1. Identification – Any point over five minutes leaves you unable to keep up with your opponent, or get away from them.
  2. Measure – Time yourself running over a reasonable distance. I find 5k is a good indication of stamina.
  3. Goals – Decide on a distance and time goal (or pace) to work towards. Give yourself a period of time to work towards that goal.
  4. Train – Go running! There’s plenty of ways to get better at running. Google can help!
  5. Measure – Continue to measure your progress against your benchmark. Watch the improvements, work towards your goals.
  6. Implement – Next time you’re on for a long point and there’s a turnover bust to the end-zone leaving your defender flat-footed!

Applying these same steps to a mental improvement can be a difficult process. We can work through it together, based loosely on my own experience with some mental shortcomings I have worked on:

1 – Identification

Identifying a mental shortcoming that is affecting your game is a really tough thing to do. However, if you observe your actions and reactions to the things that happen on the field you may start to notice a trend.

For me, I am quite capable of giving myself a hard time if I stuff something up.

The warning signs to look out for are generally any negative feelings. Am I starting to feel frustrated? Unreliable? Maybe even angry? At my worst I can convince myself that I’m better off on the sideline than on the field. You can imagine how this must make my teammates feel. I’m negatively affecting my own game and also theirs!

I feel that the key is to be on the lookout for negative emotions. If you’re not feeling positive then there’s a chance there’s some mental aspect affecting your game. As mentioned above, there’s a huge amount of scope for what the issue could be depending upon yourself as a person.

2 – Measure

Setting a baseline for a mental improvement is also a really hard thing to do. It takes some serious thought and honesty to understand that, on a bad day, 60% of your less-than-perfect throws are causing you to despair about your worth as a player (This is my own example again here!). Obviously I have no way of knowing if 60% is a real figure. For mental improvements I think it is enough to recognise that you’re doing being negatively affected more often than you would like.

3 – Goals

Goals for mental shortcomings are easy – you want to eradicate them! Realistically though, you can’t eradicate a mental shortcoming completely in the same way that you can’t throw perfect long-range forehands every time. Experiencing a noticeable improvement is a worthy goal. Keeping your cool for longer throughout a game is certainly something you can work towards.

4 – Train

Initially I thought that mental training could only really be done in-game. Upon further thought I realised that a useful attitude can be developed at all times. If you’re at a training session and your goal is to not-let-the-bad-throws-get-you-down then focus on that whilst training. Train your mind at training! Learn from your mistakes, but continue with a positive outlook.

5 – Measure

Keep yourself accountable when you’re playing. I had to get myself into a position where I could objectively analyse my own behaviour when I was stuffing things up. Was I being affected as much as in the past? Was I able to carry on and give my best performance to the team?

6 – Implement

Next time you’re at a tournament you want to be physically and mentally trained up. From a mental point of view you should be in a position where you are positively contributing to the performance of your team throughout the whole tournament.

Final Thoughts

As you may have gathered, the process of training your mind isn’t necessarily as straightforward as training a physical attribute. There are a lot more variables and less-tangible things to consider. To assist in training your mind it is worth considering enlisting a friend or teammate. If you really want to make a difference to your mental state then let someone on your team know. You will feel more accountable and, even more importantly, they will be able to let you know how you are improving.

I’ve alluded to some of the mental shortcomings I’ve dealt with in the past. After my most-recent tournament our captain commended myself (and another player) on how we have improved mentally. It was a hugely successful tournament in many ways (silver medal baby!) but receiving that feedback was certainly a highlight.

In terms of being accountable – I’ll let you all know that I’ve still got more to do. In the grand-final my mental shortcomings were starting to make themselves known. I have a few regrets, and fear that the close-game could have come out with us on top if I had maintained a better mental perspective. I definitely don’t want to let that happen again!

 

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June 4, 2012 at 6:54 pm 2 comments

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


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