Putting in the hours for sporting distinction, in plain words “do your time”, by K.N.*
Assuming that sporting excellence is a topic with plenty of aspects to discuss, a major pillar to start with will be hard work over and over again.
If we are to agree in a global stance that doing sports is a beneficial concept for our societies as a bunch, (recreational or competitive) for the well know reasons health, performance, our human nature to constantly improve, discipline, self-esteem, self-realization… list goes on, then, the strive for sporting excellence is what comes next. And there is no doubt that if you want to be superior at something (namely sports), achieving that higher degree of specialization you have to put in the work. This is a no brainer but some do fail to understand the importance of slow, diligent and discipline practice in whatever we do.
The scope of this article is not to identify all the elements in detail that are required for sporting distinction ( just to name a few- personal drive, family support, equipment, facilities, professional guidance/services…), but to emphasize the importance of enough time invested from athletes.
Assuming that the sport of swimming is a prime example for such an accord of technical abilities, all synergistically working together for the optimum result. Swimming has the prerequisite that all muscles need to be working with perfect timing, some contracting others are relaxing and the range of motion needs to be optimum to ensure fwd propulsion. Master that, and you have ticked the box before you start doing some speed work in the water. Neglect your technical time and there is little to zero chance that you will make it in the world of competitive swimming. Now consider a young swimmer at the tender age of 5-6 years old, (that could easily be my daughter J )at the beginning of her swimming lessons building that efficient movement of fwd propulsion, needs plenty of instruction and practice.
Similar technical sports require many hours / days in the specific environment practicing the movement in various speeds. The brain, neurons, muscle fibers need to establish a close connection between them that confirms this movement pattern over and over again until that acceptable level of movement is demonstrated. It is well documented that plenty of years are required to gain the physiological adaptations deep down at the cellular level, things don’t happen overnight. Some people are born with these characteristics (talent) and some need to work to develop them further. But most people striving to get to that top tier need to put in extra time practicing in that specific environment that will yield the desirable outcome. And that still might not be enough, but trying for something is the essence.
So the bottom line for endurance sports optimization is that there are no shortcuts to reach your personal destination. You have to put in your time to become better from what you are today.
Spend time in learning and acquiring the basics for the sport.
Spend time in practicing and developing solid foundations with a purpose to build durability and resilience making you full proof to injuries. Keep repeating and enter a maintenance stage. Spend time perfecting sharpening that “edge” with a final task to compete at that higher level.
*Kypros Nicolaou is an Exercise Physiologist, graduate of the University of Alabama, an ACSM certified Health & Fitness Instructor, holds an ITU Level II Certification as a Triathlon Coach, and is a multiple Ironman & Half Ironman Triathlon finisher. He is coaching Triathletes online, teaches Functional Training at ryltoday, and performs Exercise Physiology assessments at the Cyprus Sports & Research Center. firstname.lastname@example.org