CHRISTMAS is a time for family, and with all the festivities and indulgence it can be all too easy to forget about training and the important dates that loom in 2014. This year I managed to combine both training and family – in true Daley Thompson style!
Daley was famed for training on Christmas Day to give him a competitive edge; he wanted to do something his rivals weren’t doing. It was even reported that once his rivals started training on Christmas Day as well, Daley would train twice or three times that day instead.
So, after unwrapping all the presents and before the turkey was even in the oven, I was down at a wet and windy Queens Park, the athletics track in Inverness. Accompanied by my 11-year-old nephew Cameron, I tackled my Yuletide session of 300-metre reps with the knowledge that a warm fire and a Christmas dinner were waiting for me.
You might question why my training programme was not adapted so my rest day fell on Christmas Day. Well, it’s really about mindset!
It is about standing on that start line in 2014 with no “ifs or buts”, knowing that even on Christmas Day you put in that extra effort to train. No compromises. No slacking. One hundred per cent dedication. I’m sure there were a number of athletes out training on 25 December – just like any 25th of the month – and the extra effort is quite satisfying and it does give you a little confidence boost.
Spending time with the family over Christmas is great, especially since I don’t get to spend much time with them during the track season. However, whilst in Inverness I’ve had a pretty tough training week – no time to take the foot off the gas with an indoor season starting in January – and I’ve found it even tougher without my training group to “share the pain”.
Athletics can look like a very individual sport in which there is no hiding place. When you’re racing it’s you against the rest, and even in a relay the onus is on each member of the team to perform. But, whatever success any individual achieves is always only partly down to their own efforts. And, as I look back on a year in which I set four personal bests at 400m and won my first senior Great Britain vest at the IAAF World Championships, it’s important for me to acknowledge the role other people played in that improvement, in particular my training group, ‘SCO400’.
Although it might sound like a cliché, my training group is like a family. We support each other through the tough times and share in each other’s success. I was very fortunate to have my training family support me when family illness hit this time last year. Very rarely will I be seen at a track without Gemma Nicol, so much so that we are often dubbed twins. Adding to this twin theory, both Gemma and I are four tenths of a second off the qualifying time for the individual 400m at Glasgow 2014.
When our coach, Piotr Haczek, was based abroad, we relied heavily on each other for technical feedbacks, video analysis and motivation. She will beat me out of the blocks and in the gym she’s one of the best technical lifters in the group. Last year, Greg Louden joined our training group and it was through helping him that I learned a great deal about myself. It was great to have another guy and he really keeps me on my toes – he’s now like a little brother.
You can only put in so much yourself. When times are hard, a really good training group makes everything so much easier. It’s not a grind, it’s an enjoyment with my group, and I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed my athletics so much as I do just now. This winter Piotr returned to Scotland and that has been a real boost having him there to push us on. Our training group has grown a little too, which is always exciting. We are all focused on achieving our potential and making it on to the start line at Glasgow next July. It’s good to surround yourself with like-minded and focused people. Every training session is fun. It’s hard work, but you’re having a bit of a laugh and enjoying it all, too. It’s a positive perpetual cycle. The more you enjoy things the better you do, and the better you do the more you enjoy things.
Looking ahead to 2014, the hope – and the plan – is to keep on getting faster. I took 0.72 seconds off my PB this year, and with the support of the British Athletics World Class Performance programme and the National Lottery I know there’s more to come. There will have to be, because of that 0.4sec I need to make up to qualify for the Commonwealth Games, and I have no intention of missing out on them.
That target will be uppermost in our minds for Gemma and me during winter training. Another focus for me is the Commonwealth Games relay team, as my training group will probably make up a large part of that relay squad. I think we’re definitely capable of making the final. After that you don’t know who drops the baton or gets a rubbish changeover. It’s wide open from there.
Then only a few weeks after the Games there are the European Championships in Zurich. And we’ve actually got the IAAF World Relay Championships as well, for the first time this year, in the Bahamas in May, so that’s another focus.
So 2014 is shaping up to be an extremely busy year for us. And it all starts on home ground next month, with the international match at The Emirates in Glasgow, where I hope to get a taster of the home crowd support.
• Tickets for the Glasgow British Athletics International Match are now on sale at www.britishathletics.org.uk