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Östgötamaran Warming Up

The first part of our warm-up series was about injury prevention training. In this second interview the focus will be on the mental part of the preperation. Nina Svenman from Östgötamaran meets with Cecilia Åkesdotter who works as sport psychology counselor and they talk about mental strategies associated with performance.

Mental träning Cissi Åkesdotter

Mental strategies

Cecilia Åkesdotter works as a sport psychology counselor for Swedish orienteering national team and in addition to this she works at Gymnastik- och idrottshögskolan in Stockholm teaching sports psychology and communication. Cecilia has also competed on an elite level and managed to capture both European and World championships in Teakwondo. She has worked extensively with the mental part of sports and taken a keen interested in how other professional athletes handle their emotions and thoughts. After her career ended she therefore she went to school to become a psychotherapist specializing in elite sports. – The longer I was involved with professional sports the more I learned about myself and how I function when push comes to shove. After my taekwondo career I sat down and discussed experiences with other athletes and was so exciting to see how they look at different aspects of sports. So to reflect on what is happening, how one reacts and how one’s mind works is an integral part Cecilia says.

As a sport psychology counselor Cecilia tries to lift her clients from a normal performance to an optimal performance. – When dealing with the relationship between people’s thoughts, emotions and behaviors in the context of sport, it may lead to some specific situations. It is rare to get such quick feedback as one does in sports, it is, for example, very clear if you succeed or fail in a contest. It is a challenge to learn how to handle oneself in these situations and hopefully be able to have fun during the journey, Cecilia says.

Cecilia points out that many of those who manage to perform in their chosen sport also are good at self-reflection. Through reflection, they become aware of their thoughts and emotions, they can then control their behavior and their performance. In order to have a continuous reflection Cecilia recommends using a training diary. – Log your workouts in the book and write what you think about them and how you feel. You can thus reflect on the training plan itself, it can actually be method that needs to be adjusted, but also one becomes aware of one’s thoughts and emotions. Once one starts paying attention to thoughts and emotions, one can create a form of distance to them. This means that even if you think and feel a certain way, this will not affect what you actually do or perform, Cecilia continues.

The journal may also teach you to listen to your body. Some experiences connected with exercising might create a pattern and you can become more aware of how you are feeling, which may increase your knowledge of when to rest and avoid getting sick or injured. If you have not trained a lot before it might be difficult to interpret body signals, the sensation you get when you’re about to get an infection in the body can be quite similar to the way you feel when your body is broken down after a really tough work out. Reflect on earlier experiences to learn the difference.

The main purpose of mental training is self-regulation so that one can, in the most efficient manner possible, control thoughts, emotions and behaviors when striving towards a specific goal. Sometimes mental part is overlooked even though it is such a vital area. Most people only focus on training and diet, though they might actually gain more by reflecting on how they feel. Clear objectives for training and competition are also important and can affect one’s performance. It is important that one has set a goal that feels manageable. It may be high, but not unrealistic. High and realistic goals increase one’s motivation. Cecilia believes that what increases both motivation and confidence is the sense of accomplishment. That’s why it’s good to set up partial goals along the way, each time you complete a minor goal your self-confidence increases and you will be able to get to that huge long-term goal. – Research shows that to set goals that are in line with what one thinks is meaningful and important works better than goals that are only about performing. If you see that what you are doing is meaningful to you as a person, then you have stronger motivation to achieve your goal, according to Cecilia.

Setting goalsalso means thatenergy is directedtowards the targetso you getmore energyto perform, butto maintainfocus andconcentrationina long-termplan is a challenge.It’s easy to let your mind wanderfar fromthe goal.How do you handlethis?-If one considersthe verybest athletesintheir individual sportsthey are able focusnoton winning,but also on whatit is they’re going to do. They have solvedthe problem ofhow to willperformas effectively as possibleand the solution is toconcentrate onwhat it isthey’re doingin the moment. As soon as theyarein the futureand thinking aboutthe finishorlooking backanddwelling onwhat they couldhave done betterthey’re spendingtheenergy neededin the present,Cecilia claims. Succeedingis also about an investment of both timeand dedication.WhenCeciliaplans her training scheme for Östgötamaranone of hergoals is to havefun.-If it’sfunsoI won’t have the will to dedicate asmuch time onthe training thatI need.Thenthe sessions won’t be enjoyable,but theremust alwaysbebitsto look forward to. For me, it will involve for example,includingtraining buddiesto shareexperiencesand challenges with, Cecilia explains. NinaSvenmansums upthe conversationwith CeciliaÅkesdotterwith the words: awareness, reflection, self-regulation, goal setting and focus.


Östgötamaran Warming Up

For a while you will be able to followa series of articles calledÖstgötamaranwarming up. The founder and leader of the project NinaSvenmaninterviewpeople who in different waysmay inspire and motivate as well as give theirperspective onhealth and training. -The series isinthree partsandwill addressinjury preventiontraining, mental strategiesandrunning technique, Nina says. We begin the warm up by meeting physiotherapistTobiasYdén and listen to him discuss building asustainablebodyto reduce the riskof injury. It is absolutely possible to go from being virtually untrained to run a marathon in one year, if you workpurposefully andregularly.Allare welcome,both elite as well as fun runners NinaSvenman exclaims.

Skadeförebyggande Tobias Ydén

 

Injury Free Running

TobiasYdénhas studiedphysical education andsports medicinein Kalmar and is a licensed physical therapist,graduating fromUmeå Universitet.Rightafter graduation, he founded Ryggcity in Norrköpingwhere specializes insports injuries.TodayTobias runs his ownclinic part time whilstbeing the directoratthe running clinicAccessRehabin Stockholm.-Iwant to help peopleperform better, feel better and be able totake care oftheir body,Tobias explains.

 Many exercisers who take up running go out a bit too fast in the beginning and incur unnecessary injuries. – If one wants to build a stable body, one should consider a few things before mapping out your exercise plan, Tobias says. He narrows everything down to three questions that one might can ask oneself: 1. Have you had any injuries before? The parts of the body that may have been damaged earlier are the parts you should focus on strengthening first. 2. What about technique? Try to find someone who can help you with a good technique, thus minimizing the risk of injury. 3. Do you have good shoes? Opinions differ when discussing what a good shoe is, but according to Tobias the most comfortable shoe is the best, based on one’s own subjective experience. – Some like it best with a thin sole while others want a really thick sole with a lot of cushion, the important thing is that the shoe sits comfortably on one’s foot and that it feels good when running, Tobias claims. If one has had an injury one may need to consider a more complex solution when choosing shoe. If one has, for example, had problems with one’s knees a thinner insole might be a good idea to get more strain on the foot and lower leg and less stress on the knees. If one had problems with one’s feet it might instead be wise to choose a thicker sole to reduce foot stress. – But the key is still that the shoe should be comfortable, Tobias explains.

When you’ve got these three elements under control, you’ve come a long way, now you can begin! If you are a novice, be sure not to run too hard of a workout to start with, because the body is not designed for that kind of exercise. Train your endurance to begin with and gradually increase it in steps. The important thing to remember is to not only train running, but also focus on balance, coordination and general strength training to become a good runner with a sturdy body. Specific training is of course also important. – All the runners I know run with their feet, but not one trains their feet and that’s just silly, Tobias claims. The feet, knees, hips and torso are key elements for a runner and those areas need specific training. A common mistake that many people make is that they focus only on the outer muscles. Tobias therefore stresses how important it is to activate the internal musculature as well. It will help you keep the stability of your body so you don’t lose the technique and incur damage. Tobias is warming up for Östergöamaran himself, but there must be other goals during the year he says. A year is a long time and most people need stepping stones along the way. – I have several events planned during the year which encourages me to practice and perform, he explains. An additional motivator for Tobias is to always have some form of peer competition with a friend during a race; it is what gives one that little extra push. – Once you have completed a challenging course then one is overcome with a form of physical pride, Tobias concludes.