Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What Are Your Goals? Moving Forward from the LVI

Last week was quite the blur after returning from Vegas to a new job, commuting from Milwaukee to Chicago round trip for 4 days, and then finally moving. Gym time and energy was scarce, especially as a mom that has barely seen her (adorable, rugby loving) son due to all the travel of late. But then again a forced recovery period now and then is never a bad thing.

Monday night post-move was my first rugby practice as head coach with the Palatine Juggernauts High School Girls program - which happens to draw the majority of its players from very same high school I attended. We're fortunate enough to have a partnership with the Palatine Park District that gives us dedicated practice space on lit, turf fields which also happen to be the exact grounds I played soccer on from age 6 to 17. It's also the same amazing park district where I took gymnastics at age 4, then swim lessons all through my youth, played baseball, had tennis lessons, and then umpired baseball and also refereed Palatine Celtic Soccer.

There are so many connections to my town, my school, and my sporting past that I can barely control my excitement. The resources available from fields to athletes to athletic trainers to gym space, personal trainers, plus having access to my own rugby club and teammates I can pull as guest coaches and experts is exciting.  Plus the Palatine Rugby Club is EXTREMELY organized with Middle School Boys, HS Boys Varsity and JV as well as the Girls program. They have an established framework and a dedicated coaching staff that utilizes email and text message programs to communicate, that supplied me with a photo roster to get to know my players (and fellow coaches) and more. I am very impressed with this group and had no hesitations in signing on. I'd encourage anyone with a youth program to contact Alan Burton for advice as how to run a program as he's done a remarkable job with communications, management and discipline.

I couldn't stay long at Monday's training due to the extreme cold affecting my son, but I did make sure to assign homework to the girls that did brave the elements. A tool I've always used as a coach is goal setting with tangible markers - don't just say you want to "get in shape" or "run faster" or "get better". I appreciate a methodical approach with numbers - a running plan with goal times and a race as an end goal to celebrate, a weightlifting program with targeted maxes, losing fat rather than losing weight but looking at percentages and progress, ways to create new goals if life gets in the way of progress. It's SMART - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely.

So I assign homework to players as little steps are the means to the end - everyone can do wall sits and planks for time, to watch certain rugby videos and YouTube clips, to learn one law of the game a week, to throw 50 passes each hand throughout the day from varied distances, to use the basketball backboard as a target for 5m lineout throws and to use the hoop from the free throw line, to do x amount of lunges, squat jumps, burpees, to track progress and keep journals. Each player can add one thing to their diet - no need for deprivation - to improve their health and energy. Charting energy levels, sleep, diet, hydration, caffeine consumption, the weather, the time of day you complete these tasks all help in creating the story of how/if you reach your goals, what impeded them, what assisted them.

*aside - I recently gave up coffee in favor of herbal and green tea as an experiment and felt amazing. My workouts leading up to USA 7s improved and my sleep was better than ever. Then on both Vegas trips I lapsed to compensate for lack of sleep; it drastically inhibited my performance,sleep, hydration so I'm off the coffee wagon entirely*

Rugby in the US will stand at quite a disadvantage to other sports purely for the lack of familiarity with it. On any summer afternoon kids can tune into baseball games. Basketball, football, and to a lesser extent hockey are available at any hour. ESPN and Sports Illustrated cover the major games and athletes and its only once in a blue moon that rugby is aired. So how can we as coaches and older players educate the younger generations? At one point one of my college coaches asked just how many of us had ever been to the USA Rugby website.... I was one of only 3-4 players that raised my hand. How can we excel at a sport if we aren't actively fans seeking knowledge, finding rugby stars to emulate (just like many children can mimic a player's batting stance or basketball shooting form), searching for film and games?

How many of us are watching 6 Nations - both men and women? Yes, there are some roadblocks with BBC airing games or not, with paid game subscriptions, but there are replays, there are internet streaming sites, and YouTube has a treasure trove worth of highlights. Our youth rugby club has set up viewing parties with banquet halls rather than bars - which is a great chance to have more families ESPECIALLY the parents of said players - feel welcome and safe watching games. How many of us will follow Wellington 7s this weekend or Atlanta 7s next weekend? How many people can name more than 4 people on the USA rosters or any players on other roster? Finding these clips, these players, watching local club rugby live are all part of the rugby homework I assign and also follow myself. I ask players to write down questions they have about the games, about the rules, and we have team sessions to go over answers and create further dialog. I ask referees to speak to our teams after games and to come to practices for Q&A as well. My homework part is researching all the answers, creating pamphlets and PDFs for future reference, in attending AGM and ref society meetings to stay in tune with the state of rugby.

So where did this all come from? Firstly, several Stars players have been setting goals for their spring and asking about fitness, especially sprint workouts to develop fast-twitch muscles, agility, and acceleration. Secondly, last night I was able to finally able to tour a new gym in my hometown for more than 15 minutes and put myself through a bit of a "triathlon" workout involving biking, rowing and running in the pool. I love cross training as part of my rugby fitness plans as our game involves so many dynamic movements but also flexibility, power, agility, endurance..... it's hard to address each aspect of the game if you only run, only lift, only do yoga.

When I bike I tend to focus on the numbers with RPMs and hitting intervals so the mind is focused on clock watching and running math in my head (#rugbynerd). Rowing is the same, it's a great tool for rugby performance, especially my favorite Concept 2 rowers and their amazing website and social media. They have videos of drills, of what to do, and even better of what NOT to do. They have responded to every tweet I send and DM'd me rugby specific workouts they use with teams in England. It's a full body, heavy core power workout that can build endurance, power, and both aerobic and anaerobic capabilities plus the ability to isolate major muscle groups depending on the drills and focus. I love the "zone" rowing creates and the endless possibilities to achieve a successful workout. The final part of my workout in the pool allowed a lot of time to think about my own fitness goals as I pounded out the laps and on how my body was moving - from my facial tension, breathing, how I was holding my hands, my posture, how I was pushing off the pool floor, was I powering/driving through paces, was I striding, was I focusing on my kickback, or on "grabbing ground"... there's so much to evaluate! And through all that I started creating my plans, my goals, appreciating the effort I was making and how I couldn't wait to get back at it the next day. Although another rugby trip with delayed flights may prevent any gym action today so a home circuit is in the works.

I'm not a certified trainer, I'm not a dietician or a nutritionist, but I do read extensively on both topics and count many professionals in these fields as friends and teammates. In future posts I'll add some fantastic rugby workout resources and ideas, videos from the pros, circuits for at home with easy tools like Swiss balls, medicine balls and resistance bands as well as different plans for at the gym. The rugby community is full of amazing coaches and trainers I draw inspiration from and that you should too.

And now for my goals: I was sorely disappointed in my performance in Vegas and my drop off in good habits and preparation in the 2 weeks prior, due to many outside factors, betrayed 3 months of hard work coming into the tournament. Therefore my focus in the next 3 months is on consistent sleep (i.e. in bed by midnight regularly which is going to be a tough task), hydration (including finishing a full Nalgene each morning before I get to work amongst other steps), and fitness performance to lose the last nagging 20lbs of baby weight (of a 70lb gain) and get back to my prime playing form.

Additionally I want to get back to a sub 7 minute mile by May 1st and will be using Runner's World training plans as a tool. This also means I need to find a 5K race  to enter this spring and will be running against/with my players during their own time trials. I need to do a benchmark beep test again to create my goal there - you can download it to your iPod! A benchmark Cooper Run is in store as well - a 12 minute run for distance in which I prefer a track for measuring gains and having a consistent surface - ie 6.5 laps on a 1/4 mile track.  I follow the Paleo diet personally (it just works best for me health and energy wise) and don't have any changes to my eating habits planned. This should get me truly rugby 7s ready just as training begins with Chicago Lions Women's 7s and our grueling summer of tournaments leading up to Nationals kicks in.

For more long term goals a 2.4 mile open water swim in Hawaii with one of my good college friends (and a former national champion - I better show up prepared!) to celebrate my birthday in September. After club 7s nationals the water will be a more integral part of my training and a welcome break between 7s and 15s. Throughout all of this I'll track body mass and look to various Olympic lifting goals with Crossfit as another cross training tool. And my new gym seems keen to get me back into tennis - which I'll count as fun footwork, agility, and timing drills!

So what are your goals? How will you attain them?

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