2022 Commonwealth Games Diary by Gary Francis "Gaz" - Second Edition
Commonwealth Games Diary
The Pre-Commonwealth Games Camp is now entering it’s second week. The later arrivals are almost completely acclimatised now and the travel and jet lag is nearly gone. The change in athlete performance when this happens is quite noticeable and usually causes more joy from previously worried coaches than the athletes themselves!
The weather has been even hotter the past few days and many of the athletes scheduled to swim only in the afternoon have switched their sessions to the morning when it is suitable. The facility here in Mallorca is excellent, the centre is owned and operated by two ex-Olympic swimmers turned business partners and they are very aware of the need to keep the pool temperature at 27 degrees at all times to maximise training conditions. However the extreme heat has made that very difficult over the last 24 hours and this afternoon the pool was quite warm which really shows the severity of these weather conditions!
Having said that everyone swam today and most had at least one high intensity or race pace session, and there was definitely an increase in intensity and edge in the performances with nearly everyone looking sharper and faster and recovering better. A few have been in ‘mini- holes’ that tend to happen during a taper, which is never a smooth ride. It’s not just a case of reducing volume and getting faster as you go. There can often be more than one adaptation during a taper and some athletes don’t start to fire until quite close to race day, whilst others begin to respond almost immediately. The key, as taper progresses is always rest and how athletes manage their recovery. This week is likely to be pretty boring and quite frustrating for many of the team as they spend more time resting on their beds in air-conditioned environments while they try to suppress all the extra energy they now have due to the drop in training volume! For many the highlight of the day is the post-training ice-bath!!
Coaches & Support Staff
Coaches and support staff are also starting to feel the effects of not only the weather and the long periods away from home, but also the extra walking they most of us find ourselves doing because we are travelling everywhere on foot – not a very regular occurrence for most of us in this day and age. My step counter on my iphone has me averaging 16,000 steps a day for June and July compared to about 5,000 for the rest of the year! That includes a week in isolation with covid. Not sure if that tells me more about being on camp or about my usual exercise habits!
The serious side of this fact is that as staff we need to be fit enough to be able to stay focused like our athletes for the whole period of the camp and competition. It’s when things get to the pointy-end, which comes at the end itself, that we need to be sharpest and clear of mind to help our athletes make the right decisions and prepare them for their biggest moments so coach and support team fitness is actually very important.
Small Details, Big Difference
We move into our final five days before flying into Birmingham. Detail becomes so important. Lewis Clareburt, Helena Gasson and Erika Fairweather all spent extra time working on turns and breakouts at race speed today and yesterday. Even at this stage if an athlete can shave 0.1 of a second off their turns then it can make a significant difference. Yes, they should be working on these skills all year, and they are, but now they are tapered and at their sharpest with their best feel for the water they have had all year, so extra practice now can have a really positive effect on muscle memory. Others have also been working on trying to put their front-end speed sets together with correct stroke rates and counts. Broken swims and suited repeats are happening all across the pool this week.
We have a set of scales by the pool for every session. This is not for coaches to check whether their swimmers are putting on weight – that kind of thing is thankfully a thing of the past. The scales are purely for the athletes to weigh themselves in and out of training to check their hydration levels, and is purely self-monitored. With the heat and the intense training of the first two weeks of the camp it’s vital that the athletes remain hydrated. They have been really good at their self-maintenance throughout camp and so far not one athlete has missed training for reasons associated with lack of preparation, post-training protocol or hydration and fatigue due to too much sun etc. The team continue to act in the most professional manner and it’s great to be around them.
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