National Coach Blog

CEC wishes to support its athletes in this difficult time. As such, our National Head Coach and High Performance Director, Andrew Wilson, will be providing weekly updates on how to cope with the stressful situation, and how to pursue alternative training programs. Check this page for weekly updates! Enjoy!

 


 

UPDATE 14 – 2020-07-02

“The End of the COVID-19 Blog”

This will be the last update in this COVID-19 related National Coach Blog. This blog was created to provide information and suggestions intended to help our community navigate the evolving COVID-19 situation.

We are at a point in the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic where advice and suggestions for training at home and coping with restrictions are becoming repetitive. Many facilities are open again and more will re-open soon. A feeling of “normalcy” is growing inside us. Let’s not forget what we’ve learned so far, and the best practices we have come accustomed to.

I have enjoyed writing these weekly messages and will be thinking about other topics to cover in a future blog series.
In the meantime, keep safe, keep well, and keep going😊

Cheers,
Andrew Wilson
Directeur Haute Performance/ High Performance Director
National Coach

UPDATE 13 – 2020-06-25

“Exploring Motivation”

One of my favourite topics is human motivation. Specifically, what motivates humans to compete. I’ve discovered an interesting observation: In most cases, the desire to repeat a behaviour is rooted in the fact that the behaviour satisfies or solves a need within us. This is particularly useful when attempting to change unwanted behaviours, however, I’d like to look at how it can help in finding alternative activities to revive or maintain motivation.

In the current situation, climbing competitions are still several months away. This is likely the longest period without competition (excluding injury) that most will have experienced. It can result in feelings of frustration, lack of motivation, and a loss of direction. By exploring where the most basic motivation to compete comes from, it is possible to find other activities that satisfy a similar need.

Some examples of base motivation factors and the underlying need that is satisfied:

Motivation Factor Motivated by: Satisfies Needs:
Skill Mastery – Process of learning, practicing and mastering skills.
– The competition setting becomes the testing ground.
– To live up to expectations.
– Can be internal (personal) or external (parents, coach, society).
– To complete/finish.
Identity – Being in the environment.
– Being a part of a scene.
– Living a desired lifestyle.
– To identify oneself.
– To identify with a group.
Competition – Process of testing oneself against others or a standard. – To be good/better than others.
– To be better than before.
– To continue to progress.
– To feel special/unique.
Organization

Discipline

– Structure and certainty provided by having to follow training.
– Process of identifying and working towards it.
– To be productive.
– To know what to expect.
– To avoid uncertainty.
– To have direction.
Attention – Seeing name in results.
– Media attention.
– To be acknowledged.
– Can be from society in general or specific individuals.
Comp State – The elevated state achieved while under pressure. – To be stimulated.
– Can be physical, emotional or psychological.

Notes: These are the examples I’ve observed in my career. Others exist for sure and most athletes identify a combination of several of these.

Factors that underly motivation change over time. We can look backwards and see an evolution in what drives us to do the things we do.

There are 2 critical conditions when doing any self-exploration like this:

  1. Be mindful of self-judgement – There is nothing inherently good/bad or right/wrong about any of the above motivating factors or what needs they satisfy. Allowing self-judgement can stop the process of understanding.
  2. Be honest with yourself – It’s often easy to justify or rationalize if we don’t like what we find when doing self-discovery. Unfortunately, it can water down the potential benefits.

What about FUN?? I can hear the voices asking this and I agree that “fun” and “enjoyment” are motivators. I will argue that these are outcomes not underlying factors that satisfy a need. It is the satisfying of these needs that creates “fun”. Remember, we are talking about the motivation behind repeated behaviour. Take a close look at the activities you repeat most often. How many are only for “fun”?

Once we have discovered the underlying factors behind our motivation to compete, it will be possible to identify other activities that will satisfy similar needs.

Training

No Changes here this week.

For those who are back to climbing and training:

  • Be aware of increased training loads.
  • Listen to coaches and trainers and be patient as capacity id built back up.

For those who don’t have access yet:

  • Continue to train at home, stay well and be patient.
  • Keep planning with coaches as much as is possible.

Mental Health

As always, If you are feeling anxious, stressed, or upset, reach out for support. None of us can do it all on our own.

Cheers,
Andrew Wilson
Directeur Haute Performance/ High Performance Director
National Coach

UPDATE 12 – 2020-06-18

“From the Archives”

As I start writing this week, I realize that with a bit of a holding pattern in place in terms of progression of COVID related topics, I will just be re-phrasing a similar message to last week. Instead, I think it could be more entertaining to tell a story from earlier in my career. I also hope there are some things to learn from the experience.

YWC 2005 – Beijing, China

I chose to write about this competition because there were significant challenges with logistics and competition conditions. As a result, there was a lot to take away from the experience.

This was my 5th Youth World’s as a Coach and my first time to China. It was pre-2008 Beijing Olympic Games, so air quality had not been addressed and it was quite bad. At this point in the sport’s development, only Lead and Classic Speed (non-standardized routes) were contested at YWC.

The Team Canada program was enjoying ground-breaking times in terms of results. Sean McColl had just won 2 Youth World Championships in a row, Katie Mah had won a bronze the year before in Imst (Austria) and several other Canadian top 15 results were recorded during the previous 2 years.

Along for the coaching journey were long-time coaching partner and Canadian climbing legend, Mike Doyle and similarly legendary boulderer, Jamie Chong. We had worked together for many years previously and were very comfortable with each other.

None of the staff or competitors had competed in China before and only a couple parents had been there before. Because of this, trip planning was largely unfamiliar territory, from a trip planning standpoint. Fortunately, I was able to work on trip logistics with a team of experienced parents. Under guidance from Jenny Lee, this tireless group organized travel, accommodation, a monstrous team water order (at the time water from local sources could not trusted) and several cultural and team outings.

Preparation in Beijing

We arrived several days in advance of the competition and spent that time acclimatizing, sight seeing and training. The trip to the Great Wall is one of the great experiences of my life. The enormity of the structure and the thought of the collective effort required to complete it is staggering!

One of the team traditions at the time involved push-ups and the singing of ‘O Canada’. We used this to “set the tone” for being on-time for morning team meetings in a way that was a little fun while getting the message across. Any athletes who were late for team meetings had to sing ‘O Canada’ while doing push-ups. Here is Matt Johnson making sure no one else was late for a meeting for the rest of the trip.

Climbing prep days were done in a park in the middle of Beijing. This experience was so new and different for us. No booking the wall, no belay tests, no waivers, and no real routesetting. The other cool thing was watching the local people recreating without having to wear the latest workout clothes. The park was full of people wearing everyday clothing playing tennis, riding treadmills, practicing martial arts and much more. Here is a selection of shots from the park.

Competition

The competition was held on what is still one of the most spectacular walls and competition settings I have experienced. Outdoors in a park and a tall imposing EP knock off wall.

As mentioned above, the air quality at the time in Beijing was not great. Add to that the 40+ degree temperatures and 90+ humidity index, and we had some challenges keeping athletes cool and hydrated. May athletes also had breathing challenges including Sean McColl. We brought in coolers full of ice, towels, and other kit (before the days of cooling vests), but the conditions still played a role in the outcomes. As coaches, we had to be very conscious of keeping athletes focused on what they could control (cooling measures, prep, mindset).

Lead Qualification took place over 2 days with 8 Canadians moving through to semis. Some pics from Qualification

Semis and Finals

Semis and Finals were hotter and more humid than qualifying. Despite the challenges, 3 Canadians managed to snag coveted top 8 spots and advanced to finals: Sean McColl, Vikki Weldon, and Katie Mah. JJ Mah and Matt Johnson finished 9th and 10th respectively, narrowly missing the final.

One of the things I started to learn during this time in my career was that I had to know my athletes individually and then understand how to use that knowledge to create unique competition day plans for each. I knew that Sean would want to be mostly left alone or talk with Mike. Vikki, I knew would be nervous and want something to occupy herself, and that Katie would need distraction and humour. I employed Vikki in the process of turning Katie’s hair into Chinese fans. What I had begun to understand was that if Katie was focused on what the heck we were doing with her hair, she wouldn’t have time to worry about being nervous. Similarly, I knew that Vikki would get into the process of helping do the hair and get a break from her thoughts as well. It turned out surprisingly well!

Sean was really impacted by air quality in the final but fought to a well-earned 6th place. Katie and Vikki both climbed well to finish 7th and 5th respectively. A good day.

Speed

Speed was contested on 2 different routes build just for this event. It was cool that part of speed went into the evening under the lights. I really love the modern speed vibe, but I also miss the days when speed was almost entirely about team and fun.

Because this was before the standard speed route, only a few countries really trained for speed. Russia, Czech Republic, Ukraine took most of the medals (After hearing the Russian anthem 5-6 times every YWC for 10 years, I know it almost as well as the Canadian anthem).

For most athletes, the speed competition was a chance to unwind from the pressures of the lead event. Athletes were able to enjoy time with teammates after being so focused for 5-7 days straight. I always looked forward to seeing the smiles re-appear.

Final Thoughts

I learned a great deal on this trip. The significant challenges of travelling to a new continent and enduring difficult environmental factors required unique thinking and a calm approach. The experience also re-enforced my belief in the “team” atmosphere. Many of the characters in the images above are still involved in competition climbing as athletes, officials, coaches, or industry professionals. This is a testament to the positive impact this trip had on so many.

Many thanks to good friend, Mike Doyle, for providing the pictures.

Cheers,
Andrew Wilson
Directeur Haute Performance/ High Performance Director
National Coach

UPDATE 11 – 2020-03-11

“What Lies Ahead”

Is the quote above a statement or a question…or is it both?

For me, it is a bit of both, and it’s important to take time to see it from both perspectives. Our return to climbing, return to training and eventual return to competition will be different depending on where each of us resides. Some of us are back in the gym or close to it, others still must wait a while, and others don’t have a clear picture of when it will happen. This is going to be harder on some of us than others. I’d like to ask everyone to support each other in getting through. The first step of which is to find empathy for what others are experiencing and consider how best to be there for all members of this great community.

  • For those who are back in the gym already, consider how images of training might affect those who do not yet have access. Do you really need to post that image/video?
  • For those who do not yet have access, is it productive to watch images/video of those who are training? If yes, is it possible to be happy for those who have access?
  • Imagine what is going on for gym owners and staff as they try to navigate “What Lies Ahead”. Can we have patience and empathy for these important people?
  • What is going on for individuals in PSO leadership, NSO leadership, local and provincial government? There is no playbook to follow. These individuals are figuring it out as they go, just as we all are. What can we do to help?

In the end, “What Lies Ahead.” is we will get back to climbing, training, and competing.

And “What Lies Ahead?” is that we don’t have a roadmap for how long it will take and how we will get there.

Training

For those who are back to climbing and training:

  • Be aware of increased training loads.
  • Listen to coaches and trainers and be patient as capacity id built back up.

For those who don’t have access yet:

  • Continue to train at home, stay well and be patient.
  • Keep planning with coaches as much as is possible.

Mental Health

There may be difficulty coming. If you are feeling anxious, stressed, or upset, reach out for support. None of us can do it all on our own.

Cheers,
Andrew Wilson
Directeur Haute Performance/ High Performance Director
National Coach

UPDATE 10 – 2020-05-28

“Beginning Again”

As I contemplate the return of some activities that I love and have been missing, I am reminded of a favourite concept: The “Beginner’s Mind”. This is an approach to learning that has been repeated in many coaching courses and seminars over my career. Simply put, it asks one to look at each situation from the perspective of a beginner, without pre-existing experience, knowledge, or abilities. It is particularly useful when learning in areas of personal expertise. In my case, approaching with “beginner’s mind” has allowed me to be more open to the ideas presented and less prone to cognitive dissonance if the new information challenges my existing knowledge and beliefs. It is often the firm grip on what is already known and believed that limits the ability to see and take advantage of future opportunities.

The “Beginner’s Mind” can be applied in the next several months. Things are going to be different, and the ability to see the opportunities will require an open mind. This may require letting go of existing beliefs and ways of doing things. The ability to let go may only be possible after grieving the loss of the familiar. It’s ok to feel the disappointment and loss of “what used to be” and by doing so, create room for “what can be”.

In this way, it will be possible to “Begin Again”.

Training

No changes to training recommendations for this week:

  • Continue to work with coaches and training facilities to collect information and plan what “return to training” will look like.
  • Pay attention to gradual increases in training load over time to avoid injury and burn-out.
  • Approach new training and facility guidelines with “Beginner’s Mind”.

Mental Health

CEC Performance Dietician and High-Performance Committee member, Kelly Drager, shared the following quote that really resonates with me:

Cheers,
Andrew Wilson
Directeur Haute Performance/ High Performance Director
National Coach

UPDATE 9 – 2020-05-21

“Playing the Long Game”

Modern sport literature is filled with references to a “long term” approach. Terms like Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD), Athlete Development Matrix (ADM), NextGen Athlete and many more have become staple concepts and are often thrown around to show being “in the know” or “up to date” with current athlete development models. These are important concepts and necessary components of sport planning, but how do they manifest in actual application at daily training and competition? As great as these ideas are, they can be quite conceptual and philosophical in nature. This can lead to confusing messaging when trying to create actionable implementation in athlete programming.

This week, I’d like to explore a couple of the confusing messages around long term athlete development:

1) “Taking a long-term approach means no emphasis on performance now.”
There is an assumption that a focus on future potential means letting go of competitive spirit now. This is not the case. We want athletes with competitive edge. The long-term view means that winning is not the highest priority. Putting the foundation in place to maximize future performance potential is the highest priority. This includes two of the most overlooked components in achieving maximum results long term:

  • Longevity
    • Many athletes who prioritize winning above all else early in development experience burn-out and loss of motivation before they can realize their potential.
  • Durability
    • Over emphasizing results early in a career can also lead to overtraining and chronic injury that limits future training capacity. A balance between enjoyment and results is the recommended path.
      For sure, winning is an important piece of becoming an elite performer. When it happens, it should be celebrated and used as motivation. If it is kept as one of many priorities, competitive desire can be a healthy part of long-term development.

2) “The Long-Term approach means taking away pressure to perform.”
The ability to perform “on demand” is a key characteristic of the best athletes in the world. The resilience to confront competitive pressure is developed positively by aligning demands with abilities. When an athlete’s ability to perform is equivalent to expectations and the demands of the competitive environment, pressure can be positive. Conversely, when expectations and the demands of the competitive environment are beyond an athlete’s ability, pressure can be destructive. It is important to regularly enter situations where the ability to meet the demands is in doubt, but, not beyond possibility. Athletes who only enter situations where success is assured may become apathetic and lose motivation.

The long-term approach balances all areas of development: as an athlete, and as a person.

Training

Continue to work with your coaches and training facilities to collect information and plan what your “return to training” will look like.

Pay attention to gradual increases in training load over time to avoid injury and burn-out.

Consider how “playing the long game” may change training and competitive plans for the next 6-12 months.

Mental Health

As you begin to return to climbing, be aware that the pandemic has affected people very differently. For some, COVID-19 may have barely touched their lives, for others, the pandemic may have had huge impact (loved ones infected etc.). Consequently, attitudes and comfort levels with return to climbing guidelines may vary.
Prepare to be empathetic, adaptable, and to reach out for support when you need it😊

Nutrition

Take time to share meals with family and loved ones as a form of connection.

Cheers,
Andrew Wilson
Directeur Haute Performance/ High Performance Director
National Coach

UPDATE 8 – 2020-05-14

“Taking Stock”

This week sees several encouraging changes to our world. Some parks, facilities and businesses that have been closed will re-open. A return to training looks possible in the next month for some areas of the country. As we start to emerge from some of the imposed restrictions on daily life, it will be important to realize what we’ve learned through this pandemic so far. We’ll also need to be prepared for how different the “returning” parts of our lives may be.

In this week’s message, I’d like to explore how to “take stock” of the positives from the last 8-10 weeks and how to prioritize which ones to maintain moving forward.

As challenging as life during this pandemic has been, there have also been opportunities to learn, develop and explore. The result may be positive changes in one or more of the following areas:

  • Attitude and mindset.
  • New and re-discovered areas of interest.
  • New social connections.
  • Daily routines (exercise, relaxation, work, recreation).
  • Wellness routines (nutrition, sleep, mindfulness practice).
  • Re-defined goals and sense of self-satisfaction.
  • Focus on “backburner” areas.
  • Personal Knowledge.
  • Coping strategies (towards fear, uncertainty, and disruptions).

Identifying these positives and really taking the time to think about each one, will help make sure they continue moving forward. How will life beginning to “fill up” again affect the ability to maintain each of these changes? It is likely that keeping all “pandemic” habits and routines will not be possible. Here are some considerations before deciding which changes to commit to:

  • Which change has had the most positive impact on daily life?
  • Is it something that can be done alone, or does it require a group? As we get busier, partners or group members may have less time.
  • Is it something that requires a minimum time commitment (x number of hours/sessions weekly)? Or can it be maintained at a reduced volume and still provide benefit?
  • Does it require a lot of energy to prepare for/ execute/ recover from? This could include physical, emotional, or psychological energy.
  • Will changes in personal schedule as life “fills up” again make scheduling more difficult?
  • Is it something that is only being done to “fill time” while isolated at home?

After making these considerations, create a prioritized list of “pandemic” habits to keep. The suggestion is to start with as many as can reasonably be continued and use the list to add or drop as life gains speed.

Training

Recommendations for actual training remain unchanged. However, start information gathering and planning for returns to training in facilities. Work with your coaches and local facility staff to get an idea of when a return to training in a gym may be possible. Research what the conditions in the facilities will look like and how that will impact the way training can be done.

A well-planned, gradual return to higher training loads will help reduce the risk of injury. There are 3 likely scenarios heading back to training. Here are recommendations for all 3:

  1. Athletes who have done zero training or only training at home with little or no access to climbing specific equipment (no finger training).
    1. Plan a very gradual return to climbing, especially to any climbing with high demand on finger strength and power.
    2. Plan to limit climbing session duration in the first 2 weeks and then to gradually increase time over the next 4 weeks.
    3. Expect to see a drop in climbing performance and know it will come back.
    4. Focus on technical skills and re-familiarizing with climbing movement to start.
  2. Athletes who have had access to hangboard or other finger training methods.
    1. Be aware that while finger strength may be in good shape, the demands of actual climbing can be different than the demands of hangboarding (oblique angles, dynamic loading etc.) A gradual return to full intensity climbing is also recommended.
    2. If planning to maintain hangboarding, consider how the addition of climbing will increase overall load on fingers and adjust hangboarding volume accordingly.
    3. Athletes who have home wall.
  3. As for 2. above, consider that home wall climbing is different from the diverse angles and styles of climbing in a gym.
    1. Expect to see a drop off in performance on some styles of climbing. It will come back fast.
    2. Consider volume if planning to continue home wall session in addition to trips to the gym.

Mental Health

Maintaining Mental Health as we return to training is about managing expectations and finding a balance between training and other life interests.

It is completely understandable that many will be chomping at the bit to get back into the gym. This will come with expectations for how that will go. Use mindfulness practice to temper this excitement and create reasonable expectations.

It is also understandable that many will want to spend every moment in the gym to “make up time”. Resist the urge to do so. For sure, enjoy the time back doing what you love, but keep a balance with continuing some of the new interests that have been discovered in the past 8-10 weeks.

Having the foresight to plan and the discipline to stick to it will ensure that returning to climbing in the gym will be a positive experience.

Nutrition

The only recommendation here is to consider how the potential increase in activity as gym’s open may impact daily fueling needs. Adjust fuelling accordingly.

Be excited to get back in the gym, plan for how it may go, and be adaptable as the process unfold.

Andrew Wilson
Directeur Haute Performance/ High Performance Director
National Coach

 

UPDATE 7 – 2020-05-06

“Courage and Independent Thinking”

Unique challenges require unique solutions. This certainly applies to where we find ourselves currently and where we are headed in the next several months. Finding creative and innovative ways to address our collective return to “operations” will require some independent thinking.

In this week’s message, I’ll depart from the format a bit as recommendations for Training, Mental Health and Nutrition remain largely unchanged.

I will explore the concept of independent thinking as it applies to both the current situation and to the pursuit of athletic performance. I’ll also contemplate the courage it takes to act on independent thoughts and why it’s so important.
First, my definition of independent thinking:

The process of creating ideas, concepts and solutions that are based on one’s own unique perspectives, personality, and skill set.

The practice of independent thinking requires:

  • Collecting and considering all available information (research, data, and opinion).
  • Practicing mindfulness:
    • To identify personal bias and motivation.
    • Allowing “out of the box” ideas and solutions to be alive without immediate judgement.
  • Using visualization skills to see possible outcomes.

Independent thinking doesn’t mean always coming up with ideas that are contrary or challenge popular opinion. We will often arrive at the same ideas supported by data and popular opinion. It is when our ideas and solutions go against established thinking that courage is needed.

Courage is the quality of mind that allows one to encounter challenge or difficulty with conviction and without fear. Truly independent thought requires courage because it will ask us to confront fear in the form of accountability. If a course of action fails to produce the desired results, human nature is to look for reasons why. Solutions that largely follow established research and data allow us to pass some or all the blame onto flaws that are not our own: “The data is inaccurate; the research is flawed etc”. However, when we act upon independent thought and results are not optimal, we must be wholly accountable. This is scary to think about. Courage is needed to put ourselves “out there” and face the potential that our ideas and solutions might not work.

What often helps me in these situations is to remember that many great successes started as failed initial ideas. How many historical breakthroughs are a result of independent thought? And how many of these innovators failed repeatedly before the breakthrough happened?

How could the practice of independent thinking apply to?

  • Training at home right now.
  • Solutions for return to training, school, business, life.
  • Evaluating and creating training plans.
  • Competition strategies.
  • Career pathways.

The second part of success in innovation and unique solutions is our role as audience or participant. How many great ideas have been stopped before they even had a chance by the audience of the first “pitch”? In these unprecedented times, can we listen and evaluate ideas and solutions with open minds? Can we be collaborative instead of dismissive?

I say “Yes”

Andrew Wilson
Directeur Haute Performance/ High Performance Director
National Coach

UPDATE 6 – 2020-04-30

“Managing Expectations”

This week there continue to be stories that sports, and governments are contingency planning and we may see a return to training and the easing of social distancing guidelines. Unfortunately, most of the stories in popular media are speculative. The Canadian Public Health messaging remains consistent that current guidelines and recommendations will stay in place for at least several weeks and possibly longer.

The fact that the easing of social distancing is even being discussed is positive, and undoubtedly will lead to excitement and expectations about getting back to “normal” life including climbing, training, seeing friends and teammates. The ability to manage these expectations will play an important role in being adaptable as we return to what will almost certainly be a changing and different “normal” world than it was before COVID-19.

In this week’s message, I’d like to explore how the skills and lessons learned in sport can be applied to life outside the “arena”.

Training

This week’s training recommendations are unchanged.
There are stories from other countries of returns to training (Austrian Alpine Ski is one). These stories may make it difficult to stay the course and cause many to feel an urgency to “get back at it”. Remember that the situation is different in every country and sports have varying levels of risk when it comes to COVID-19 infection (indoor vs. outdoor, group size, proximity, shared equipment and many more factors). The COC Medical Panel is developing a tool for all sports in Canada to assess both risk of infection and mitigation measures to assess if and when a return to group training presents a low risk of further spreading the COVID-19 virus. CEC will use this tool to help athletes, coaches and facilities in making the critical decisions around return to training.

Mental Health

This week’s mental health discussion centers around managing expectations. Frustration and dissatisfaction live in the gap between expectations and reality.

Athletes are taught to use this concept when setting goals for performances, results and progression (expectations in the form of performance goals are best when rooted in recent performance data). This skill learned through sport can be applied to the rest of life.

What are our expectations when life returns to “normal”? Are we expecting things to “go back to the way they were”? This is unreasonable to assume. It’s a big part of why it is so tough. We want something historical to use as a reference point; some evidence to help us “know” what is going to happen or how it should be. Unfortunately, this pandemic is unprecedented in history so there isn’t anything to reference. It’s hard to know what the “Reality” in the graphic above will look like in 4 months, 6 months, 1 year.

So, how do we set our expectations? How we operate, react and deal with a new and changing reality are things we can control. Expectations in these areas will be more easily met. This will help to minimize frustration and dissatisfaction. It is likely that how we train, compete and live our daily lives will be quite different when we get back to “normal”.

  • Expect to question change.
  • Expect to be challenged because things are new and not like they were.
  • Expect to ask if opposition to these changes comes from lack of familiarity and comfort.
  • Expect to be able to adapt and move forward.

Thinking “I’ll just go back to regular training and the way it was before” may mean a quick trip to the land of frustration. Plan for how you will operate when faced with the unknown of life “back to normal”. Prepare to be adaptable and resilient. Acknowledge and accept that it’s a bit scary. Most of all, know that you can do it and that you have support around you to help.

Andrew Wilson
Directeur Haute Performance/ High Performance Director
National Coach

UPDATE 5 – 2020-04-23

“Staying the Course”

This week there seems to be some positive stories and evidence that the measures Canada has put in place are working. It would appear we have avoided an “explosive outbreak” of the pandemic. While this is welcome good news, it is important to put it into the context of a long-term, calculated approach to getting through this thing.

In this week’s message, I am asking the climbing community to continue to observe all social distancing and self-isolation guidelines and to “stay the course” in working towards a positive resolution of this situation.

TRAINING

Despite the encouraging messages about the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic, recommendations for exercise are unchanged.

Here is a re-cap from the first 4 weekly blogs:

  • Train at home.
  • Do not train in groups.
  • Do what motivates you and makes you happy.
  • Use the time to address “backburner” areas such as mental training, biomechanics and mobility.
  • It doesn’t take much to maintain muscle mass and cardiovascular capacity (2-4 sessions weekly is enough).
  • Key to strength training effectiveness is momentary muscular failure. This can be accomplished without access to heavy weights in the following ways:
    • Unilateral exercises – one arm/leg/side of the body at a time instead of both at same time.
    • Provided good form and control can be maintained, increasing velocity of movement will increase load.
  • Take the opportunity to explore new exercises, learn about exercise science and training methodology.

MENTAL HEALTH

Ideas for maintaining mental health also remain the same:

  • Create and “re-frame” new goals that fit into the current reality.
  • Take time to connect with friends and family.
  • Look for new avenues of learning and personal development.
  • Practice mindfulness and meditation to balance negative and positive thought.
  • Plan COVID-19 information gathering to avoid overload.

It is important to re-visit these skills and “re-frame” them also. Personal understanding of every concept, idea and practice will change with time and experience. Just like refining a physical skill over time, refining mental skills will make them more effective and able to be applied in more situations.

NUTRITION

This week’s nutrition is copied straight from the weekly Own The Podium update:

Combating the COVID-19 Cravings & How to Manage Stress Eating During the Pandemic

It is without question that we are all dealing with at least some form of stress right now, so it’s no surprise that we may be faced with stress/emotional eating. It IS a real thing and it is NOT your fault!

In acute times of stress, we release cortisol and during prolonged stress, which is what we are now experiencing, can elevate cortisol levels, which can increase hunger. This coupled with the challenge of being in close proximity to the kitchen: pantry and fridge, can make it even more difficult to stop the endless grazing! People manage stress differently; some like to bake and try new recipes, (which also makes it a challenge to be disciplined enough not to indulge on the sweet new creations!) and some people may eat less. If you are skipping meals, you could be more prone to emotional eating or even binge-eating in the evening.

Here are some other factors that may contribute to mindless (over) eating/snacking:
1. How you manage stress
2. Your Surroundings
3. Schedules! (or lack there-of!)
4. Food Availability
5. And…your emotions!

Below are some strategies that will help you ward off the endless grazing and get back to better eating habits.

MANAGING STRESS:

  • Keep active!!
  • Don’t sit longer than 3 hours at a time
  • Call an old friend
  • Try a new or old skill

YOUR SURROUNDINGS:
Get out of the kitchen! Try to set up your workout and space in a designated area AWAY from the pantry and FRIDGE!

SCHEDULES:
…Are so important! Try to stick to your daily scheduled/plan just as you would if you were in regular training, with your pre-prepped scheduled meal and snack times! Pack your lunch/snacks and recovery foods the night before as you would have when you were leaving the house! Finding a sense of normalcy will help you keep regular eating habits. Ensure you are still eating every three to four hours to ensure you are getting sufficient nutrients to manage your health.

FOOD AVAILABLITY:
What foods are stocked in your home have a significant impact on our food choices. Don’t Stockpile Food! A good rule of thumb: use what you have at home before buying more! Allow yourself to buy ONE of your FAVOURITE treat items each weekly (or every other week) grocery shopping trip.

Planned snacks! Focus on high fiber high protein snacks to help you feel full longer to curb those cravings! STRIVE FOR 20g Protein 4-5 x/Day and a minimum of 25 g fiber!

Quick Basic Snack Ideas:

  • Handful of almonds/seeds
  • Easy protein balls (https://www.floridacitrus.org/oj/recipes/no-bake-orange-protein-balls/)
  • Greek/Skyr yogurt or Cottage cheese (add some canned, dried or fresh fruit!)
  • Trail mix: ½ c Chex or Cheerios with ¼ cup almonds and ¼ c dried fruit (stick to 1 cup serving) with some added Easter Treats (smarties) to satisfy the sweet tooth
  • Whole grain muffins/crackers/granola/granola bars
  • Veggie sticks with Tzatziki or nut/soy butters

Don’t forget to hydrate! It will also help to keep you from excess snacking! Beware of calorie dense fluids such as specialty coffees, alcoholic beverages. Instead try a ½ cup 100% Orange Juice with sparkling water or other homemade smoothies and flavored waters, along with decaf teas and coffee.

Please take care, continue to support each other and smile often.

Andrew Wilson
Directeur Haute Performance/ High Performance Director
National Coach

UPDATE 4 – 2020-04-16

“Re-Framing to Think Positive”

The current state of the world and the effects on our lives may lead to some very challenging thoughts. This should be expected. Maintaining mental health is a balance between accepting difficult thoughts and finding some positive ones on the other side.

In this week’s message, I’d like to explore how to find positives as the COVID-19 situation continues.

Training

Training advice remains the same for this week:

  • Train at home.
  • Do what motivates you and makes you happy.
  • Use the time to address “backburner” areas such as mental training, biomechanics and mobility.

One of the opportunities during this time is increase knowledge around training methodology and sport science. Athletes who have good understanding in these areas are more likely to “buy-in” to training and can provide better feedback about training to their coaches.

There are endless resources out there on the internet and in print. My advice is to stick with evidence-based information/education presented by certified sport professionals. The Canadian Sport Institute has made several their Speaker Series webinars available to the public. These are normally only available to registered athletes.
Link here: http://www.csipacific.ca/athletes/sport-education/on-demand/

There are great presentations on several sport science topics.

Mental Health

As mentioned above, finding positives to balance what is difficult right now, is key to maintaining mental health. One thing that can help is the re-framing of expectations and day to day objectives.

It’s important to start this “re-framing” process by really digging into how we see the world and how we find a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Most athletes are “doers” and are motivated by confronting challenge, setting objectives and working towards them. In the absence of clear objectives in the form of competitions, it can be difficult to set goals. Without clear goals, finding a daily sense of satisfaction can be challenging as we ask, “Did I make progress today?”. Progress towards what? People who are wired to seek progression should not expect to simply turn that part of themselves off. This is where re-framing really comes into play.

Here are some examples of goals re-framed in the context of the current situation:

By the end of the COVID-19 restrictions, when we return to normal training:

  1. Find 4 new favourite exercises that will become part of your routine when normal training resumes.
  2. See statistical evidence of improvement in 2 mobility areas.
  3. Be able to speak knowledgably about 2 areas of sport science previously unknown.
  4. Change a long-standing personal habit that has always been a source of personal challenge.

These are merely examples. There are endless possibilities. The critical piece is that goals are motivating and set an endpoint that helps frame daily/weekly actions. Achieving the goal in example #1 above requires the following:

  • Research new exercises.
  • Perform exercises enough times to be proficient.
  • Evaluate each exercise from personal view.
  • Start and maintain a pros/cons list.

Be creative, push outside comfort zones and have the courage to try things that may not work out

Andrew Wilson
Directeur Haute Performance/ High Performance Director
National Coach

 

UPDATE 3 – 2020-04-09

We are just over 3 weeks into significant impacts on our daily lives as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am truly amazed by the resilience and adaptability of human beings. People are settling into new routines, exercising at home and adhering to public health and safety guidelines. For sure it isn’t easy, but we are managing.

This past week, the CEC announced the cancellation of the reminder of the 2020 Competition Season. As disappointing as this is, it is the only and right thing to do. There will be competitions again in the future and in the big scheme of things, missing one season is not a huge problem.

In this week’s blog, I would like to explore what may come up as this “new” normal continues.

TRAINING
In the first several weeks of the current situation, most people spent time and energy figuring out the logistics of new routines. Researching home training ideas, learning about minimal effective training dosage and finding other interests and activities to occupy the time. This was an effective way to combat restlessness and helped reduce anxiety.

As the current conditions persist, these feelings of restlessness and anxiety may begin to re-surface as questions arise about the longer-term impact of this “new” normal.

Some of these questions may be:
“Am I going to get left behind because I don’t have a home wall?”
“Am I really doing enough to maintain strength?”
And the big one: “Am I going to lose everything I’ve gained in the last training season?”

The answer to all, quite simply, is NO. Regardless of what is done during this period, expect to get back to peak form after the world recovers and a return to regular training and competition is possible.

Remember that the primary objective of exercise now is to help minimize the impacts of the current situation on mental health. Types of exercises and training methodology are less important than the enjoyment factor. Choose exercises that are truly enjoyable. Change things up as often as feels necessary. Or stick to tried and true favourites. For sure, continue to address areas that need work, however, they need not be the priority.

Build an exercise routine to look forward to.

MENTAL HEALTH
Here are some personal thoughts on mindfulness practice that can help during the “new” normal.

The foundation of successful mindfulness is the ability to “step outside” and observe thoughts and feelings without judgement. This allows for thoughts to be evaluated objectively:

  • What is the motivation behind the thought/feeling?
  • Is the thought based in logic or emotion?
  • Is action required or is it ok if the thought just passes by?
  • If the thought is motivated by an opinion, is there another side to the conversation?

Using this simple process can help in decision making and being at peace with the challenging thoughts and feelings that may come up during this time.

Mindfulness practice can be one tool in addressing risks associated with increased Social Media exposure.
Several online publications including the New York Times have released early stats showing internet usage is up between 50%-70% since the COVID-19 measures were put into place. There is no doubt, we are going to be “online” more.

Social Media is great. It can be entertaining, informative and a good way to stay connected. It also has some pitfalls. I am seeing an increasing trend in overtraining/ ineffective training from “reactive sessions” resulting from seeing what other athletes are doing on social media. This will only be amplified during the current situation. Adding sessions and constantly changing training methods because of a fear that “I will get left behind if I don’t…” is not effective. One of the things that distinguishes top athletes is the discipline to stick to training plans and re-evaluate only periodically and only based on objective data.

Take the time to assess the motivation behind restlessness and the desire to train more. If the motivation is based in logic and in improving mental health, go for it. If it is based in “FOMO”, try to present the other side of the conversation before taking action.

NUTRITION
This week’s nutrition comes from an Own The Podium email and has useful information regarding food and COVID-19:

Scientific evidence currently shows no indication that COVID-19 is a foodborne illness. Evidence does, however, show that the virus can be transmitted via contact (with an infected person, surface or object) or droplets (from and infected individual coughing, sneezing or talking).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the transmission of the virus is far more likely to spread through respiratory droplets from an infected person and much less likely via surfaces or food.

TIPS FOR SAFE GROCERY SHOPPING
While grocery chains have ramped up cleaning and sanitation measures to keep customers safe, it is essential that we also maintain proper hygiene when grocery shopping.

  • When at the store, touching surfaces and objects such as shopping carts, freezer door handles, and grocery items is inevitable.
  • Use disinfecting wipes to wipe down baskets and shopping carts, freezer door handles. (Discard used wipes immediately after use and wash your hands when possible.) Health Canada has published a list of hard surface disinfectants that are likely to be effective for use against COVID-19.
  • Keep your distance (2 m)! Follow the one-way signs in the aisles.
  • Opt OUT OF RECEIPTS!
  • Latex gloves are not durable and designed for everyday activities, like grocery shopping. They can rip easily and making them ineffective to protect you. Gloves require proper discarding and frequent changing after use. They should be reserved for our front-line workers. You can use your own gloves (and wash after use) or simply practice good hand hygiene and use a hand sanitizer (with 70% alcohol) as you leave the store and wash your hands immediately when you get home after your grocery trip.
  • Visit stores during less busy hours.
  • Bag your groceries yourself to minimize touching by the store clerk or use the self checkout.
  • It is advised NOT to use your own re-usable bags. Use single use bags and discard after use and wash hands thoroughly after touching.

AT HOME
Currently, there are no documented cases of COVID-19 that were infected by viral transmission through food. However, the New England Journal of Medicine states that the virus can remain viable on hard surfaces, such as:

  • Plastic and steel, for up to 3 days
  • Cardboard, for 24 hours
  • Copper, for four hours

This makes food packaging potentially a risk particularly if that packaging has the virus on it then one touches their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads because of poor survivability of these corona viruses on surfaces. There is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging.

BEST PRACTICE RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Set aside non-perishable groceries in a place in your point of entry in your home (i.e garage) for 72 hrs. before using them to allow for the virus to become inactive.
  • Set up a cleaning station to avoid contaminating your food or other surfaces in the house.
  • Consider disinfecting packaging with common EPA-registered household disinfectants OR discard the packaging and re-package in your own clean bags or containers.

HOW SHOULD I CLEAN MY FRESH PRODUCE?
YOU DO NOT need to sanitize your fruits and vegetables! Simply washing under running water for 20 seconds is sufficient. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t recommend using soap and water when cleaning because these are not approved or labelled by the FDA for use on foods due to the risk of soap residues remaining and causing gastrointestinal discomfort.

You may consider using a scrub brush to cleanse your produce better. Don’t forget to clean the scrub brush thoroughly with soap and water after each use.

FOOD SAFETY
Food safety, personal hygiene and equipment cleaning should always be a priority when handling food. This is particularly true in the case of fresh fruits and vegetables. Corona viruses are killed by common cleaning and disinfection methods and by cooking food to safe internal temperatures. Check out the Canada.ca/Public-health site to learn more about food safety.

As always, please reach out to me with questions or feedback.

Andrew Wilson
Directeur Haute Performance/ High Performance Director
National Coach

 

UPDATE 2 – 2020-04-01

We are a couple of weeks into significant impacts on our lives from the necessary public health and safety guidelines in place to “flatten the curve”. It is uncertain how much longer the situation will continue. The good news is it seems to be working for now. Canada is among the top countries in terms of COVID-19 stats. This is something we can all be very proud of as Canadians.

In this week’s blog, I’m going to stick with the format and present thoughts in our 3 main areas:

Training

If it hasn’t already, the “novelty” of home workouts and adapting to changes in daily/weekly routines may be wearing off. That little voice saying, “When are we going climbing again?” may start to become louder and more insistent. I’d like to offer some thoughts and information to help reassure the little voice that sticking to reduced training will be ok.

Detraining and Minimal Effective Dosage

Detraining is the loss of trainable physical abilities (strength, power, endurance) during periods of reduced or no training. This is likely what most athletes are worried about during the present situation.

The question becomes: “What is the minimum amount of exercise/training that will maintain current physical abilities”. Or the Minimal Effective Dosage needed. The good news is that it does not take much. Evidence from several studies shows that as little as 3 moderate training sessions weekly is enough to maintain muscular strength and cardiovascular capacity. In fact, there are multiple studies that show muscle mass can be maintained with only 1 effective strength training session/ week. Effective strength training to maintain muscle mass may seem challenging without access to equipment and weights. Here are a few tips to address these challenges.

  1. Train to Momentary Muscular Failure
    1. Traditional strength training theory says that “hypertrophy” (or muscular growth) is optimized with high load/low rep approach. Recent studies show that load/reps are not the critical factor. Training to Momentary Muscular Failure is key. This means that if a muscle is exercised to the point of momentary failure, the amount of resistance/ reps/ sets is not as important.
  2. Use Unilateral Exercises and Increased Velocity to increase intensity.
    1. There are several ways to increase exercise intensity without adding weight:
      1. Exercises that are traditionally done bilaterally (both sides at same time) can be done unilaterally (one side at a time):
        1. Single leg squats and lunges.
        2. Single arm push ups, rows and band pulling.
      2. Exercise intensity can be amplified by increasing velocity of movements. Provided that control can be maintained, simply doing the same movement faster will increase intensity.
  3. Be aware of Interference
    1. Cardio is an important component to weekly scheduling and great way to get outside (if possible) during the current situation. Keep in mind that more than 3 hard cardio sessions weekly is shown to interfere with adaptations to strength training. The opposite is less true. Strength sessions tend not to interfere as much with adaptations to cardiovascular training.

Chris Hinton, Strength and Conditioning Specialist at CSI Pacific, offers some additional thoughts:

  1. Velocity stimulates same fibers as training under load!
    1. Jumps (unilateral and bilateral)
    2. Sprints
    3. Plyometrics

*Quality is of upmost importance. Volume should start low and build as capacity builds! Movements must be done powerfully on each rep to hit those fast twitch muscle fibres and rest periods must be followed very closely!

General power (velocity) training protocols: 2-3 sets x 4-6 reps with 2-3min rest btw sets

*More volume here is not better! If your Central Nervous System is tired you aren’t moving fast/powerful so will not get the training effect and will put yourself at Increased Chance for Injury!

Mental Health

The continued challenge is finding ways to occupy ourselves and to stay positive in such uncertain times. As athletes, can we see the opportunities that exist during this time alongside the challenges? We are rarely (if ever) presented with periods where there are no events looming on the horizon. This means a unique opportunity to work on areas of yourself and your game that always seem to be “put on the back burner” because prepping for the next comp/camp/trip is a higher priority.

I’ve been looking through old interview footage from medalists at Olympic Games and World Championships. It is amazing how often these champions point to changes they made months or years out as “the difference” in achieving their peak performance. They point to things like mindset, life-balance, mobility, nutrition, return to technical basics.

What if the opportunity to address “backburner” areas becomes the key factor in unlocking your peak performance when we get back to competition?

Nutrition

This week’s nutrition piece (see graphic) looks at some common Myths that I hear from our community. Thanks to Kelly Drager, Performance Dietician at CSI Calgary for putting this together.

 

 

Andrew Wilson
Directeur Haute Performance/ High Performance Director
National Coach


UPDATE 1 – 2020-03-25

The current global COVID-19 situation is difficult to process and has led to incredible uncertainty. We are bombarded with updates, statistics, statements and speculation. It is easy to feel overwhelmed and “adrift” in a sea of information. Managing how we cope involves finding ways to stay “grounded”.

Canada through the COC/CPC statements regarding the Olympics has taken a lead position globally in making public health and safety a priority. This is something we should all be very proud of.

I would like to again ask the entire CEC community to join in this effort to “flatten the curve”. For at least the next 30 days, I am asking that all athletes and coaches adhere to the following training guidelines sent to us from Own The Podium via email:

Training and Training Environments:

  • It is currently recommended that all Canadians should stay at home and exercise at home to the extent that is possible.
  • Canadians who should be self-isolating for reasons of recent travel, any symptoms of illness, or contact with ill persons should NOT exercise in outdoor environments; they must remain at home.
  • Athletes with symptoms of illness are advised not to exercise, and seek medical advice.
  • Athletes are strongly recommended to reduce training regimes for the purposes of performance gains related to Tokyo preparation.
    • You should be exercising alone in open spaces or in your house as per current recommendations.
    • Spacing of 2 metres between people must be maintained.
    • Do not share equipment; each athlete must use their own equipment.
    • If training in indoor environments, wash or disinfect your hands before and after touching any equipment or surfaces. Disinfect all touched surfaces with EPA-approved disinfectants (70% alcohol, quaternary ammonium chlorides, 4% hydrogen peroxide).

Mental Health has the potential to be impacted by the current situation. Here are some thoughts on how to manage:

    • Plan daily COVID-19 information gathering – having news and info streams running 24/7 can lead to overload. Planning specific times and intervals to collect updates will ensure we get some necessary breaks from thinking about this situation. Looking at COVID-19 updates right before bed may not be optimal for sleep.
    • Find New Routines – Disruptions to our regular routines can be very challenging mentally. Take the time to create new daily routines that are possible in the current environment.
    • Find New Ways to Get Better – Without competitions to prepare for and consistency in regular training, many athletes will experience a loss of purpose. Take time to find new ways to feel a sense of accomplishment and pride. Getting better as a person makes you better as a climber!
      • Can you be a leader in supporting the efforts to “flatten the curve”?
      • Can you help friends and local community members manage through this difficult time?
      • Have you always wanted to be able to juggle, play an instrument, draw/paint?
      • Can you get involved with a new virtual activity or community?
      • Are there meaningful discussions to be a part of?
      • Can you re-connect with old friends and family you haven’t talked to in a while?
    • Stay Connected – It will be easy to start feeling isolated (both physically and socially). Make the effort to reach out to friends, teammates and your community. Share what’s happening for you and be there for others.

Nutrition: Here are some thoughts on nutrition during reduced training/activity from COC/OTP:

  • KEEP TO A REGULAR EATING SCHEDULE: This will prevent boredom and mindless eating, which can lead to excess unwanted (and needed) calories! Ask yourself Are You Hungry first, if YES, then PLAN what you will have, and listen to satiety cues and stop when you’re full!
  • STAY HYDRATED: Dehydration can increase levels of stress hormones, something we all don’t need more of right now. Drink 2-4 L of fluid such as water, carbonated water, tea, coffee, milk, or small amounts of 100% juice. If your first urine after waking up is the colour of lemonade, you’re doing well. Limit Alcohol!
  • KEEP PROTEIN HIGH!: It is important to continue with your regular protein needs, as this will help to minimize any lean muscle mass loss during reduced strength training. Focus on high quality proteins: Poultry, meat, fish (canned or dried!), eggs, dairy (and lactose free dairy), soy (edamame), and quinoa (good sub when there is no rice!).
  • CONTINUE WITH YOUR REGULAR NUTRITION SUPPLEMENTATION PROTOCOL: This means if you were taking for ex. iron, Vitamin D, B12 etc. for clinical deficiencies, DON’T FORGET TO CONTINUE THEM!

Allow yourself to think about a positive resolution to the current situation. For sure, there are times when we will feel scared, times when we will feel a bit overwhelmed and times when we will feel okay. Give yourself permission to feel whatever you feel and know you are not alone.

Take care of yourselves, your families and friends and your planet.

Andrew Wilson
Directeur Haute Performance/ High Performance Director
National Coach

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DEADLINE ALERT!
Nominations for the Athlete Commission are due by May 10. Don't miss out!

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ALERTE DE DATE LIMITE!
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CEC is investigating the creation of a 2021 Virtual National Symposium: "Climb. Coach. Lead." presented by the Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

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SURVEY IN BIO

CEC is investigating the creation of a 2021 Virtual National Symposium: "Climb. Coach. Lead." presented by the Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

This conference would take place over 4 days (Thursday through Sunday), and feature speakers with a wide variety of expertise targeting all aspects of competition climbing. The conference would be geared at Participant/Athlete Development, Coach Development, and Leadership Development.

Please let us know what you think through this very short survey: link in bio.
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CEC launches a Request For Proposals (RFP) for Host Facilities for the 2021-2022 Competition Season. Interested parties must submit their proposal to info@climbingcanada.ca by 11:59pm ET on May 31, 2021.

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CEC lance une Demande de propositions (RFP) pour l’accueil des événements 2021-2022. Les parties intéressées doivent soumettre leur proposition à info@climbingcanada.ca au plus tard le 31 mai, 23 h 59 HE.

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CEC launches a Request For Proposals (RFP) for Host Facilities for the 2021-2022 Competition Season. Interested parties must submit their proposal to info@climbingcanada.ca by 11:59pm ET on May 31, 2021.

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CEC lance une Demande de propositions (RFP) pour l’accueil des événements 2021-2022. Les parties intéressées doivent soumettre leur proposition à info@climbingcanada.ca au plus tard le 31 mai, 23 h 59 HE.

📸 @philip_quade
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