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Athlete education makes the difference

Ski gymI spent last week working with the British alpine development ski team in Italy. After 2 weeks technical training¬†on the¬†snow in Switzerland I met the guys at their base in San Sicario for a week of dryland training. After a little organisation including setting up a makeshift gym (see photo), we got down to work. The guys trained and tested really well all week and I’m happy with their progress as they move into the race season at the beginning of December.

The main benefit from the week for me was a clear demonstration that the difference even a small amount of education can make to how quickly a point is taken on board. The team won’t mind me saying too much that their diet was a little less than perfect and some of the culinary skills on display might have made a masterchef outtakes show. Meal times, instead of being a relaxed social gathering sometimes became a heated debate on the best way to prepare the food, in the same way A-level physics students might debate the intricacies of the latest quantum mechanics theories. Either way, food made its way onto the plates and everyone was fed, even if the fat content on offer was a little on the high side.

It got me thinking about the best way to elicit some change in habits, having tried the ‘not that way, this way’ approach in the past with limited success, I instead found a little education went a long way. First, a discussion on fat mass and lean muscle mass drew some attention and a chat on what constituted a high fat content in food in relation to what was in the cupboards also saw some interest. Then a reminder that it all starts at the supermarket, ‘if you don’t buy rubbish, you won’t eat rubbish’. By the end of the week porridge and poached eggs had made their way onto the breakfast menu, and the fat was trimmed from bacon when it was cooked. Progress indeed.

Sometimes it easy to forget that shopping for a household and preparing meals for a group is a skill in itself, especially for an elite athlete population and even more so for a younger set of athletes on the road for the majority of the season. It is definitely an area that shouldn’t be neglected as we all know the importance of good nutrition to support the needs of a full time athlete.

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