During the final throes of preparation for the Olympics, the choice of environment becomes critical to achieving ideal readiness to step into the melting pot of the Games. Many members of Team GB are currently out of the country deliberately in very different environments from the ones they’ll end up competing in.
Why? It’s all down to choosing to be somewhere very specific that challenges or supports performance in a very specific way. Now, we don’t all always get to choose the exact environment we get to perform or prepare in, but the philosophy behind the exploitation of different environments by the coaches and athletes who inhabit the Olympic world might help you to see your environment in a different way.
Here’s some key ways in which the environment is used to deliver a specific performance impact:
A tough environment to help you thrive in time
Here the coaches will take the athletes to a place that really stretches them. Altitude training camps are a great example of this where the athletes go for a set period of training that is much harder than normal because the air is thinner and the same amount of work that takes place at sea level requires much greater physical exertion. Having worked in the rarefied atmosphere for a couple of weeks, the athletes then return to sea level to continue their training. Several weeks after being back in the ‘normal’ environment, the athletes reap the physiological benefits of the time spent in altitude. So, which bits of your day to day environment can you focus on that are really tough and you know challenge you in a way that will inevitably have a positive effect (even though it might not be the most comfortable experience)? Go and deliberately spend time actuating these elements of your performance world so that you know you’re getting as prepared as possible for challenges ahead.
An environment that maximizes the focus on what matters most
During other periods of training the coaches will take athletes to somewhere that makes it as simple as possible to focus on what matters most in performance terms. Training and accommodation venues will be very close together and the training spaces will provide ideal opportunity for the athletes and coaches to communicate really effectively and efficiently. The close proximity of the training and living spaces mean that rest and recovery are maximised as well as training quality being as high as possible. How’s your environment set up to help you rest and recover and get the critical things done with as little interference as possible? If it’s too hard to do the basics superbly, then you’re just making it tougher for yourself than it needs to be.
An environment that helps you acclimate to the competition environment
For many different sports, it’s important to think about the specific characteristics of the performance environment to make sure everybody feels familiar with and ready to perform in those circumstances. Therefore, when environments are particularly hot, or cold, hostile socially or environmentally, the coaches will ensure that the athletes have had the time to mentally and physically attune to delivering their performances in these conditions. Facing up to the reality of the challenges within the environments that you have to perform within is an essential process to go through, meaning that you don’t moan about the conditions you perform in, you simply see how effectively you can firstly control and then exploit those conditions.
So, have a think about the reality of the environments you have to perform in. Are you ready to deliver in those conditions or are you simply moaning about the difficulties associated with performing there?
An environment to support the delivery of excellence
When it comes to the sharp end of performance, the coaches and athletes make sure they go into an environment which is totally focused on supporting the final step up to find out how well all the preparation has been carried out. Nutrition is of the highest standard possible. Sleeping areas are made as conducive as possible to create rest. Decoration of the living spaces and the imagery within them, reinforce the collective mindset and qualities that are at the foundation of the performance. Equipment is available to ensure feedback is maximised (meeting rooms, video play back, data sharing). During this critical period just prior to delivery of the final performance, the environment becomes one of reminder, reassurance and readiness. How can you alter your environment to ensure that the key qualities that underpin your success are constantly able to be exploited? What choices can you make to see if you can seek out an extra few percentage points of performance quality?
How you establish, change and develop your environment can be a critical factor in the fulfilment of potential. Coaches and athletes the world over are superb at exploiting the environment they prepare and perform in. Do you have any more capacity or capability to unlock by seeing if you can match them for excellence in this area of human performance?
Let us know what changes you make and what impact it has. Fulfil potential, don’t just have it.