The Right Headspace – Being Focused

The Right Headspace – Being Focused

It is time to put your ex’s texts and your poor grades on the back burner and put some work in. 

Life is a confusing mess, full of things that require our attention and our loyalty. Take that from the kid who has played tournaments during moves, breakups, friend’s illnesses, family sickness, loss of friends, and pretty much anything else that could confuse or distract from performance.

All of those things in life are important, and worthy of your time, consideration, and energy. Sport is different though, it can’t be split up or divided. It cannot share headspace, and it requires attention to detail. This means several things to me. I can use sport to give myself a break from the confusion of whatever is happening outside. But I also can use it to train myself to focus on one thing at a time. The truth is that most things in life shouldn’t share headspace. Learning to focus on  one thing at a time is an invaluable skill. Performance always requires undivided attention, sports included. The problem is, performance isn’t always our number one concern – it becomes such when we partake in things like sports, test taking, or flying helicopters.

Focusing at tournaments starts with focus at training. You need practice focusing intently. You also gain a lot more from training when you are focused well. We need to learn how to focus well!

I have been competing for a lot of years, been reading books on sports psychology for almost as many years, and I have a few tricks that work for me. However, like all things you will need to find what works for you. I am no sports psychologist, and while I have worked with a few, the following is simply an explanation of what works for me – don’t just mimic me, find your own set of tools!

Put the phone away! The first, and simplest thing I do before practice and before competition is put my phone away at least half an hour before I get on court. If it is a tournament often putting the phone away first thing in the morning helps me stay focused on competing.

Visualize. It is often the unknown that scares us. Visualizing helps run through every scenario. Have you ever been in a situation on court where you just lost three straight points and your tactics aren’t working? I have. The easiest solution is to run through the different possibilities before the match and contemplate how you will respond. That way whatever happens you have already been there. You aren’t unprepared and taken by surprise. You are mentally prepared and focused. You have been there before, and played it through,

Find something concrete to focus on.  Don’t let the what-if’s get you off your game. Find something  concrete to focus on. This plays out in several different ways for me. I often use my racket grip as my focal point. I feel it, and concentrate on its texture and position in my hand, as well as the tension in my hand. This helps me remain calm and in the moment. I also give myself specifics to focus on in the rally. Have I been giving away the net? Hanging back too far? Then I give myself the goal of taking control of the net and getting there early. Your mind can’t wander if it is working hard on something!

Breathing. There are lots of different breath protocols for efficient energy use, focus, remaining calm, getting pumped up, ect. But there are a few very simple things I try to focus on. Nasal breathing – between rallies using nasal breathing helps keep me calm while helping drop my heart rate. Hard exhales– get rid of that carbon dioxide! There are lots of other breathing techniques, but those two things help me the most.

Stay focused, stay in the moment!

Hopefully this was insightful and interesting. Have your own techniques for staying focused? Share them in the comments!

Onward and upward!

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Photo by Orlando Athayde

 

Training With Purpose

Training With Purpose

Training With Purpose: get the most out of your training.

 

I recently read a tweet thread about the difference between training and what they called fitnessing. The idea was that training has distinct goals and progressions, while simply fitnessing is just putting effort out without a goal. While this is very true with fitness training, the idea follows through all of training. 

Do you know what your goals are? Do you know the purpose behind each drill? Is everything you are doing progressing and pushing you towards your end goals? Showing up and putting work into training mindlessly will soon leave you stagnant and without improvement. That is not what any athlete wants. However it is easy to get into a routine of just showing up and putting the work in and not being mindful of progressions and purpose in each drill.

These can be tough questions to answer. I have a few things I have learned over the years that help me stay focused on the right things and progressing in the ways I need to be.

First, listen to your coach. As simple as that sounds it is actually really important. A good coach will have purpose and progressions built into every workout and every practice, but often the athlete doesn’t pay enough attention to the coach and just does the drills put before them without paying attention to the specific purpose of the drill. Listen to your coach and if you don’t understand the exact purpose of a drill then ask!

Once you talked to your coach, listened to the purpose, it is your turn to make sure the planned purpose plays out. Make sure your focus and effort follows the specific purpose. If you are doing max effort sprints with a full rest, make sure you are both putting max effort in and taking your full rest. If you are doing an on court front court endurance isolation make sure you are focused on consistency and endurance and not hitting tight or fancy shots. Keep your focus on the purpose!

Know your end goals. It is hard to train without knowing the end goal is. End goal is a broad term. It can mean both the end goal of a specific drill or exercise, or it could be your long term improvement goals. We talked last post about processing and thinking over those goals. Now it is time to keep them in mind while you work. This means taking responsibility for your own training. If you are working with a coach make sure you are talking to them. Don’t blindly show up at training – know your weaknesses and strengths, and work together with your coach to know what those are and what you will do to train them. Knowing these things does several things. It helps you understand each practice better and focus your efforts and understand the plan your coach has. It also allows you to visualize and spend your own time working ahead. In times such as the current self isolation it allows you to keep training and making improvements even when you can’t see your coach daily.

Make sure you are working towards your goal every day!  You have talked with your coach, outlined your goals, and processed your trainings through training journals ect. Now it is time to make sure every day you do one thing to push ahead. I have found it much easier to follow my plan and work forward when I have the goal of doing one thing every day. Not everything every day, just one thing.  I know that personally I need to get stronger, and increase my endurance, but I also need better defense. I don’t try to do both things, I focus on one. This session is strength and power. Next session is defense. Keep it precise and focused. Keep it consistent. Do something everyday!

 

I hope you found this helpful. Lets keep at it folks! Onward and upward!

If you have any ideas or questions for future posts or youtube videos comment and let me know!

Thanks!

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Training As a Lifestyle

Training As a Lifestyle

Training As a Lifestyle – the basics of living and training well

Last week we talked about training during tough times. Today we will follow that up and talk about training as a lifestyle. If training is part of your lifestyle it will be much easier to continue during tough times. I will also go over some key things that help me in my training lifestyle.

 

ATTITUDE / PERSPECTIVE

Every day is a chance to make progress. A little progress. A little step forward. This perspective and attitude is key to being positive and taking the opportunities that come your way. If you are daily seeking out ways to make small improvements you are well on your way to making training a lifestyle.

GET ENOUGH REST

No amount of training is can help you improve if you are constantly tired. For a couple reasons. First your training intensity and quality will go down due to physical and mental fatigue. Secondly, your body needs rest in order to recover and rebuild stronger. Getting enough rest is often a hard discipline to master. It may mean leaving places early to make sure you get to bed on time, or it may mean skipping on that last game of call of duty. But in the long run getting enough rest is important for improving and also for injury prevention. I have found this to be a struggle, but a worthwhile effort in making those small daily improvements.

EAT HEALTHY

I have found that I can make big gains in performance with some daily discipline. I started small. Skipped the soda, drink water. Skip the chips at dinner. These easy steps will help keep your body healthy. You can increase performance during training by being careful how close to training you eat and what you eat. Don’t eat within two hours of training, and drink enough water. Of course you can get far more detailed and be more and more careful. But the three big things are:

  1. Skip the sugar and junk food – soda, chips cookies ect.
  2. Drink lots of water. More than you think you need too!
  3. Eat enough protein and enough veggies.

 

TAKE TIME TO PROCESS

Training takes a lot of physical effort, but also a lot of emotional effort. Often times I have found myself in a rut with training and life. Taking time to process what is happening is really important. Processing includes tracking whats happening in training and life. Keep a calendar or training journal and write down when you train and what you do. I am very visual so I find a calendar is really helpful. At times I noticed that my strength training was lacking despite feeling like I was at the gym all the time. Other times I looked at the calendar and noticed I hadn’t had a rest day in over a month. Those trends take time and energy to notice but are key to continuing improvement.

The other side of processing is going through training and life thoughts. Perhaps you feel discouraged because of lack of progress in a certain area, but after taking time to process you realize that you are spending too much time in a certain area of training or life. I have often found when I take a step back to look over things that my discouragement is unfounded. Other times I have looked at things and realized that changing a small part of my training such as my warm up would effect my whole session in a positive way. Take time to track and process your training! Don’t walk blindly forward, take the steps to be intentional!

 

Thanks for reading, I hope you found it helpful!

 

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Training in Tough Times

Hi Everyone!

Considering how many of us are stuck at home I have decided to write a short series of posts about what I have learned about training. This will in no way be a comprehensive list, but hopefully it helps add some clarity and purpose to training, for myself and for those who need it.

I will hopefully post a few home workouts that I am doing, and some more specifics about badminton training. You can follow more of that journey on my youtube.

First off I am very blessed at the moment to still be able to train once a day at Sweaty Training.  The rest of my training I am doing at home.

Let’s talk about training in tough times. Tough times can be several different things. Tough because of circumstances – being self isolated at home due to a virus for example. Tough mentally – uncertainty due to lack of competitions. Taking hard losses recently. Even seeing the end of the season can make it hard to train like you need to.

Before we go too much farther we should define what good training looks like. Good training, or training well is training with purpose, effort, consistency, and intentionality. It means following your programs day in and day out, putting in max effort when you need to, and resting when you need to. It means showing up to training with purpose and goals in mind. I will talk more about each of those things in the following posts. But for now that is our definition of good training.

Tough times.

I would consider the current world situation a tough time for all athletes and all people. There is a lot of uncertainty about the future. People are separated physically from their support groups. And access to the regular training environments are limited.

 

How do we train with purpose when there is uncertainty about every part of life, including upcoming competitions?

The answer I have come to is insanely simple. Our weaknesses are still there, no matter what is coming, and those need work. As athletes our bread and butter, our strengths, are still there, we need to keep them sharp. So the answer is, our purpose hasn’t changed. Uncertainty doesn’t change our immediate goals of improvement. If anything uncertainty allows us to narrow our vision to the very next step. To the next 1% of improvement to be made.  Don’t look too far ahead. Look at your program, the next steps that need taken, and get to work. Wether we get to compete in four weeks or fourteen the days between still need to be stepping stones towards improvement.

We know what needs done, and we know where to put our focus so that we can stay motivated on the next steps. That leads to the next question.

 

How do we train intentionally and with focus with limited access to equipment?

This will vary with every person and every situation. The core of the answer remains the same – willpower and creativity.

Willpower.

We have all heard the saying, “Where there is a will there is a way.” While an overstatement perhaps, it remains a strong sentiment that I hold to. Things are not impossible, but they may need rearranged or rethought through. For example. If you are trying to increase max strength with nothing but body weight you may find a lot of limitations. But if you are trying to increase strength to gain speed then you will find work arounds to still increase performance.

Creativity.

Willpower requires creativity to be successful. It may require more research and problem solving to make use of your willpower, but eventually you can find different ways of doing things. The biggest part of this that I have found helpful is to look at what other experts are doing, or even ask for personal help from experts.  There are often ways of doing things that are either less convenient or efficient to do the same thing you did at the gym. Just because it’s not used daily doesn’t make it not effective! To sum it up – seek out advice and look at problems from different angles. Use that willpower to keep looking for answers!

 

To sum it up: Use uncertainty to refocus on the next step towards improvement. Be determined and creative in finding solutions to take the next step.

Tough times call for tough people, and that’s what sports is all about right? Training is becoming a tough person.  Competition is just being the tougher person.

 

Cheers everyone, stay safe, determined, and creative.

 

Kevin Barkman

Covid-19 and The Life of An Athlete

It has been awhile since my last update. A lot has happened, to me, but also in the world at large. 

I am currently in Manitoba where I can train at Sweaty Training with a lot of precautions (only one person in the gym at a time, everything cleaned every sessions ect). 

My big event, the Yonex Canadian International Challenge which was going to happen the end of this month has been postponed indefinitely.  As have many other events. I am really disappointed to not be competing of course. But I believe God does not do anything without purpose. I am taking this time to improve my fitness and hopefully create some online content that is useful for upcoming athletes. I know that my fitness and past injuries have been holding me back a lot. So this time is a great opportunity to improve myself. I will attempt to share this journey of fitness and self isolation with everyone, and hopefully others can learn alongside me as well!

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I appreciate everyone who has been supporting me through this time. Obviously the loss of work is tough for everyone, including myself. 

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I pray all of you stay safe. These are tough times, but as we all know, tough times show the real us, and help define our future selves. Let’s make the most of this unique struggle/opportunity and keep pressing on as individuals, as communities, and as a world as a whole!

Onward and upward folks. Heads up, hands washed, and smiles on. 

Kevin 

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2019 BWF US International Challenge

HI Everyone!

Merry Christmas! I am home visiting family for Christmas and enjoying it greatly!

California was great despite some tough losses. I learned a lot and showed I can compete with the best. It is time for some rest for Christmas and then putting in the hard work before nationals!

I moved up in ranking in Mens Singles from 368 to 305 which is a good move up!

If you want to watch my matches or even some of the other great matches of the tournament check out my  Youtube Channel

For more results and scores check out the Tournament Software

If you would like to support my journey in badminton – my ability to coach and lead the next generation, and my pursuit of competing at the best level you can donate at the following links: GoFundMe   Buy Me a Coffee.

Thank you for all your support!

Arrived in California!

Hi!

I haven’t been home much for the past few months, but I just arrived at my last tournament of the year. The Yonex K&D Graphic USA International Challenge in Orange California.  I am in the main draw in all three events. I play against Belgium in singles, and Chinese Taipei in both doubles and mixed. 

Due to recent financial challenges I am not playing the Toronto Open in January, so this is my last big tournament until the National Championships in February. 

I am very pumped to play. Had a few tough matches in the past few weeks, and some good training. I am on the right track and excited to take steps forward. 

You can follow the draws here : https://bwf.tournamentsoftware.com/sport/tournament?id=32085A06-7D4C-45E1-AF4E-989B57508B92

And I will be uploading my matches here : https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCI8834Clt301lNPF6l9-BQg?view_as=subscriber 

You can help support me here on Gofundme : https://www.gofundme.com/f/kevin-barkman-hope-through-sports

Thank You everyone for your support! 

Onward and Upward! 

Training

Training is always tough. Sometimes you get worse before you get better. I feel that these days. I have been spending a lot of time working on certain skills, but finding myself playing with less intensity than I want. It takes time for those skills to become solidified and habitual.

However, with a few tournaments under my belt I am feeling more confident and comfortable playing again.

I qualified for all three events at the Yonex K&D Graphic USA International Challenge. I am playing doubles with Imran Wadia and mixed doubles with Isabelle Rusli. But before that I am playing the Yonex Alberta Elite Series.

Thanks for your support!

 

 

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