Keeping Things Simple

Keeping Things Simple

Building on the last few blog posts about training. I would like to move forward to the next topic – keeping training simple. This goes hand in hand with my past posts about focus and intentionality. It is another piece of the puzzle that I have been working on recently.

Keeping training simple has a few different aspects, and a lot of benefits. It is easy to waste a lot of time on the non essentials. I have found that in trying to fix everything at once I inevitably fix nothing. This means that the first step towards simplifying training is creating tangible and focused improvement goals. Let me give you an example.

Let’s say I need to fix my backhand side defense. Working with my coach I realize I have two major issues that are hindering all the rest. The first is a lack of strength in my left leg when I get low. The second is a technical issue of my contact with the shuttlecock. There could be lots of other things in my game that need fixed. Maybe I need a harder a smash, and need to come to the net faster. Those are things that will be addressed in “general training” all that time you spend on court doing various drills. But looking at my matches, perhaps I am rarely able to get into a position to smash and follow to the net quickly  because I end up making errors on my backhand defense. To balance my game out I will spend a significant amount of time on my backhand defense.

Following the example above I would need to keep practices focused on one of two things, my leg strength, or my technical issues with my BH defense. I could separate these into two separate training sessions. Perhaps at home I could do pause lateral lunges and RLE split squats to build some leg strength. On the court I would break my practice into a very few drills to work on my BH defense.

I kept one goal at a time – BH defense. Then I broke that goal into two main parts, and separated them into different practices. I would follow that up and keep the number of exercises to a minimum as well. Pick the most efficient ways to improve and stick to those. Make sure the quality is really high and you are staying mentally focused. Time and energy are both limited. Make the best use of both and stay focused on the goal you set for yourself.

How do you keep your practices focused on specific goals? Let me know in the comments!

Onward and upward!

Kevin

 

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 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!

 

Check me out at Youtube  and GoFundMe !

 

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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Youtube

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! 

Adversity

Adversity

Hi Everyone!

First of all. Thank you to each of you for your support! I couldn’t stay in badminton without your help and support!

Guatemala international has come to an end. 

I am so thankful for the opportunity to compete. I won my first round and lost in the round of 16 to the number one seed and eventual winner  Kevin Cordon. 

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In mixed Isabelle Rusli and I made it to the quarter finals where we lost to the number 2 seeds and eventual winners from Brazil. Imran had to withdraw from our doubles due to an unfortunate wrist injury.  

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I am very thankful for the opportunity to compete in Guatemala. I improved on last years performance as well which is fantastic. I showed that I am playing at a higher level than before and winning matches internationally for which I am thankful. There is still a lot of work to do to challenge the top athletes in the world. Every day I get out and I work towards that; Improving the things I am weak at, and strengthening my assets.

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I am back in Calgary for an Alberta Series tournament and then Atlanta Elite Series is next! 

A lot of people have asked me about my withdrawal from this past Prairie Elite Series  tournament in Winnipeg. It was a tough decision, but one made carefully with lots of input from doctors and coaches. Since my hamstring pull at the US International, I have had minor bugging knee issues. Due to that and various other factors, everyone decided it would be best for me to pull out and focus on the Guatemala International coming up in two weeks. It was a tough call as the Prairie Elite is the first tournament of the Canadian National Elite Series circuit. However, I need to stay healthy and keep improving, which can’t happen if I am injured. I am so thankful for the host of professionals helping me make these tough decisions.

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My dad returned from safety stand down (a gathering of high-ups in aviation to discuss safety) and brought these words of wisdom “Glad to be here.” It has taken me a long time to wrap my head around the ramifications of such an outlook, but this week it really hit me: I AM glad to be here, and that changes a lot. Let me explain.

Badminton, like all sports, is tough mentally. There are huge ups and downs that come with wins and losses, good performances or devastating injuries. Training at this level means pushing my body to its limit quite often. I did not begin this journey in the greatest shape- I had a broken leg and ankle that needed recovering from last year. The battle forward has been full of minor setbacks, but also great improvement. It is not easy, and it’s not easy to stay positive while fighting off injury and making tough calls about competing. However, I am continually reminded that I am glad to be here, and that makes all the difference.

“Glad to be here” is an outlook that doesn’t make excuses; it  acknowledges the huge blessing it is to be where we are. It makes sure that we use every moment to the best of our ability to move ahead. Being glad to be here means not getting hung up on adversity, but instead being thankful for it.

The last year has been full of adversity as I decided to pursue badminton full time. (That doesn’t mean I don’t work other jobs, it means I try to be involved in badminton as an athlete and a coach as much as possible). I broke my ankle, took a long recovery, dealt with minor related injuries, like a pulled hamstring and knee injury, missed work and training, and struggled through finances. Yet when I look back I am thankful for every struggle. Through the injuries I have found a great group of people at Sweaty Training who have my back, and continue to help me get my body ready for world competition fitness. I started coaching and training at Gao Badminton and have been extremely blessed by the club and by Coach Gao and Coach Grace Gao’s help. They have walked me through getting in court shape and coming up with a long term plan, while giving me the daily on court training I need to make forward progress. Dynamic Chiropractic and Sports Therapy in Steinbach has also generously given me a sponsorship and worked with me in my recovery and in planning the next steps of training to avoid more injuries.

I have learned a lot about training, about building my body up, about rest, recovery, and diet. None of that would have happened without adversity.

I am glad to be here. Thank you for joining me on this crazy journey, and for continuing to support me through it all.

If you would like to support me, check out the  GoFundMe or contact me about sponsorship opportunities!

Onward and upward!

Kevin

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Brazil and Provincials

Hi Everyone!

I am writing to say thanks for investing in my badminton journey and success. The past 6 weeks have been a time of good forward motion and growing returns. Thanks for investing– here’s what I’ve been doing!

Brazil!

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I spent three weeks in Calgary training and coaching at Gao Badminton in April. They have graciously sponsored all my training which has been a huge blessing. To prepare for Brazil International Challenge  I trained both with the group and many private lessons from Grace Gao, a former Olympian. From Calgary I flew to Sao Paulo, Brazil and got a ride to Campinas where the Brazil International Challenge was held.

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I got there on Tuesday morning, checked into the hotel and went to practice. I stayed with Kari Gunnarsson from Iceland as well as B.R. Sankeerth from Canada. We practiced together Tuesday and Wednesday morning before I played my first match Wednesday evening at 5:30. I lost the first set but won the next two, progressing to the next round. I played the second round half an hour later and ended up losing in a hard-fought, two set game. I battled some calf cramps but other than that played well. That Friday I flew back to Calgary, picked up my car and drove to Manitoba!

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Manitoba Provincial Championships

At the Manitoba Provincial Championships I played all three events. Mens singles, Mens doubles with Ryan Giesbrecht, and Mixed doubles with Mélanie Curé. I made the Mens singles final, but lost to Thien Vo in the final. I won my doubles final with Ryan Giesbrecht, also against Thien and his partner Chris White. In mixed, we lost in the quarter finals to the eventual finalists.

The Mens singles final was a great match, and one where I felt I played to my full current potential.

I am improving my game at a great rate, for which I am very thankful. Coming back from the injury has been hard, but it has also helped me refocus and I believe I will be stronger than before.

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two weeks I also finished my fitness testing and body composition with Sweaty Training. I have made good progress since the injury. We are looking at increasing the rate of progress now that my ankle is healing up more. I also got a new off court program with this in mind, which I am very excited about.

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Thank you all for your support!

Gratefully,

Kevin Barkman

If you would like to donate you can do so through GoFundMe

Jamaica International

Jamaica International

The Jamaica International came to an early end for me. I knew I was up against a tough opponent ranked much, much higher than me. Being my first international tournament after my injury I was not too sure what to expect. The weather there was about 30C outside with 80-90% humidity, and much higher temperatures inside the gym. During practice this felt very hot and I could feel myself dragging a bit towards the end of practices.

The first set of competition went quite well. I felt I moved quite well, attacked well, followed my game plan. However, by the second set the heat was paying its toll on me. I felt light-headed and my head began to pound. I knew I was overheating but tried to play through it. I couldn’t, and fell very flat the second set.

You have a lot of emotions after a match like that. I wanted to test myself after my injury, and I did that. I performed well the first set, staying focused and sticking to my game plan. But it is a great disappointment to fall so flat at the end. Rewatching the video confirms that the second set I made 21 mistakes and struggled to breathe. My face was red and I felt heat radiating off me.

I still had juice in my legs, but no way to access it. How do I manage the extreme heat when most of my training in winter is in gyms at 16C? That is the next question to be answered.

I stayed with a good friend Milan in a university dorm at the University of the West Indies. That was a unique experience. We stayed with the Peru and Guatemala teams which was also fantastic. Over the past few tournaments I have made friends with both teams. I also made new friends with two athletes from Congo which was exciting. 

I am back home to Manitoba now after spending last weekend at OCN community coaching with a multi-sport team. I am excited to get back to training and coaching and moving head!

 

Onward and upward!

-Kevin

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