A Day in the Life of an Athlete: Training and Mind Processing

Sami JauhojarviGuest Author, Professional Cross-country Skier

Stress & Recovery Exercise and Fitness

Sami Jauhojärvi - professional cross country skier

Athlete: Sami Jauhojärvi
Profession: Cross-country skier
Age: 31
Height: 174cm
Weight: 71kg
Resting heart rate:       33bpm
Maximum heart rate:   193bpm

Overall, an athlete’s day may seem to be very simple and strictly tied to routines and schedules, but when looking at a normal day in more detail, the mind is processing surprisingly many factors in order to optimize performance.
My normal day goes pretty much like this: wake up at 7:30, have breakfast (whole grain porridge, jam, bread with ham, cheese and tomatoes). After morning routines, the first training session starts at 9:00. Depending on the day, I will do a high-intensity workout, long aerobic workout or strength training for 2 hours, having sports drinks at regular intervals. The training session is followed by a recovery drink, shower, maintenance of sports equipment and lunch. Then I have about an hour to take care of general duties before taking a nap. At 15:00, I will eat a small snack (yoghurt, muesli and bread) before starting my next workout. After hundreds of drops of sweat during the workout, I will repeat the same routines as after my first workout. After dinner my leisure time starts, which I normally spend with my family. In the evening I will do a little stretching and have a night meal before going to bed at 23:00. The same routines are repeated 7 days a week.
On a mental side, the above-described day goes pretty much like this: After awakening I will do a short analysis of my health status – any sore throat or runny nose…Nope, not today – I have managed to stay healthy and am a bit closer to my peak performance. After getting up and walking around, I will sense my muscles – the body seems to be well recovered and there’s no muscle soreness after yesterday’s strength training! I open my laptop, connect the Firstbeat BODYGUARD to the computer and load my overnight recovery data to Firstbeat SPORTS software to see what level my recovery is at. The analysis shows 84% of my maximum recovery. It tells me that I can follow my training plan normally, without a need to take it easier. If the recovery is less than 60% of my maximum recovery, I will take a day off or at least skip the high-intensity workout.

Chart: Example of a recovery report: Training periodization can be seen in the follow-up chart to help make training decisions in daily and weekly rhythms.

After the morning analysis, I will eat breakfast and start the training session. My back feels a little sore, which is reflected in my skiing technique as well. The movement pattern for my leg muscles is not fully normal, weakening the force production – I might not hit the record today! I need to have a massage to get my muscles working better. The rest of the body works normally and I reach the goals set for the workout. Once again, I was better than the racing partners, which increases my self-confidence. I’m on the right track in preparation to the World Championships held in Val Di Fiemme, Italy in 5 months.

Handling all the details gets more and more important once the new season gets closer. By putting on a dry shirt after the workout I minimized the risk of catching a cold. After the training I ate my lunch with good appetite and the daily nap was real power sleep.

In the evening, it’s time to do easy recovery training. My body feels more tired than it should and the worries are sneaking to my mind – Have I trained too much and what if this fatigue has accumulated from the hard training in the long term, without sufficient recovery? While running, I can feel the old RSI in my foot, which can in the worst case prevent all training in the autumn. Should I rest more to get my foot sorted out – or perhaps change running workouts to roller ski and cycling workouts? On the other hand, after the massage the foot might be ok for a while, but I still can’t stop thinking “what if…” It’s clear that if I don’t run in the autumn, it will show in my race performance in the steep uphill sections. Normally the feeling gets better during recovery training, but not today. I’m worried that this really is fatigue, or perhaps I’m having the first signs of infection? I just need to calm down, tomorrow morning I will know more, after measuring my overnight recovery. Despite all the uncertainty, I’m once again a day closer to my peak performance. I hope my kid will sleep well tonight, so that I can have a good relaxing sleep. Just in case, I will take an extra portion of Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Zinc to boost my immunity. I still have a couple of days left in this harder training block before my next resting day – which I normally have once per week. During the rest day, I try to do all the ”unfinished duties” that I was not  able to do while training. I try not to stress too much, as I’m supposed to enhance my recovery physically and mentally during the days off. The best way to relax is to spend quality time with my family.

An athlete’s life is continuous observation and analysis of feelings, state of recovery, muscles and other performance-related factors. Critical training decisions and modifications to the training plan are often required and they are made based on observations and objective measures of bodily functions. It might be hard to understand but I love it! It is enjoyable self-realization while being on the edge – something that everyone should experience in their life!

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Sami Jauhojarvi Guest Author, Professional Cross-country Skier

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