Proper relaxation is an important part of training, says professional athlete and trainer, Eduard Barceló

Proper relaxation is an important part of training, says professional athlete and trainer, Eduard Barceló

Ski mountaineering competitions – La Sportiva Andorra Skimo-2020 – took place on February 22 and 23 in Andorra along four routes: Skimo2, Skimo4, Skimo6 and Skimo10. This year, the participants were offered a new option – the possibility of personal training with a professional athlete and trainer, Eduard Barceló, regardless of the level of training. On the eve of this event, Eduard shared with us some tips on how to better prepare for competition both mentally and physically, as well as how to stay in good shape.

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Eduard Barceló is a Catalan athlete specialized in trail racing (a sports discipline involving running on a natural terrain that includes elements of cross-country and mountain running). He is the author of the first book on this discipline (Entrenamiento para ultra trail), many years ago he launched an application where professional athletes downloaded data from their personal training. He is also a professional trainer specialized in preparation for endurance competitions. He won three “Adventure Raid” World Cups with the Salomon team (in 1999, 2000 and 2001). He is the finisher of the Ironman World Cup in Hawaii (2009) and the winner of Ultra Trail in Andorra (2015). He is engaged in all mountain sports: rock climbing, ski mountaineering, cycling, and he conducts navigation courses.

“I competed in Skimo 10 two years ago. It is a very good competition. It is a shame that the level of the participants is not very high. Other more popular competitions such as Pierre Menta, for example, are open to all, but they attract elite athletes. I think that when famous athletes start participating in Skimo, it will become a world-class competition. I am sure that sooner or later it will happen!

In a couple of words, participation in Skimo on both the first and the second days gives an unforgettable experience. The first day is more like cross-country skiing, quite simple technically. From a landscape point of view, it is exciting, indeed! The route runs along the tops of the mountains from La Rabassa to Grau Roig, on one side, you can see Catalonia, and on the other side – Andorra. That is spectacular! The second day is a typical ski mountaineering contest: steep climbs, many crossings, technically difficult descents in the forest. A high level is required to participate in this competition.

I can say from my own experience that it is optimal to participate in Skimo 10 (that is, both days).

I would like to note that in connection with the recent popularization of ski mountaineering, a problem arises that most people practicing this sport are not ready for the competitions – both physically and technically. The mistake is that many of them train on the slopes – this is not the same thing! Away from the slopes, you have to be especially good at descent in a trajectory that is sometimes very difficult.

That is why this year we decided to offer this option: preparation in the competition combined with individual training. About 20 pairs took advantage of this offer. To date, this is not a very common service, and it costs money. Most people prefer to train on their own. However, those who used this service, in their own words, gained more self-confidence. A three-month training plan was proposed – this is the minimum period to feel completely safe and ready for competition.

Skimo participants, of course, are those whose level is above zero. I mean those who already have the basic skills. However, to participate in Skimo 6, you can start training from level zero. Three months – and you are in shape!

Nevertheless, I am not a supporter of aggressive training. It is better to prepare purposefully, but measuredly. It all depends on what your goals are. What do you think – is it better to train one day for ten hours or 10 days for one hour? It depends on each case, sometimes I recommend exercising once a day but twice a day…

I cover this topic in detail in my book on training for Ultra-Trail competitions. There I talk about different types of training, their advantages, and disadvantages. Athletes who are preparing for trail running usually schedule many hours of training and run many kilometers a day. This typical mistake undermines the efficiency of any athlete. I do the opposite. I prefer short, but intense and more frequent sessions. Proper relaxation is an important part of the training. When preparing for a long-distance competition, I advise that it is better to train two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon than four hours in a row.

How exactly can I help to prepare for the competitions? It is simple. First, I study the level of the athlete, and then I analyze the competition he or she wants to take part in. Based on this, I propose a training schedule. All training data is recorded by your smartwatch, I analyze the results and make the necessary adjustments. At the end of the course of training, I offer a final test, based on which I can honestly say: “You did a great job”, or “You better keep working and for the time being refrain from the competition” (but usually it does not happen).

A few words about motivation. Internal motivation is undoubtedly much stronger than external. What is external motivation? It is the satisfaction of your ego, the desire to impress and surprise others. However, only internal motivation can give an incentive and interest to train every day, no matter the weather, as well as during competition.

I am told sometimes that I am not well represented on social networks. This is just about it. My internal motivation is much stronger than the external one. I go in for sports for myself, I can do it all alone, and it is not necessary to tell anyone about it on social networks. Another thing is to motivate other people with my behavior, which is part of my job.

As for the diet, I am not too committed to this topic. I do not want to offend nutritionists, but each person is an individual. I have a lot of experience participating in competitions, and I can give advice on how to eat in difficult training conditions, what is better to eat and what should you refrain from. But what is suitable for one person may not be suitable for another. Everything should be in accordance with your own rhythm.

A good helper is a personal psychologist. This is especially true for preparing for endurance competitions. Proper psychological preparation is a guarantee that you will learn how to get pleasure from complex training and the competitions themselves. Because normally, we are all preparing for the competition to enjoy it.

I am familiar with many “elite athletes”. Thus, sometimes I am asked: “Is it true that high-level athletes are selfish?” This is an interesting question. Being selfish or being focused and detached are different things. If you are far from the goal, it is obvious that you go as far away from the world as possible in order to concentrate on achieving this goal. Answer this: Is the athlete a high performer because he is focused on himself or is he focused on himself because he is a high performer?

Albert Einstein has a quote: “It’s crazy to expect different results by doing the same things.” This statement applies to sport 100%. I know many people who participate in the same competitions every year and do not get good results. And they keep participating over and over again… I personally never repeat any competition twice. I always advise: “Why don’t you try something else?” If some training did not work this year, it will not work next year either… Do not be consistent in sports. And always look for an alternative! ”

Irina Rybalchenko

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