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Harry Kendall

Combined Events: Things I Wish I Knew


Welcome to my next blog in this series of Combined Events-inspired articles

This month’s offering will be all about things I wish I had known when I was an up-and-coming combined eventer that could have potentially propelled my career forward even sooner. Not everything in this article will be training-based (some of it may be psychological), but as always, these are only my opinions, so feel free to disagree with them!

Young Athletes getting ready to train


It is easy for an athlete to get bogged down thinking that many athletes have phenomenal physiques and do their utmost to follow suit. 

While keeping in shape is vital for performance, what is irrelevant is how shredded your abs are or how many veins are popping out of your legs. I spent a long time trying to get the best abs I could to look better. However, myself and everyone else are built completely differently.

So, while some people may be born with a shredded six-pack, others will struggle to build one, due to their genetic makeup. This, however, does not mean you are any weaker than someone with 2% body fat, and often people who mainly focus on aesthetics in their training end up performing worse than those who do functional exercises that benefit their event. 

If you ever feel yourself going down a path where you feel obsessed with aesthetics and it is affecting your performance or life in general, then don’t be afraid to talk to someone, as many people have been in the same situation before!

Sprint Athletes crossing the finish line


As a young athlete coming up through the ranks, you’ll see many people who are more developed or seem to be miles ahead of you at that stage of your career. Transitioning into the senior ranks, however, is one of the more difficult challenges of competitive athletics. 

There is an exponential decrease in participation from juniors to seniors. This is for various reasons, one of which is the feeling that you’re not progressing or you’re out of your depth. I certainly wasn’t a phenomenal talent as a junior, my crowning achievement being a 5th placed finish at the English Schools multi-events. I just managed to find the love for the sport in other ways, mainly competing against myself and bettering my personal bests, as well as believing that if I kept plugging away, I would eventually be mixing it with the best. 

Many athletes set unrealistic and unachievable goals and lose motivation when they don’t achieve them. For example, if you have only scored 7000 points for the decathlon, it would be unrealistic to set yourself a goal of qualifying for the Olympics within a year. To combat this, talk with your coach, other athletes and family about what would represent a good season for you; breaking down events into individual disciplines to identify problem areas in your performance and which events have the biggest scope for improvement.

Athlete sleeping on track


I think it stands to reason that going out every night and drinking lots of alcohol isn’t optimal for performance. 

It is easier said than done, however, when your friends are all out drinking and you have to be up early for your lactic session. As a student-athlete, I did go out a fair amount, but I never went out the night before a training session and never in the fortnight leading up to a competition. I’m not sure I can physically describe the discomfort of trying to rep out 400s with a stinking hangover, so your best bet is to stay home and get 8 hours of sleep. 

Sleep is your best tool for recovery, allowing your muscles to repair themselves and your mind to reset. It is very easy to get carried away with drinking once or twice a week, and it can take a while to realise the damage it’s doing to your body or just your training. So, if you ever feel sluggish, there's no improvement, or your training is of a poor standard, it may be because you’ve drunk a little too much recently, so consider cutting back on that to get the most out of your sessions.

Male athlete jumping over hurdle


In the decathlon and heptathlon, there are multiple disciplines in which you can achieve personal bests. But, also, by contrast, you have various disciplines that can end up below your expectations. It is better to enter every competition with an attitude leaning towards the former mindset. 

However, sub-par performances are, unfortunately, inevitable. I’m sure anyone who has competed in a combined events competition will have seen people storming off after bad events in a huff. While you should hold yourself to high standards, it is not optimal for performance to dwell on your bad events and let them occupy your mind when you need to focus on your next discipline. 

In a competition, I usually allow myself five minutes to be annoyed and to release my frustrations. Then, I force myself to reset and go again in the next event. Keeping your mind on a previous disappointment can detract massively from your overall decathlon, as you cannot focus on the correct technique in your next event, and it can also cause your morale and mood to drop, putting you in a negative setting which is not where you produce your best performances.

Female athletes competing against each other


It does seem simple to say, but I believe many people forget that the main aim of athletics is to compete. 

If you don’t compete whilst you’re healthy, and always wait to get into “better shape”, you will inevitably get injured and never be able to prove yourself. Your training partners may also have to endure comments such as “I was in huge PB shape before I got injured”. You are only in PB shape if you prove it in competition. 

In my opinion, training PBs do not count, nor do 4x100m relay leg splits where you ran 9.9s. To be a top-level athlete and a combined eventer, you must enjoy stepping out on the track to compete as much as possible. It’s what you put all the hard yards in for in the winter, and you didn’t do all that horrible training in the rain, just to do exactly the same all summer as well. Combined events are far too hard to do if you don’t enjoy them, so enter all those open meetings, the Southern and Northern League meetings with your club. The National League is another one to look at, too.

When it comes to decathlons and heptathlons, you’re never going to go into one feeling like you’ve perfected every event; you have to trust that all the training you have done will put you in the best place to perform at your best. It is critical to go out in that competition and enjoy it, make the most of every performance and use it as a learning opportunity for your competitions in the future. 

Male athlete drinking water


This one may be controversial, but in my opinion, a consistent water intake will do much more for your energy levels than a load of coffee throughout the day. 

Whilst a strong coffee may give you a buzz for a short time, what comes after that buzz is a monumental crash leaving your energy levels way down for the rest of your competition. I see it all the time, where many athletes load up on caffeine before the 100m or the 100m hurdles, and then by the time they get around to the shot put or the high jump, they’ve crashed, and their energy levels are through the floor, and they underperform towards the end of the day. 

One coffee with breakfast in the morning and an adequate water intake throughout the day, supplemented with enough food, will give you easily enough energy to carry you through. I'm personally more of a tea drinker, so I’ve never had the coffee problem, and I’m also not a fan of Red Bull and other energy drinks, so it’s been easy. However, I would warn you not to become reliant on these products, especially as an up-and-coming athlete, as they can do as much damage to performance as good.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this article, and it’s given you an insight into what to do and what not to do as an up-and-coming athlete in combined events. 

Stay tuned for more articles from me for Neuff in the future! 


Harry Kendall Decathlon

Harry is a decathlete who represented England at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, and is a member of Tonbridge AC.

He has also won bronze at the 2021 British Athletics Championship, and he claimed victory at the 2022 English National Championship after scoring a record of 7843 points!

Instagram: @harrykendall_

Twitter: @harrykendall567

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