Developing Your Distance: Goal Setting for Throws Athletes
BY JOSH DOUGLAS
Welcome back to another blog, where I will be helping you to reflect on your past throws season through a simple yet productive approach.
Whilst many athletes tend to reflect through Instagram posts, I figured it would be more informative if I wrote an article about it. With this in mind, I'll start this blog by setting the scene of how my year went before going into more detail about what I liked or disliked about how the year went.
Training for athletes in the off season
My Winter training routine & goals
Going into winter training, this was the first time in a while where I could maintain being (mostly) injury free. Looking back, I believe this was largely down to incorporating my rehab exercises into my warm up routine, as this helped me to throw relatively pain free. I did stick to my program for the most part, but time constraints did get in the way a few times.
At the start of 2023, I decided to set a certain number of goals for myself, all of which I was determined to accomplish. Some of which were; throwing at least 54 metres, my top 6 throws will all be over 50 metres, and that I’d qualify for British champs.
However, my main goal of 2023 was ultimately to be more consistent without worrying too much about throwing huge distances.
Weight training for throws athletes
How hard should you push?
Over the winter period, I didn't push the weights as much as I probably should’ve done.
Finding that balance between doing too much and too little is still something I struggle with to this day. My fear of pushing too hard begun after I automatically considered myself as an easy target for injuries. In terms of base strength levels I got a few small PBs in some lifts, but ultimately, I wasn't much stronger than I was in my college days.
That said, throwing is a velocity based sport, and the times I felt at my most powerful and athletic were when I could lift light weights for high speeds (around 50-70% of my 1RM).
My 2023 season as a discus thrower
After a block of light and fast lifting, I had my first competition of the season, which proved to be my best opener ever. I was thrilled over this, although I was unfortunately not selected for the England team that headed to Vaxjo, despite my distance being enough on paper.
Following this performance, I had a string of sub-par competitions to get used to throwing in the rain and then a couple of events over 50 metres in the better conditions. I was also throwing mostly overweight discus, although looking back, I should have thrown lighter implements as those are the ones that challenge me the most.
Reflecting on my distances...
In May, I threw my PB of 53.70m with a less than perfect release, which made me feel hopeful that this would just be the beginning of something positive. Once I threw that distance however, I failed to improve on it. My throwing was decent in terms of my positioning, and I managed to achieve a few podium positions, which included the following...
- 2nd at England U23s
- 3rd at South of England Senior Championships
- 3rd at British University Championships
My experience at the British Championships
With the accomplishment of throwing my PB, I was then invited to compete at the British champs, which had been a goal of mine for years and will continue to be a goal of mine as I climb up the senior rankings. Once the big day finally arrived, I was less than pleased with my performance, which I can admit was down to poor preparation, on top of being unable to deal with nerves. Still, it was a wonderful experience, and I'm determined to do even better moving forward.
What lessons have I learned this year?
Now that I’ve set the scene, I'll go into a more concise explanation of things I wish I had done differently, or elements of my throwing which panned out well in the long run.
Despite doing (mostly) well, I still felt disappointed in my unfulfilled potential where positioning is concerned (as athletes often do). I felt like I should have thrown further and that I shouldn't have had to rely on good conditions to be successful. My distances ranged from low 40s to 50s, and I was unsatisfied with that inconsistency. Also, my technique was unreliable, and I focused on different things for each competition rather than sticking to the same cues. I also had a lot going on in my private life, which didn’t exactly help, and I could've benefitted from reaching out to my support network more than I did.
Working on cues as a discus thrower
Throughout the season, I did far too much experimenting with different cues, which led to me focusing less on feelings and also made my throws incredibly inconsistent. I also ignored a lot of old cues that produced good results and consequently failed to make a note of them. My advice here would only be to have a couple of principal cues to focus on, and if you have a surprisingly good throw, note down what made it distinct. As we head into 2024, I plan to have two or three cues that become the bread and butter of my throwing style, which I'll aim not to deviate from. I also intend to be more aware of what positions or cues enable me to throw far, which will help me to replicate those feelings.
As mentioned before, I didn't push the weights much. I was apprehensive of injuring myself and, as such, failed to push myself as hard as I could’ve done. My current advice on this topic is get to a point where you know your limits. By all means, free to test them, but when you know deep down that you're doing too much, there is nothing to be ashamed of in pulling back. I currently have a much better grasp of what I'm physically capable of, although I still get concerned about over working. With my new awareness, this is improving, and I’m slowly building in confidence with my athleticism.
Communication strategies for athletes
Why reaching out is crucial
Another thing I wish I did differently was to have reached out more when I was going through my personal issues. I have a tendency to pretend that everything is fine and that I’m simply “living the dream”. I soon realised, however, that reaching out to friends and family was the most helpful thing I could have done. I’m still working on my communication to this day, but the truth is, whilst you may feel some safety in braving your issues alone, being vulnerable enough to reach out when you're suffering is the bravest thing you can do. It is a disservice to yourself and others not to communicate when you're truly struggling, and even if your immediate support network may not begin to enact physical change, you will feel better for sharing it and be one step closer to being happier.
As mentioned previously, I wasn't best pleased with my performance at British Champs. My common tactic to deal with nerves is just to convince myself it is just another competition, and I often lower my expectations to help me relax a bit more. I didn't believe I would get into the second round, but when I realised I could make it, I encountered a complete head-loss. I was experiencing technique issues that I hadn't had for a while, and the ways I tried to fix the problems were not working. My goals from this experience are to develop a plan to deal with competition nerves and to reframe my physical response from competing as excitement rather than anxiety.
Goals for the 2024 athletics season
Finally, I’ll recap on my main goals for the coming season, where I will start with the outcome goals. These goals include but are not limited to; having an Opener PB, throwing over 55 metres, competing at british champs and making into the second round. The process goals I will need to fulfil this are...
- To be aware of what cues enable me to throw far...
- To stick to my training plan to the best of my ability...
- To know my limits and to not overwork myself...
- ...and to have fun!
Whilst this blog is a little different to the earlier ones I have written, I hope that those reading this can take away something from my reflection on my season. Maybe you can relate to some of the things I've said, or you can consider doing your own reflection in hopes of planning for a better season next year!
About Josh Douglas
Joshua Douglas is an U23 shotputter and discus thrower, who competes across the UK and is a high placing athlete in many of the events he participates in.
He is also currently undertaking an undergraduate degree in sport psychology, and is very passionate in helping other athletes in this area, as well as other areas in throwing and athletics!
Josh will mainly be talking about discus throw in his content. However, as he is studying sport psychology at university, he will also cover this area in his blogs where he can!