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Team Ballista 4-way training over Empuria – BC (Before Coronavirus)
Photo by Pete Allum

VIRTUAL TRAINING

How can a team, who have planned for greatness but now cannot train, still achieve something in the lockdown?

Down-time

Creative fitness training, Covid-style
Photo by Sian Maxwell-Allum

Anyone who has spent time in a team, whatever the discipline and especially if you have been on planned training camps of any duration, any-where in the world, have had to deal with ‘down-time’.

This down time could come from the weather, aircraft issues, an injury, family commitment or some other ‘acts of god’. My usual trick here as a coach or team member is to spend the time on the creepers, at the mock-up, in the tunnel or in some other non-related skydiving activity and to turn the ‘down-time’ into something more productive.

I have always enjoyed the opportunity to find other methods to improve as well as the skydiving itself, this could be physical training, easy enough for me now as I am locked down to a routine instead of rushing around the planet. I have been working on maintenance and improvement in all areas: strength, endurance, speed and flexibility, all within the comfort of our apartment! Or, I could be working on the mental game, with visualization and mindfulness exercises.

Lockdown

But… how can a team, who have planned for greatness this year but have been denied the opportunity to train still maintain and show improvement after the lock down?

Here are some ideas:

Weekly draw

A weekly draw, this can be the motivator to the rest of the week; a draw gets sent out at the beginning of the week, all team members spend the week ‘puzzling’ the draw (the engineering part, working out the most efficient puzzle for your teams’ level) and also visualizing your slot. Then at the end of the week the team gets together for a group chat, discusses the various options and decides as a team what they would take into a real competition.

Visualizing 

If you don’t have one already, use this time to start a block note-book
Photo by Pete

Visualizing your moves. If you don’t already have one, this is a great time to start a block note-book, breaking down your move on each block into a description that works for you. You could write this on plain paper and draw, you could do it on your computer and get as creative as you want, adding links to yours or other teams’ videos. My method is to have the notes like a drop-down menu, starting from a simple description that then leads to more complex and also includes exits, keys and statistics.

When you have put the jump together in your mind, you should also walk the jump through, to build a kinaesthetic sense of the jump and then get ready for a full visualization. 

The full visualization should start on the ground, see yourself and the team preparing the jump and then walking to the plane, then see the ride to altitude and try and feel the apprehension and excitement that accompanies most rides, when the door opens, feel the rush of cooler air and see your team mates faces as you make your way to the door and climb out, then go through the jump, with a 50 second timer set on your phone, track away, open and go through some canopy checks to build as real an image as possible. You may want to be walking through this as you do it, moving your body through the jump or you may just be sitting, whatever works best for you.

Piece Partners

Use little cardboard cut-outs or go premium with the magnet kind
Photo by Pete

Once you have got your head around your own moves, what about your piece partners? If you are on a AAA team then you have all this extra time to learn your B slot. If you are on a Rookie, A or AA team, then you can get your head out of your own slot and start to see the dives from an outside perspective, this will bring you massive gains in awareness. I recommend that when people start 4/8 way that they make little cardboard cut-outs of themselves and use them to run through the jumps that you find hard to visualize. These are from 1992.

In the case of injuries or lockdowns, you have absolutely no chance of jumping so the visualization will be vital. On three occasions XL was forced out of the air, once when John McIver broke his back, once when I burst my ear drums and then post 9/11 when there was a no-fly rule in place for weeks. In all three cases we stepped up the visualization and bounced hungrily back into training exactly where we left off.

Video training

Online training is gold in this situation
Photo by Sian Maxwell-Allum

Watching yours and another teams’ video. If you are lucky enough to have already started training you should have some video to watch. Make a ‘best-of’ video, watch you and your team with some meaningful (to you) music to get you motivated. Watch raw footage to remind yourself of your errors and how to fix them. 

If you are watching another team, then make sure that you acknowledge the objective, are you watching this to be inspired, to learn or to emulate? If you are a 10-point AA team and are watching Hayabusa, great, enjoy it and get inspired… but also consider finding some other teams to watch that are maybe not quite as fast but still better than you. Another tip for watching teams that have different continuity (right/left door) than your team, set up the screen next to a mirror, this will flip them around and you can see them fly the blocks the same direction as you. You can also slow a team down to a faster than your speed but not at a 30-point pace.

Online coach

Have you considered using an online coach? I work with teams in Brazil, Australia and Finland, watching their videos and debriefing them. This is a good way to debrief your tunnel sessions or jumps when you are away from your coach.

Basic skills

I hope that you all know how important your basic skills are? You can also use this time to work on your in-place turns, side-slides, or other moves that you are struggling with or need to maintain. Get on the carpet, engage your core and start running through the moves, use a mirror or a family member to check that you are doing them correctly (a poorly practised move on the ground will turn into a poor habit in the air). Before wind tunnels were invented, this is how I used to work on my skills, for hours!

Team meetings

Group meetings online, this is a good time to get together as a team and brain-storm how the season can be salvaged, or discuss what other methods that you can all be doing to improve. This would be a good time to ‘walk’ through some dives or just celebrate and have a beer together knowing that you have saved money from the missing camp and can invest it into some fun times together in the future!


Let’s dream of flying again!
Photo: Pete Allum in freefall over Empuria by Roy Wimmer Jaglom

Other things to get up to:

This could also be a good time to take the statistics from your previous camps. 

There is also an excellent tool from Rhythm XP, the Rhythm 401 app.

If you are an FS nerd then you should already know about the National Skydiving League.

Some good books: 

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Meet: Pete Allum

34,000+ jumps
FS and CP national teams, world meet podium in both disciplines.
Flight-1 coach
FS indoor/outdoor coach
Baby free flyer

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