As world champions will attest, a winning performance is the sum of many parts. Training is obviously paramount, but as, if not more, important is a motivating support network, truckload of self-belief and high-spec, cutting edge kit. When margins are tight, the tiniest of tweaks can make the world of difference, be that to your mental state, physical technique or sportswear of choice. Moments of glory can be few and far between, so making the most of the occasion and opportunity is vital, not to mention seriously rewarding.
Not every workout, drill or challenge you set out on is going to be your PB - there are stressy office days, botched commutes and mental blocks to hurdle over. Yet, as with the pros, motivation and progress can emerge from many sources, and workout wear that serves your needs, desires and natural inclinations is one of them. According to Mintel, sales of sportswear will soar to £7 billion in the UK this year, following the upward curve in our fitness habits (over 53% of us take part in sport at least once a week). Given that 16% of us train five times a week or more, a stat that shoots up to 28% in the 16-24 age group, it’s clear that we require kit that can not only keep up, but actively improve our poise, power and speed. Enter the limited edition Nike Free Connect Gold. It’s not accented with gold for nothing.
You may think that the shoe itself looks a bit different, space age even. As futuristic as it appears, the design is actually anchored in ancient tradition, inspired by the stability of the Roman sandal. Added to this solid sporting heritage are innovative elements such as a flexible, dynamic upper, that works with you and never against you, formed of a single piece of mesh that ensures breathability, no matter how tough your interval sessions get. A reactive outsole expands and contracts with every movement that you make, while the lace-free, slip on design hugs the unique shape of your feet and makes it that bit easier to slip into a workout, no matter how you go about it (although the Nike Free Connect Gold adapts beautifully to cardio, circuits and group fitness classes).
As gear goes, this is possibly as well thought out and creative as it gets, but then that just reflects the athletes that they’re intended for, be they world leaders or ‘once-a-weekers’. Unconventional, definitely, but then playing safe doesn’t necessarily ‘win’. Setting yourself apart, driving forward and keeping others, and indeed your own body, guessing is what gives you an edge and gets results. As Track and Field multiple medal winner Ashton Eaton emphasises, in sport, as in life, going against the grain can pay off, big time:
“Some of the techniques haven't changed for hundreds of years. What if we played around a little bit more? To do something that's never been done, you have to do something that's never been done.”
Evolving ideas and mentalities, along with our actual workouts, helps to build strength, resilience, and most key of all, confidence. You never know what’s holding you back until you change the game, so whether it’s planning fitness sessions in advance, trying something unfamiliar, getting a sports massage or splashing out on more streamlined, slip-on kit, variation, and investing in your goals, is a huge motivator, not to mention a cue for physical change. The summer sporting calendar provides a huge source of inspiration of course, but the legacy of getting involved now can carry over until winter and beyond. Keep in mind that you can start small, as Nike Elevated NTC Trainer and Psycle instructor extraordinaire Tameka Small emphasises:
“Setting mini goals along the way is a great strategy for staying motivated, and don't forget to celebrate your successes and wins along the way too. You'll be surprised what a boost you can get by just acknowledging something that you achieved or improved on, no matter big or small.”
“Obviously we’ll not all get to professional level, but what we do to improve our fitness, minds and bodies should always be celebrated and recognised, even if it's by ourselves. Striving for our best version of ourselves will always be our gold!”
So how do you seize a little bit of that elusive fitness goldust, the stuff that galvanises us to keep going through pain, pressure and relentless opposition? First off, Tameka advises training in a pack, as the experts do, and using the group energy as a force for good:
“Our greatest competitors are usually ourselves, but sometimes training with friends can create a nice buzz and add an element of accountability. If you know you're more likely to go for that early morning run if you set the date with friends, then set that date and help yourself by helping your friends.”
As for finding something that really lights you up, that propels you to slip on your shoes and get going without a second thought, Tameka encourages you to take some time to find your niche:
“For me, the African-Brazilian martial art capoeira is what set my fitness on fire. In terms of its combination of skill, strength, rhythm and complete variety of movement when playing a game, training for it works so many energy systems and muscle groups, it's hard to find anything like it.”
“To fall in love with fitness, start with something you enjoy, something that gives you that feelgood factor, whether you go hard in a session or not. It's more than just the physical side of training, it's also the family and team of positive people that you are surrounded by and the feel of the place in which you train that you fall in love with.”
Tameka’s golden rule for ensuring a successful outcome to a fitness session has nothing to do with the physical, and everything to do with your headspace, as is the case with athletes on the starting line:
“I always suggest taking a moment before a session just to fully be there. Most of the time we expect to completely crush a workout while we are still annoyed about how packed the trains were on the way, or we half a mind still worrying about work. When it's time to train, train. Keep it simple. Put your full focus and energy into doing your best for that day and that time.”
Mindfulness it where it’s at, but what you wear isn’t trivial either. After all, Michael Jordan ran in golden shoes. Just saying…
The Nike Free Connect Gold is available for a limited time only during this summer’s sporting calendar- buy online at Nike.com , £85
Written in partnership with Nike