Italy Training Camp: Wrap-Up

I returned from Tuscany on Saturday, but my training camp actually ended only yesterday since I still had a few extra vacation days remaining to focus on training back here in Zurich. Overall the training camp was a success. Above all I have come back to Zurich refreshed with renewed energy to start the core of the season. I have also made definite technical progress, which is more and more difficult as I approach my 30th birthday. As I explained at the start of the camp, my technical goal was to get get more radius after landing on the first turn. Rather than utilizing an early double support phase to patiently push the hammer, I try to force the hammer around and thereby reduce the radius of the implement. I focused on this point entirely for the last two weeks and it seems to have paid off. While the error is still there, my small improvements are now present in nearly every throw rather than just one or two throws each session. And I had a my best results with every implement so far in this training cycle. In the coming weeks I’ll post some more video showing the differences.

Despite the progress, I must say I still don’t quite feel comfortable with the new changes. Well, that isn’t quite right; the throws feel quite easy, but the overall feeling is somehow different. For example when the start goes well I often find myself doing something completely different at the finish. Sometimes it is good, sometimes it is bad. But it is always a different feeling. It is just new territory that I visited in a while and it will take me a while to completely get used to it as I continue to progress with my technique.

The Premium Szymon Ziolkowski Line hammers from Polanik.

Hammer Review: Ziolkowski Premium Hammer

I like to make even my smallest competitions a little special. The routine of putting on my uniform and picking up my competition hammer lets my body know that it is time to step it up. Part of this is saving my nicest, best hammer for use in competitions only. It is a treaty to be able to throw it. Once it gets in my hands I feel like I can do anything with it.

This year Polanik gave me one of their Premium Szymon Ziolkowski Line hammers to throw. I wanted to make sure I had thrown it enough before giving my feedback, but after one season and a dozen competitions I feel like I can finally give a good assessment of it.

Choosing the right hammer takes effort and experience.

Finding the Right Hammer

Autumn is the time of year that most people work on three things: technique drills, heavy weight training, and heavy hammers. While our annual planning model doesn’t follow that same route, I am in the middle of a training block where I am throwing just the heavy 9-kilogram (19.8-pound) hammer. In this respect, hammer throwers around the world are ahead of the other event groups. I know many shot putters that throw only the competition weight hammer, out of fear for ruining their rhythm. I know others that might dabble only with light shot puts. But it seems the majority avoid heavy shot puts. It is a similar story in other events. Despite this, it can still be difficult to find training hammers in various weights.

This post is not about rehashing why this is an important part of training (the two main reasons are: overweight implements help develop special strength and, as I pointed out again last week, training variation is critical). What it is about is how to find the best implements to train with. After nearly a decade of training in Seattle I had amassed a personal arsenal of perhaps 30 hammers with 18 different weights ranging from 2-kilogram to 16-kilogram (plus an adjustable weight hammer I inherited from Ken Shannon). Now that I have moved to Zurich I have slowly been increasing my club’s inventory with the help of Polanik. This is essential to becoming a good hammer thrower. Even if you focus on the weight throw throughout the winter(which again, I am not a fan of), it is still helpful to have a variety of weights to use so that you can work on different aspects of the throw.

The new Maurice Lacroix Pontos S watch.

On Watchmaking and Hammer Throwing

The world of watchmaking and the world of hammer throwing can seem very different at first glance. One appears to rely on power and strength while the other requires finesse and attention to detail. But when you think about it, you could just as easily swap the descriptions. The hammer throw requires as much technique and finesse as it does power. Like the watchmaker, a hammer thrower must combine many parts (speed, rhythm, technique, power, balance, strength, flexibility, etc.) into a working throw. And, like the hammer throw, watch making is also about power. Making a mechanical watch is as much about generating consistent and reliable power to the watch than it is about the looks. After all, the watch’s first function is to tell the right time.

As was the case last year, I was invited to BaselWorld to get a hands on look at Maurice Lacroix’s yet-to-be-released new watches for 2012 and a front row seat to their launch event with other friends of the brand and brand ambassadors like Henrik Fisker, who brought along his new Fisker Karma hybrid sports car. I always meet some amazing people at these events since Maurice Lacroix selects individuals that have followed a unique course through life, just as Fisker has paved his own path throughout his career to leave a large imprint on the automotive industry.


Announcing a New Sponsor

A decade ago I was searching all over for a 6-kilogram hammer. At the time the IAAF had changed the official junior implement from the 16-pound (7.26-kilogram) implement to this new odd weight of 13.2-pounds. And it was nearly impossible to find. The large equipment suppliers offered 12- and 16-pound varieties for high school and senior athletes. Some of them also had 14- or 18- pound hammers for training, but not what I was looking for. Then I heard rumors of a Canadian company that had discovered a polish supplier. It was like I had discovered gold, and within the next week I was the proud owner of a Polanik 6-kilogram hammer.

The same thing happened to me in 2005 when I started to train with Bondarchuk. He Told me to throw the 10-kilogram hammer one session and I had never even seen one. Again, none of the American suppliers were helpful nice they did not carry anything that heavy, but Polanik had just what I needed. For the past decade I’ve been a Polanik thrower, and that makes me proud to announce that they are my new official equipment supplier.

The Evergreen Athletic Fund has found success in helping athletes by creating new sources of support in the sport.

If You Want Support, You Need To Create It

Sooner or later most track and field athletes accept the fact that the sport will not make them famous or rich. At most, a handful of track geeks will recognize your name when making their predictions for the Olympics or World Championships. And while we must eventually accept this, it is hard. We watch professional athletes on the TV making millions and feel that we should also be rewarded for having dedicated our lives to maximizing our physical gifts.

The truth of the matter is that no one is sitting around waiting to hand money to athletes for their talents. What brings this topic to mind is a discussion I had with elite discus thrower Will Conwell after the Evergreen Athletic Fund‘s annual meeting on Tuesday. We were both a little exhausted from hearing athletes complain about lack of support and then do nothing about it. It’s not that I think athletes are undeserving of support from the USATF and others, but athletes have been calling for more support for the last century and little has changed. Yelling loader won’t help. For better or worse, athletes have to take some initiative to find that support. I learned this lesson from Harold Connolly. After getting little support from USATF for the youth hammer throw, he started to raise his own money and create his own path where he found much more success.

There are generally two ways to get financial support: (1) help make someone a profit; or (2) appeal to someone’s heart.

On the red carpet.

On the Red Carpet

Since announcing my partnership with Maurice Lacroix last month, I have eagerly been looking forward to visiting the annual Baselworld international watch show. For those of you not familiar with Baselworld, it is to the world of horology what the Detroit Auto Show is to the car industry. Over 2,000 brands converge on the Swiss town of Basel to show off their new offerings for the year to industry insiders, journalists, and consumers. Every type of watch is there, from Timex to Rolex to niche brands selling timepieces that cost more than a house.


Follow Your Convictions: Introducing My New Sponsor

When I came to Switzerland last May I began the search for one of Switzerland’s national icons: a mechanical Swiss watch. Every time I walked by a watch boutique at lunch, I peered in the windows at their offerings. The Swiss watches all offered great quality and design, unsurpassed craftsmanship, and a storied tradition. The first watch I tried on was a Maurice Lacroix. I loved their style, but was also drawn in by their slogan: Follow Your Convictions.

Maurice Lacroix’s slogan aptly describes me. Nearly everything I have done and every decision I have made over the past few years has been in pursuit of my unique dreams. I want to be an Olympic hammer thrower and I also want to be a top attorney. These are two time-consuming pursuits, but I haven’t compromised. I have followed my convictions. That is why I was out training before dawn in law school while most of my classmates slept. That is why I moved to rural Canada in search of the world’s top coach. And that is why I am now in Zurich working at one of the few jobs in the world that will allow me to pursue both my athletic and legal careers simultaneously. The hammer throw itself is a sport only for those that follow their convictions. There is no chance for riches, fame or glory. What is left is a group of determined athletes chasing their dream. As I described last month, my days are long, but it is worth it as the challenge of balancing it all in pursuit of that dream is a thrill in itself. And every day I also work on passing that dream along to others through the Evergreen Athletic Fund.

After trying on the Maurice Lacroix watch, I contacted them to see if they would be interested in sponsoring me. Luckily, they also felt I exemplified their slogan and invited me to become their newest brand ambassador. I am honored to accept.

Check out Pain Free Back, a new iPhone application from my physical therapist.

Heading to Europe

I’ve been both looking forward to and dreading this week for a few months. I’ve spent the first few days of the week packing up my apartment in Kamloops. This afternoon I’ll be heading back to Seattle, where I will spend tomorrow packing my bags for Europe before leaving on Friday morning for three months in Zürich. It feels exhausting just writing that sentence. While it will be rough to be away from my family, girlfriend, coach, and training partners, it will be nice to once again have an income and have a good training base for the European part of my season.

Training has been going very well. And by “well” I mean both my technique and strength are near their all-time bests and I’m still in the middle of hard training. Or, as Dr. B puts it: “Good result, bad state.” On Monday I actually threw further in training than I did right before I threw my personal best (you can see a video below). I’m don’t ever throw far in training, so my results have been very encouraging. I can’t wait to compete against some of the world’s best in the coming months. In the meantime, my posts on this site and my other sites ( and may be intermittent until I get accustomed to my new surroundings. I will, however, always keep you up to date on my meet results and will also have a great post up very soon providing a one-month training log showing exactly what my training looks like every day.

Nutrition and Throwing (and a New Sponsor)

Nutrition is often a topic overlooked by throwers. Back in high school, when I was playing American football, I was too overlooked it. I held on to the belief that bigger was better and topped the scales around 300 pounds. After deciding to focus on the hammer and hearing legends like Harold Connolly and Wolfgang Schmidt essentially tell me I was too fat to throw the hammer far (Harold used kinder words but Wolfgang was fairly blunt), I started to pay attention to nutrition for the first time in my life. I even began learning about some of the collateral issues in the food industry after reading Fast Food Nation and hearing impassioned talks by Harold about trans fats. With a balanced diet and frequent cross-training, I dropped 60 pounds in one year and another 20 pounds the next year.