If you can fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Healthy competition?

To compete or not to compete, that is the question. Whether it is far healthier in the mind....
Having just returned from the Belgian Ladies Open competition in Arlon where I battled my way through 7 bruising matches to finish 5th I am giving my body a day or two of respite although tomorrow I will be back at the gym and judo and preparing for the Austrian Open in two weeks time. Judo is an unforgiving sport at the top competition level, having no set 'season' and an Olympic qualification system that means people are constantly competing for points. Add to that the sheer physicality of the sport and the training demands; add to that the strength in depth (usually) of the competition across the world: well it does take a certain kind of mentality to actually want to compete at that level. I've been doing it for years now, was indoctrinated into the competitive side of the sport as a young child so it's all pretty standard for me. However, outside of that smallish sphere it might seem less comprehensible. Teaching judo to kids I rarely emphasise the winning part of the games we play and don't put too much emphasis on results. Teaching a beginner adult class the emphasis is on efficient movement and technique; judo for judos' sake. Coaching a class of regular competitors, the emphasis is on tactics, gamesmanship and effectiveness in a match. Some people are natural competitors; they have a winning instinct and thrive in a high pressure environment. Other people crumble under the pressure and cannot produce their best. In judo there are lots of very skilful 'randori' players who can throw the best in the world in practice but can't work within the confines of a competition situation. I think I'm somewhere in-between. I don't always have to win at everything and I do believe in taking part for the sake of it. At the same time I don't like to be told 'no' or 'you can't'. So if someone is stopping me getting what I want then I'm gonna fight them! The fighter in me comes out more when the chips are down. I also like the idea of testing myself; putting what I've learnt or trained at to the test. And I think this is where sport and exercise can crossover and co-exist. If people can be encouraged to enjoy learning a sport and see benefits in terms of increasing skill level as well as fitness I.e. test themselves a little, then sport in the traditional sense could appeal to a lot more people. Doing something like judo is really functional and can cover every aspect of health, fitness and well-being. There are plenty of other sports/activities like this and there really is something for everyone.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Embrace the wrinkles

Birthday, Christmas, New Year.... All come one after the other for me. I decided I should sit down and write this final blog of the year, and then start afresh in the new year.  A few family days should keep me entertained over the next week and then it's back into training with a couple of days at the infamous Kendal Winter Camp. I've been struggling with a sore throat these last couple of weeks and haven't been able to enjoy my training as much as usual but at least it hasn't been that vomi bug thing that's going around. That's one thing I'm counting my blessings about, as well as many others. In fact I was having a good old sentimental think the other day and lots of things came to mind. I've had a topsy turvey kind of couple of months and embarked on a few different ventures. I've also picked up a few old  strands that I'd left dangling and done plenty of reconnecting. I've enjoyed reconnecting with the people 'up north' and going back to my roots in some ways.  Being back at Bacup, the club I started at as a kid, and taking some of the sessions as well as doing some of my own stuff, has brought back some good memories. It's definitely inspired me to get more involved in teaching and coaching. I've also been taking a class for adults at a gym in Manchester and it's refreshing to have people so keen to learn.  In the new year I'll be running two female only beginners courses as well as hopefully a few seminars and continue coaching at both Bacup and Kendal Judo Club.  Other work I'll be doing will be as an athlete mentor for the Youth Sports Trust on various projects and continuing as an ambassador for UsGirls/ StreetGames. All in all it's going to be busy, and I've got to fit a bit of training and some comps in there as well!
I'm still enjoying lots of support to do with the judo and especially after competing for Team GB in the Games. People still ask me what it was like and I still find it difficult to describe. They also often ask how did I do it? How did I manage to train so hard and compete and get to that level? And that's hard to answer as well. Because I look around me and often ask myself "how do they do it? I couldn't do that." And most of the time this is looking at the people closest to me. I look at my older sister who has worked her way into a great position at work despite having epilepsy and having to cope with the medication. They also have a young boy who was only conceived after invasive IVF treatment, and struggle, as many do, with the day to day grind of our economy. Could I do that? I look at my younger sister, who went with her boyfriend around the world for 2 years after completing a physio degree. They lived on a shoestring just so they could experience the highs and lows and daringness that it takes to do something like that. Now the job situation means they have to live 200 miles apart. Could I do that? My other sister worked and worked and took out loan after loan so she could become a doctor, and genuinely cares for each and everyone of her patients. There might be a decent wage packet at the end of it but there is also tens tons of stress and a whole lot more to deal with. Could I do that? And I look at my mum, who has worked tirelessly in the same job for over 40 years and provided us all with more than enough. She works hard to look after her mum and to keep the family a central part of her life. I think I had focus and drive when it cam to my sport, and  really put my mind to it.I wanted to get the most out of it. I think my family mentioned here have all put there mind and focused their energies in other areas and I think anyone can do that.  My PE teacher did once point this out about me.... still don't think I would have made a rocket scientist though! You also have to have the opportunity to put your mind to something that inspires you. I was talking to a very good friend once and said that I just felt so lucky to have had such good opportunities. And she said "yes but only part of it is down to luck. You make your own opportunities and you do with them what you can."
Without getting too philosophical, I think striving to be happy and successful is a great thing, but it's not always the successful people which are the happiest. I'm at my happiest when i at my most 'giving'. Whether that is giving myself over to the hardships of training and competing, or giving my time and appreciation to those around me, or giving myself to a new project. I still have to find time for a complete veg of course, or some me time lounging around in the sun, but that is just for a quick fix. Gotta think long term sometimes :). Phew well I think I've meandered enough so without further ado and before I read through and delete it all I'm going to sign off. I will finish with the complete lyrics from a great philosopher ;)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Working towards a sustainable legacy

Very interesting weekend this weekend. Firstly Saturday saw me in action for the DKH legacy trust working with a group of young people who were doing their NCS and volunteering within their local community. Around 25 were there to help chop wood, sort out nativity costumes and clean up the cupboard. They then went out on a leaflet drop to promote the activities of the local church (Abundant Life Church, Bradford). After a few false starts, there was wood flying everywhere and a couple of times I had to take cover quickly! My role was to bolster some good spirit (not hard, everyone was in good form). We did a bit of a Japanese language test (what does judo mean?) and then I was encouraged to give a quick demo. One of the guys was a willing volunteer and we had a great time wrestling in sumo suits! Team Sophie proved triumphant, although she did have a little help :). The cupboard was spotless by the end and the church organisers were very happy with the help.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Women in Sport

Sophie’s Legacy:- continuing to inspire a generation post 2012

During the London Olympics David Cameron announced that it would not be automatic for British medallists to receive any kind of honour unless they contributed in some way to bequeathing a legacy to the community. Athens and London Judo Olympian, Sophie Cox, was disappointed not to have won a medal, but she is certainly firing on all cylinders in pursuit of fulfilling Cameron’s second criterion.

Sophie has been selected as a Sporting Champion by the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust and by UsGirls, a project developed by Street Games, funded by the Government and Sport England. She has already delivered a very successful judo taster day at the North West UsGirls Rock festival held at Leigh Sports Village. As well as attending these taster session days, Sophie will be visiting local schools, colleges and youth groups. She has helped the project secure a CocaCola bursary which aims to afford young people in disadvantaged communities the opportunities to get involved in new sports, specifically targeting the 14-25 year old age group. Street Games and the UsGirls project have been keen to have Sophie on board as an ambassador to inspire young females to ‘have a go’. This successful bid will help all involved (StreetGames, Usgirls, Sportivate) to develop more outreach work and allow them to do more for the young people within the local community. On the day of the Liegh festival UsGirls tweeted: “Thanks for coming today, you were fab, the girls had a great time!!”

Sophie recently complete the theory and practice to gain her 4th Dan, an honour attained by still relatively few female G.B. judoka. She will be presented with her certificate by Bacup Judo Club Head Coach, Brian Moore, 6th Dan, her long time mentor, on Sunday 18th November during the BiG WeekEnder (for details please see the flyer attached), which is an event designed by Sophie to encourage interest in the Club and in judo.

Sophie has been appointed a sporting ambassador for sustainability for BioRegional, a company heavily involved in the making of the Games and advisors to the Government about sustainability issues regarding the Games and the Games legacy. (please see defra.gov.uk). She recently gave one of the key speeches at the annual meeting of BASIS (British Association of Sustainability in Sport) held at Cheltenham Racecourse. She was asked to the opening of the One Planet Centre at the Royal Albert Docklands Community School and although unable to attend, delivered a video message and sent competition footage of herself. She has been asked by the company to go into schools and the local community and help deliver the message of sustainability in sport. Reactions to her speech at the conference were positive and enthusiastic:Alex John - “inspiring talk today by Sophie Cox at sustainability sports conference.” Nick Roberts: “Listening to Sophie Cox at BASIS sustainability conference. All those character building exercises obviously worked. Really interesting talk.”

In her role as Rochdale Ambassador for Sport, Sophie recently presented the awards and delivered a speech at the Rochdale Training awards evening, a company that mentors and trains young people in apprentice qualifications. Jill Nagy (CEO) said “Thank you for coming Sophie, you made our night! You were brilliant!”.

In addition to judo, Sophie will be involved as a role model with the ESRL and in events for the RFL World Cup in 2013. 2013 is the 20th anniversary of Sophie’s historic game at Wembley when she became the first female to play rugby league on the hallowed turf, thus paving the way for a rule change which has allowed other girls to follow in her footsteps. Halima Kahn (ESRL development officer) hopes to have Sophie at a number of events the first of which is on Sunday 11/11/12, an English Schools R.L. celebration event to be held at the Salford City Stadium. Sophie will be speaking at such events, motivating and inspiring girls and boys to take up sports at all levels, and give insights into the trials, tribulations and joys, of being an elite sports person. Her 4 years in Thailand means that she has unique experience and the time away from elite sport means that she has a wider perspective on life issues than is sometimes the case with elite athletes and she used her experience of life there to telling effect in her speech for BASIS.

Each year the Sophie Cox Medal is awarded to the Year 7 girl player of the match at the Carnegie Cup Championships Schools finals.  She joins some of the greats in RFL in having this honour: Renis Betts, Phil Clarke, Kevin Sinfield, Brenda Dobek and Lisa McIntosh who all have medals named after them. Sophie; “After the Games I had to think carefully about the direction my future would take. I decided that I wanted to continue competing for G.B. as I feel I still have the drive and ambition to win medals; but also to somehow use my experiences to coach and inspire others, particularly vulnerable females, to get involved in sport. It would be unusual for an elite athlete still competing to coach as well but I am determined to have a go at both. I intend to train at Bacup and Kendal Judo clubs and other Judo clubs throughout the North West area. I still feel I can achieve success and add to my 4 European medals. A longer term ambition is to compete at the 2014 Commonwealth Games for England. As I no longer receive funding from the UKSC, and am unlikely to in the near future as I am considered too old for Rio (?) I have returned home and intend to further my ambitions from that base. I will look to get a good result at the British Trials in 2013 at a new weight of 57kg, the weight I competed at in Athens at which point I was ranked 7th in the world and 2nd in Europe. I recently self-funded myself to a World Cup competition in Istanbul, the first for me at this level and in this weight category for a long time, although I have had silver and bronze medals in European Cups in that weight over the last 2 years. I finished 5th, narrowly losing for bronze, but beating the world number 13 along the way. I have to go out and win medals, it’s up to me to prove the doubters wrong. I am very happy that I receive support from friends, family, the judo club and the North West Area, Link4Life and Rossendale MBC. I already coach at the club and at a gym in central Manchester, where I recently did a very successful judo seminar (see blog :Judo or MMA? Fighting Fit seminar by 2x Olympian Sophie Cox bridges the two arts. Quote: “Last friday......” by parttimegrappler.blogspot.com/2012/10/judo-o).

I have become interested in working with MMA fighters and in developing and expanding my knowledge in this area. I think judo still has a lot to offer the MMA world and I know that when I worked with Rosi Sexton, the most famous and most able British female MMA fighter, she was very impressed with what I had to offer.  Getting around to training and events is sometimes tricky as I have to rely on lifts a lot or good old public transport and all the joys that come with it!

I intend to give of my best competitively and in coaching and along the way I hope I can encourage people of all ages and in all walks of life to take part in something new and interesting, be that judo or something else. If I am successful I believe I will have left a positive legacy and be repaying the debt I owe to Mr. Jigaro Kano, the founder of Kodokan Judo, and those who helped to spread the art across the world. Judo is, and will always be, a way of life.”

Monday, July 9, 2012

Final phase

We're just about to start our 'final preparation' camp here at Dartford so all the team plus training partners are coming together for the next 10 days. We were lucky enough to persuade the British Judo to get us into the Hilton just down the road from the Dojo - massive props to the 2 Gemmas for their charm and persuasion skills! Don't be fooled though - they are both ferocious on the mat! All the support staff coaches etc. will be together with the athletes so it should be a food atmosphere. Everyone will be working on their own individual targets but we all have the same goal- to win medals. I know the excitement is building and everyone at home is getting really into it. For me at this stage it's about remaining focused and concentrated, but it does make me smile and gives me a really warm feeling when I see the support out there. It's unbelievable the amount of people who have in some way helped me to be here, and very humbling. The thing I'm most looking forward after the Games is a great big Sunday roast with all the family! Maybe a 3 day feast haha! I'm obviously hoping all of Team GB do well but also everyone who has worked hard to get where they are and are prepared to go the extra distance.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

8 weeks to go, keep rollin

Monday -

Had a day of getting lost yesterday. Well not quite lost but exploring around and about. Actually managed to get a decent nights sleep and was still sleepy in the morning so declined going back into Tokyo again to watch the judo competition. Instead I took my time and went for a jog around the park here. I explored a bit further afield though and took some pics on the way. In the afternoon I went to find a couple of temples that I had looked up and it was nice to see some of the surrounding countryside. Its good to spend a bit of time away from the gym and judo mat occasionally and since my time in Thailand I'm more interested in different religions and cultures so it was nice to see some Shinto temples and some Monks at prayer.

Tuesday -

Went to the dojo in the morning to work on some technical aspects. We've been doing some video analysis and it's good to work through some specific situations and drill certain aspects. It's then time to put it into practice in randori (free practice) so you are in as realistic a situation as possible. Training continues to be a high intensity with shorter sessions but the days are going by quickly and always end up full.

Thursday -

I met a friend of a friend yesterday after training and us girls took him out for a meal. He is a journalist from the Japanese TV station but he just came to say hello. He was very happy to meet some past Olympic judo players and some potential athletes for London 2012, especially as judo is so popular here. Japan is one place where practically everyone will be tuned into the judo at the Games, and they will be hoping to do well. However, the competition is fierce and Japan aren't the dominant force they used to be. Judo is so popular as a sport around the world that every country from Kazakstan to Cuba to the US to Holland to Korea etc. produce top players and potential Olympic medallists. And there's us of course!

It was laundry day yesterday and as the sun was shining I went for my little recovery run whilst the washing was on. A wash and a tumble dry later and I had fresh clothes again, lovely. Just in time for another judo session!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Countdown continues 9 weeks

Friday - Woke up at 4 and despite my best efforts including listening to some guided meditation, I was not going back to sleep, so back to McDonalds it was for morning coffee! Feeling better in general though. It'll be a week tonight since we arrived here so should just about be over the jet lag by tomorrow. They do say it takes an day for every hour when travelling from west to east and I feel like I'm getting into the routine.

The sun came out in full force yesterday which always helps put things in a better light as well. The quality of training has been good so far and the Japanese players at the university are of a very good standard. They have been training for a competition this weekend. I've been making sure I do lots of recovery in between which should help ensure that the quality remains high throughout the length of the training block. I've been doing a circuit everyday so lots of cardio and speed exercises, but I'm beginning to hate tuck jumps with a passion! So I was happy yesterday when I had weights on my program instead. However, Sally soon pointed out that it was actually a weights circuit!

Sally has been getting all artistic and playing around with picture collages and I've been helping her start up her blog. iPads are definitely big kids toys! Its always useful to be able to connect to the WWW whilst travelling and training although I do make sure I disconnect regularly and give myself a break. I'm enjoying reading The Hunger Games at the moment and brought a book out with me called Mind Gym, a sports psychology book which I'm finding quite interesting. Watched another good film "The Way" (hang on, is there a theme here?!) about a father's journey along the road to Santiago in memory of his dead son. Reminded me about the Paoulo Cuello book.

Another full day of training ahead today but a quieter weekend after that. I'm looking forward to catching up on a bit of sleep and hopefully I'll get to explore Tokyo a bit, if my legs can keep carrying me upright!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

10 weeks:- the Final Countdown

The Final Countdown: 10 weeks:-

After a successful British Open competition, followed by nomination to Team GB 2012 by the British Judo at -52kg, and then a pretty hectic 3 days getting organised and trying to squeeze in my training, it was that time again - Japan/Korea part 2. It was only 6 weeks since I was last out there so it was easier to pack and prepare. A lot less training stuff went in this time; it was really easy to wash things there; and a lot more food went in instead! This isn't because I don't like the food in Japan or Korea, I love it, but at this stage I have to be very controlled with my diet and sometimes it's easier when you don't have to think about the all the ins and outs of the nutritional side all the time. So in went plenty of porridge sachets and protein bars. Also some snack a jacks. I knew Sally, my Roomie out there, would be bringing the tea and coffee so didn't need that. In went my scales, my HR monitor, skipping rope, foam roller and elastics. Hmm I could see my 27kg limit fast approaching! Good job my hair straighteners are the mini variety.

On Thursday at the airport I invested in a Team GB mug as I remember craving a 'proper' size cup of tea last time. I also bought one for my friend Akina who I'm hoping to catch up with. The 9 o'clock flight was a good time for sleeping and with time differences we arrived at our hotel in Tokyo at 12.00 Friday night. Saturday was a good time for easing into the new time zone and we went into central Tokyo for a walk around and some bargain hunting in Ueno. Sunday me and Sal went to the gym and I did a circuit and a stretch. Then we went to buy a few things from the local shops - I got a flask, a chopping board (for making my salads up), and some chopsticks. I also got a few things for taking home: a bamboo sushi rolling mat, some packets of noodles and a tea strainer. We have a fridge in the room so I got some salad and sashimi- mmmmm good protein!

Monday saw me get stuck into some hard training with a gym circuit and our first judo session at the uni. I knew I had to ease myself in though so kept the judo short - just 90 mins as opposed to the usual 3 hours they do here! Watched a good film on Sal's computer - The Way Back - inspiring story of the human will to survive. Was drifting off about 11.30 so thought I was in for a good nights kip, but it didn't happen.

By Tuesday jet-lag was seriously catching up with me and 2 nights of barely any sleep started to show with some dark eyes and a bit more of a grump about me! In the morning, 4 of us (me, Sally, coach Kate and physio Sophia) headed off to the uni for a gym session. Whilst Sally was getting massive on the weights I did another tortuous circuit, sweated a lot, swore a bit and was a happy chappy when it was shower and lunch time! We ate at the uni and hung around for the session which was at 4. I was so tired by then but managed to get a decent session in with the help of some persuasive encouragement from Kate and the thought of udon noodles for dinner! Sally and I went out for food when we got back and I got some more salad and sashimi for the next couple of days. Fingers are feeling it already so iced them a bit and tried to ease some shoulder ache in the bath. Easier training day today (Wednesday) so time to do some video analysis and get a long physio session in. Think Ben is bring his electro acupuncture needles into the equation! The only place open for a coffee at 6.30am in McDonalds so sat in there, caught up on my training diaries and now back to the room to wake up Sally Ann. MORNING!!!!!!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

British Open 2012