The pre-race routine of a gold medal winning athlete

Caption: Mark on The One Show
Caption: Mark in his wheelchair at The Hague

When Invictus Games Team UK captain, Rachel Williamson told millions of viewers on BBC One that Skiggle ambassador, Mark Clougherty, was definitely one to look out for on track, she wasn’t wrong. “He has this power in his arms that no one has in their legs and just flies round the laps”, said Rachel.

By the end of day two, Mark had already bagged himself three athletics gold medals and one bronze medal. So, just what pre-race routine does a triple gold medal winning Invictus Games athlete follow? Before heading out to the Games in The Hague, Mark told us what makes the difference for him:

“I know all the things I need to do beforehand,” said Mark. “Some people are open and want to talk to people, others like to shut themselves off and that’s what works for me. I need to take myself into my own world, so the headphones go on and I focus on the music.

“I like to listen to high tempo songs that put a smile on my face, so it can be anything from Funboy 3 from the 80’s to Paul Van Dyk, Metallica, ACDC, Linkin Park and Eminem. It’s a real variety, but always fast tempo tunes, played loud so I can concentrate on the music and nothing else.

“I might not want to engage before the race but catch me afterwards and I’ll be the most talkative person on the planet!”

“My pre-race meal tends to be something like scrambled eggs and beans with bread & butter and fruit juice,” said Mark. “Then of course it’s all about keeping the hydration balance. About 45 minutes before the race, I’ll start with small sips of carb drinks and a carb caffeine gel but will always stop drinking 10 minutes before the race as I’ve got a hiatus hernia. Between races, if timings are short and I can’t make it to the food tent, I’ll just have some carb bars with me to keep me going.”

Warm up
“When it comes to warming up, I need to have a routine,” says Mark. “If I don’t, then that messes with me and I can start to panic or find myself getting a bit agitated and angry, which throws off all the other positive pre-race preparation. I like to have time to take myself off to a quiet part of the stadium or track where I can set my rollers up with the wheelchair and then I know I’m all set. I’ll start with activation work with the band, do stretches on the floor for the upper back on my foam roller, then climb into the wheelchair on the rollers and go through that routine. Then, when they call the race, I can just take my chair off the rollers and I’m good to go.”

Breathing techniques
I deliberately chose a helmet with a mirrored visor so I can see out, but people can’t see me,” said Mark. “That helps me stay in my own world and when the music finishes, I’ll follow some breathing techniques to keep me relaxed and keep any stress at bay.

“You think you’re not good enough, so the breathing exercises help to control the nerves. I always doubt myself. You’ve got to get the balance right because if you get too much adrenalin from the music, it goes against you and can fatigue you. That’s where the breathing helps.”

Click here to watch Mark’s gold medal winning races from Day 2 of The Invictus Games and to see him being interviewed by Alex Jones and JJ Chalmers on BBC’s The One Show.

Well done from everyone at Skiggle, Mark!

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