I recently had the opportunity to spend a day with Adam Morka and Emily Batty. It was an amazing experience to be a fly on the wall during a day in the lives of two elite athletes such as these.
Adam and Emily live in a beautiful, quaint log cabin on the Batty family farmlands in Brooklin, Ontario. They live a modest life and everything surrounding them is about wholesome, healthy living. They are united and happy along their journey to success and have found incredible strength and support in each other.
Working with people like this is the best part of my job. Their energy and attitude is infectious and their outlook on life inspiring. Adam and Emily are as dedicated as they come. Their achievements can only be attributed to their blood, sweat and tears. These two are the real deal. I hope you will find this interview and the images within as inspirational as I did.
RFG: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Adam: Well I am originally from Manitoba, moved to Ontario in 2005 with my family. I have been racing and training at a high level for 6+ years now and as it stands now, I have transitioned to more coaching and starting January I will be working on a 3 year business degree via correspondence. Life is good, I am really enjoying it.
Emily: Well I grew up on a cattle farm in Brooklin Ontario. I have 3 other siblings who all ride and actively still train. Originally this is how I became involved with cycling. I followed my dad and brothers around on bikes and this eventually lead current race career. I have always been really passionate about it and loved it.
RFG: How and when did you guys meet?
Emily: I think the first time we actually met was at Hardwood Ski and Bike. I was there to get tested and Adam was riding the rollers in the next room over. It was a short conversation although we grew close quickly and never looked back.
RFG: How would you describe Adam?
Emily: Adam is a pretty fun guy. He can be serious at times but his quite calm demeanor has always intrigued me. Sometimes he can get really focused and I have to get him off “the focused train”. He really enjoys helping so many people, sometimes taking on more then he likely should but isn’t happy unless his plate is full.
RFG: How would you describe Emily?
Adam: Emily is one of the most down to earth people I have met. She is simple, easily content, generous and has a huge heart. She is always herself, there is no fake with Emily, she is a inspiration for many.
RFG: What is it like training, racing and traveling together as much as you do?
Adam: I think that is one of our biggest advantages, we are always there for each other through the good and the bad. We can quickly pick one another up if need be, I can make on the fly training changes and I am also there for Emily when it comes to the races. We pre ride the world cups together and prepare each step along the way together.
Emily: Its pretty amazing to be able to spend as much time together as we do. We continue to evolve our relationship and careers together and that is really special.
RFG: What are the roles that you each play in each other’s lives along this journey?
Adam: Well we live a fairly unique relationship. We have the coach athlete relationship and we have our own personal relationship. When I started training Emily in 2009, I had promised her a World Championship win and ultimately I will see that through, there is no doubt in my mind.
Emily: In any relationship you always balance each other. I like to keep things fun and take a relaxed approach to life and the relationship. We are usually so focused on bigger, better, results and performance that I have to take it down a notch sometimes.
RFG: What were your lives like before racing? What might they look like down the road, after racing?
Adam: Prior to bike racing I was always practicing sport at a high level, sport really shaped me as a person and who I am today. I think we will always be involved with cycling in some form. We both love the sport so much, when your passionate about something and you are able to apply it, you can get some pretty special achievements.
Emily: Well I definitely want to be involved in giving back. I have so many big ideas for my future that will feed off where I’ve come from, people I’ve met, experience to share etc. I’m a healthy living advocate which I think is so important. I would love to get more involved with things i’m passionate about… healthy/actively living, women’s sport…. Whether for business, sport, or even just awareness. I could really see myself involved with complains such as Trek or Lululemon down the road.
RFG: What percentage of your lives is normal, off bike living? What do you like to do during that time?
Adam: Sport itself is fairly high energy, it is nice to take it down a notch once in a while. A weekend of dirt biking is pretty amazing and next to that watching a movie, some casual research on the computer, listening to inspiring speakers on ted.com, or cooking a nice meal with friends family and of course some drinks.
Emily: For me its all about family and friends off the bike. I love being social and getting out there and connecting with people. Next to that I would say dirt biking, a hike on the farm going to see the animals. I pretty much love outside and spend most of my time outdoors.
RFG: Where does most of your training take place on the road or in the gym?
Adam: The bulk of training is done on the road. You need some serious on the bike time to improve the physiological elements specific to XCO racing. We spend some time in the gym, most of our strength routine is geared towards improving muscular endurance. The program can be done year round without weights, only in the off season do we emphasize the strength training program with weights, tools and hard sets at pace.
RFG: What does a segmented year of training look like for each of you? Do your programs sync or are there any conflicts?
Adam: Our training programs have always synced. Its crucial when we are always on the same schedule, same races, same travel, same moods etc. Our training program can be elaborate at times. Start the new year with a transition, a generalized preparation phase, a pretty heavily focused aerobic phase, then a strict build phase that leads us into the race season which is filled with maintenance and some key timing. The layout & patterns are crucial, the training themes are very structured and the training is geared 100% towards achieving goals and results. Clear objectives are very important and where you really put your focus is important, you can really dictate the highs and low’s this way.
RFG: What changes, if any, did this Olympic year bring to that regular training program?
Adam: The biggest change was starting earlier. The 2012 season started early March, there was not much breathing room and Emily had some improvements to be made exiting her 2011 season. We structured the program to improve weaknesses and objectives that are specific to the current World Cup racing we see today. The sport isn’t the same it used to be 2 years ago, its faster, more technically demanding and tactical. You need to be working on many pieces of the puzzle year round.
Emily: The biggest changes were starting earlier, and also channeling focus when it was time. I have always been able to do so although the Olympic year is full of distractions and it is really difficult to loose that straight line focus, you are being pulled so many directions. Another was the sheer amount of travel, Training camp after training camp, race after race, we hadn’t spent anytime at home since November 2011.
RFG: What was the Olympic experience like for each of you?
Adam: The Olympic experience was pretty amazing. I have a serious level of admiration for all athletes, and the Olympics is the biggest sporting stage any athlete can compete on. You can really feel the energy in the air, the people are so passionate… fans, athletes, volunteers, coaches, staff and many more, its just amazing on so many different levels.
Emily: Well you get treated pretty much like a celebrity. You really have to see it to believe it when you are in the village. Hair salons, pedicures, any kind of food you want, shuttles everywhere, vip access to anything. That’s some of the behind scenes you don’t hear about. All the different sport and athletes is pretty amazing too, when your in the village its nothing to see well known successful Olympians. We are all there for the same reason. Mine was very bitter sweet though. I had set out for something but was dealt a first ever injury three days before our race. It’s made for one very interesting chapter to say the least.
RFG: What are some of your best practices with regards to nutrition?
Adam: Nutrition can often be over complicated although it can be a real life changer if you get it right. We are big believers of cutting out gluten, most grain products and many processed foods. We like to look for foods that have holistic benefits to them and those that are nutritionally superior. Fruit, veggies, nuts, meat, eggs, spices and some rice, it doesn’t have to be complicated and the more processed foods you cut out the more consistent and better you feel. Optimizing your own weight doesn’t become a challenge, it just naturally happens when you choose the right foods and of course eating within your daily caloric expenditure.
RFG: What does a typical day look like for you?
Adam: Well I usually get up around 6:30-7:00, make some breakfast, then coffee. I like to sit early do some computer work, communicate with my athletes, do some reading online. Its important I keep myself motivated or else you can get a pretty negative chain effect down the line. After 10/11 we will head out training, often bike first followed by strength/core.
Post training which is usually 2-4 hours its all about the recovery routine. Stretching rolling, post workout food. Usually come home to more computer work, e-mails can get out of hand these day’s sometimes 20+ to replies to get caught up so communication takes up a big part of my day. In the evening we will make a pretty nice dinner and sometimes go out afterwards maybe some grocery shopping, a movie often we will head yoga every second day then just before bed follow up with more recovery training. Thats one of the most important part’s and it goes beyond just sitting on the couch. Come January likely all my spare time will be filled between school, work and also keeping myself in shape. I have a few racing aspirations next year although my plate is pretty full and when you add all the traveling on top of that its gets pretty hard to race at a high level.
Emily: Training takes up the bulk of my day. I usually wake up, make breakfast, jump on Facebook or twitter- reply to fans. I try to keep people updated, or say hello, or do a Facebook post regularly which is something I enjoy doing. By the time I have sat for a few hours I usually do some active stretching/rolling before I get ready to go out on the bike. Sometimes you wake up fatigued enough from the last day of training that you need the morning recovery session. I usually train anywhere from 2-5 hours and that goes far beyond the bike with strength, core, yoga, stretching, rolling, massage. It really is a full time job being an endurance athlete. The amount of kilojoules you expend in one day is 2 or 3x that of the average person. In the evening its more recovery, dinner, early bed.
RFG: What are your goals for the 2013 racing season.
Adam: Nationals at Hardwood Ski and Bike would be my main goal as far as racing goes. School, work and business is my priority right now.
Emily: I am really focused on World Championships in South Africa. I would also like to win a World Cup this year. I think I am ready to make that next jump and I am pretty focused given on how my 2012 ended.
RFG: Who or what inspires you to train hard day in day out and live the life of a professional athlete?
Adam: I am fairly self motivated although the athletes that I work with and the will to have a good future post sport really drives me. I have high self standards and if I wasn’t giving it my all for my athletes and myself I would feel pretty down about that. I have some pretty motivating people in my life, they inspire me to be better all the time. I often keep myself motivated by learning and watching some inspirational videos or speakers.
Emily: Well I always aspire to be better then my previous performance. That’s what really gets me on the bike everyday. Knowing that what your doing today is going to better tomorrow motivates me to keep repeating and layering day after day. The best part of it all is enjoying the fruits of your labour, training day after day and then come that first race of the season your so excited to see what you have accomplished.
Huge thanks to Emily and Adam for letting me spend this incredible day with them. To learn more and follow them along on their journey ,check out their websites.