|All jokes till we actually have to start trying!|
I have 2 fantastic clients who have set themselves a challenge to cover 500km in 5 days on their bikes and running to raise money for cancer research after both losing loved ones to this terrible disease. We have been training together for a while, starting off with a basic strength programme and lots of easy miles and have built up their distances both on bike and feet and they are currently now undertaking their 'dress rehearsal' of three days covering almost 300km. I asked for some daily feedback of a few simple questions and 3 words to describe how they were feeling. One of them, who is physically very strong, was seriously doubting her ability to complete the challenge..where had this come from? Why was she suddenly full of nerves? What could I do? Of course we have all been there, the week before a big event or a practice half ironman, suddenly the challenge ahead seems too big, our bodies too weak and our negative mindset too strong. Her monkey (see The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters for better details! ) had well and truly jumped onto her shoulder and was being given full reign to shout 'you can't do this, ' 'this is too far' and 'you are too busy!' (They both work and have families). The questions started and they both felt tired and perhaps the challenge became bigger than it actually is...a direct e mail was sent back to said lovely lady, saying in no short terms, ....get that monkey out of its cage...think of everything negative you can, sit and just let your worries be and then, feed the monkey a banana, thank him for his opinion, lock his cage and put the key in your back pocket (or words to that effect!) I got a smiley reply back and just now as I type, they are half way through day 2, a text saying 'the monkey is ass up, flat out of the scene!'
What happened? How had she turned this round overnight? Well of course nothing to with physical strength, but.. Belief. She needed her mental strength to come alongside her now physical strength. This takes practice and thats why we train, not just the body, but our brain too. Never under estimate the power of your mind. So the ladies have found their belief. Its always about belief and sometimes you need someone else to believe in you firstly before you can do so yourself.
As the UK ultra season is getting under way and I am reaching a number of 'red boxes' of races on clients plans I have been thinking what I can give them to put the final icing on their training cakes....then I heard this great piece of advice that Bear Grylllis was dishing out to a load of celebrities pretending to be tough in the jungle. Apologies to Bear for adapting his wise words, but this is how I interpreted it and after some thought adapted.
There are three parts to racing, any distance, any sport. Use the following three statements in THIS order and see if you can turn negative sessions or races around. 3 simple key words, to set you back on the straight and narrow - Think, use your Determination and then your Fitness. Don't be mistaken by thinking pure fitness will get you anywhere in life, without careful thought and even more determination you will (I promise- I have been there!) be found weeping by a trail...
1) THE BRAIN
Facing a challenge, any challenge use your brain; take a deep breath, assess the situation, ask yourself what would (insert HERO here- whose yours? Mine is someone very close to me, very handsome, very long suffering and mentally tougher than anyone I know.) do?
Focus on the goal and work or rework out your strategy. In a race if things start going wrong, instead of reaching for the panic button, take a moment, even stop, press refresh and reformulate the plan. Take your time. The goal is still going to have the same finish line, you might just need to take a different route. This is when decisions need to made using your mind, not your ego. And after doing this eat food, always.
2) STRENGTH AND DETERMINATION
|Brain, determination then fitness|
Finally use your fitness. How many times have you seen a field of athletes racing off over the distance at a crazy pace when they have 100 miles to run? How many people use all their fitness up in the first stages of race and rather than using their brains and holding back, plough on only to suffer like a dog in the final stages. Use your fitness wisely, imagine it as a bucket you have filled up during training...every session putting a scoop in, sometimes two. On race day you only have so many scoops to use..dont pick it up and empty it all out leading for the first 30km only to find when you really need it there is nothing left in the can! Keep your powder dry...knowing how strong you are and then when the going starts to get tough, the brain has worked, the determination is in place allow your fitness to show through and ENJOY the race rather than fighting the monkey and a tired body the whole way!
Brain first, determination next and then allow the fitness to flow. I believe that is the biggest lesson any athlete can learn and something I hope to teach my athletes both in training and racing.