You’ve heard it before – you are often your own biggest enemy. In each of our heads, the inner critic often tries to plant fear, self-doubt or disbelief into ourselves. In turn, this influences our attitudes, behavior and performance in sport. Here are the ten most common habits we allow to self destruct ourselves and some ideas on how you can avoid making these costly mistakes.
Fast Is (Not) Fast
There is a misconception that fast performance results from fast training. Not true. Fast performance results from a combination of sound training balanced with recovery. In other words, for as much as you train fast you will likely also train slow. “Slow” training is often described as training in heart zones 1 – 2. At these lower heart zones your body is unstressed enough to build aerobic capacity or but active enough to gently recover. The most important time to go slow is when your coach prescribes an active recovery day, during warm ups or in cool down. Active recovery is just that – your body is active enough to get the blood flowing but the activity is easy enough to promote recovery. Generally this occurs in heart rate zone 1. Warming up before activities should start slowly in zone 1 and often build slowly to low zone 2 by the end. Cool downs should take place in zone 1. Athletes often report this is difficult as the heart rates become victim of dehydration later in a workout. Bringing the heart rate down may cause you to go very, very slow which is very frustrating yet that is ok. Proper warm ups and cool downs help with injury prevention and recovery. Training in lower heart rate zones builds your endurance and aerobic capacity. Each of these things builds the foundation you need for faster performance in the future.
Keeping up with the Jones’
Or the Lovatos…you know what I mean. What your friend, a top pro, someone 10 years into the sport, your spouse or even your lane mate is doing for training is not entirely relevant to you. Unless you are built with the same genetic potential, body type, circulatory systems, athletic background, strengths or weaknesses, someone else’s training regimen or workouts are just that – theirs. Often athletes have the fear that their training is not enough – not good enough, not hard enough, not frequent enough. They read magazines, blogs, overhear stories of other athletes’ training and think that’s what I need to do. Not true. A good coach will plan workouts specifically designed for you – your strengths, weaknesses and goals. Trusting the training and their guidance will further improve your ability to benefit from the training plan. It comes down to a simple phrase keep your eyes on your own plate or in the arena of sports – your plate is your own prize. Your training plan is designed with you in mind. Trust in your training, stay actively engaged in your process and allow the workouts to work for you without worrying about what everyone else is doing.
Not Remembering To Recover
It is no secret that the benefits of hard work are only reaped in recovery. Taking the time to recover after each workout is critical to your success with the next workout and the training program overall. Most importantly, the 30 minute window after a workout is crucial for replenishment and rehydration. Other factors that may improve your ability recover include; eating well-rounded & adequate nutrition daily, gentle stretching, sports massage, epsom salt baths, taking care of injuries/aches as soon as they appear, icing of trouble areas and – most importantly – sleep. Without recovery, regeneration cannot occur. Whether this regeneration is physical or psychological, recovery is a necessary part of each workout that will allow you to improve over time and stay injury-free.
It is trust that replacing equipment such as running or cycling shoes and getting professional bike fits are expensive. However, injury is even more costly in terms of services, treatment and your mind. Find a reputable running store that will observe your gait, consider your history and ask about your training goals. Get a shoe that is meant for who you are and what you do. From there, replace your shoes every 300 – 500 miles. Cycling shoes, bike fit – these are very expensive yet costly if they are not just right for you. Shoes that are too tight or a seat that is too high and add up to injury quickly when you think of how many times your legs turn those pedals a hour. Take the time to get the right equipment and replace it as needed.
Sabotage is something most of us are very good at. Examples; eating a cheeseburger for lunch before your long run, saving that track workout until the middle of the day, going to bed too late for morning masters. Many of us are masters of sabotaging our workout before it even begins. In addition, we sabotage ourselves by selling ourselves short. We tell ourselves there’s no way I can hit those intervals, it’s too windy to ride well today. The power of suggestion is very suggestive indeed and often we fulfill our own prophecies. Set yourself up for success. Give yourself a chance to succeed with the workout – whether by waking up early, eating clean for the day or thinking of nothing but positive thoughts.
Doing Yourself In With Dishonesty
Spending time to honestly assess yourself is important for continuous renewal and improvement. Often as athletes we know our own limiters, weaknesses and fears. It’s simply a matter of being honest with ourselves and making the commitment to change. If you struggle with open water, take the time to seek out practices or groups that hold open water practices or employ a coach who will give you techniques to work through this. If biking outside is a fear factor, spend the time to think through why and ask family members, a coach or even a therapist how you can work around these fears. Never feel you are a victim or yourself – there are ways to overcome yourself but you must take the first step – admit there is something to overcome then actively work to improve it.
Getting Lost in the Details
The details are the day to day. How many times do we measure ourselves or performance day to day only to get frustrated because every workout does not result in a personal best or a win? Using the day to day ruler can quickly spiral into feelings of failure or disappointment. Be sure to think through the purpose of a workout. Is a recovery spin really a time to worry about your average speed? Is an easy run best done on a marked course? It’s important to realize that not every workout can be a breakthrough. In fact, most athletes can handle one breakthrough workout in each sport per week. Other workouts are generally for strength, endurance or active recovery. Rather than evaluating yourself every day, look for patterns over time. Don’t get so lost in the details that you eventually cannot function in the sport. Take each workout for what it is; go easy when it’s time to go easy, forget about pace and let your thoughts drift. Focus intently on key/breakthrough workouts looking for the best performances here.
Taking Sport Too Seriously
Think about the meaning of sport in your life. Most of us started to get fit, to lose weight, to meet friends, to have fun. When you find yourself taking sport too seriously, it’s time to step back and reconnect with the original intent or the play-based nature of sport. Think of all of the positive experiences you have gained from sport, the places it has taken you, the people you have met. When you find things are too overwhelming, rigid or serious, it’s time to go back to the basics and look for the little things. It might be something simple like the sunrise you watched on your morning run. Meeting your friends each morning at masters. Most of us do not get paid to do sport – we enjoy it and the benefits it brings to our body and mind. Keep the purpose in mind, remember to enjoy sport like children enjoy play and keep a rational mind about your training and goals.
Let’s face it – we all can’t be Chrissie Wellington or Chris McCormack. Heck most of us out there are just trying to finish a race. Be honest with who you are and what you are hoping to achieve in the sport. Don’t overstep your expectations in sport. In other words, don’t get too greedy too quick. When you look at the peak performers in sport, most have years of athletic experience behind their names. Rising to the top is very long, arduous process and not always linear. If you are new to the sport or sport in general, don’t expect to show up at your first Ironman and qualify for Kona. Respect the sport and what it takes to achieve peak performance. If you want to rise to the top of your age group or a race, look at those that have been their before and ask them what it takes. Often it takes years of hard work, planning, smaller successes and improvement before you find yourself at a big breakthrough. Sports in general reward those that are patient, trusting, hard working and smart. And the longer you are in sport, the harder you have to work for smaller improvements. Expecting a quick fix, a fast rise or overnight success is not realistic nor true to yourself.
Not Asking For Help
If your goals are big – like tackling a first triathlon or taking on Ironman, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Most coaches love the sport and see it as more than a business – it’s a passion, a continuous education and a way to get people motivated about a healthy life. That said, most coaches are resources for further information or assistance in the sport. Whether you are interested in enlisting their coaching services to complete your event or simply ask advice for the best local running store, they are a gateway to the sport that is typically open to all.
Sports is hard enough – take the time to learn to become less hard on yourself, more trusting of your training, willing to seek out assistance and honestly assessing yourself to promote your most enjoyable, healthy and safe experience in the sport.