Sunday, September 25, 2016

The letter "M"

This week's blog is brought to you by the letter "M". Does that bring back memories for you? Anyway, the "M" stands for mindset. I haven't discussed mindset too much outside of nutrition so what a better time than now?

The last two weekends reminded me of mindset as I had back to back sprint triathlon races. Some people may view a sprint triathlon as "easy" because it is so short but it really depends on the athlete's goals. In my case, I try to go as fast as possible, pushing my mental and physical limits. Call it ego or whatever, but as I age, I am finding great pleasure on developing my anaerobic energy system whenever possible. Keep in mind that this is my 23rd year in triathlon so it would be safe to say that I have learned quite a few things along the way and developed a somewhat decent aerobic base that provides me the opportunity to add higher intensity training.

That allows me to focus more on strength training, specifically, heavier lifting, body weight and plyometric exercises. I train this way for a few reasons: 1) because it is extremely time efficient, 2) there are great gains for the short amount of time spent doing it, 3) it translates well into Spartan specific needs, and 4) it carries over into sprint distance triathlon racing quite well if done correctly.

I won't go on and on about the benefits but I will say this...lift light weights for high repetitions and it doesn't touch the mindset you need to make the call to the anaerobic energy system and suffer. Lift heavy, do explosive exercises to failure and now you have the attention of the little voice in your head that tells you to stop. Mindset, in this example, is all about being comfortable being uncomfortable. I'm not talking about all of the time but certainly a good amount so when you are in a race scenario, you know what it feels like to push beyond your limits. Do we even know where those limits are? I doubt many endurance athletes know.

That leads me to the lessons I learned over the last two weeks in my races. My sprint tri last weekend felt great, almost effortless like I wasn't trying. I achieved the outcome result I set for myself prior to the race but upon my post-race analysis, I wasn't happy with my mindset and some of my process goals. Even though my results were excellent, I felt like my mindset was off. I pulled up on the gas when I shouldn't have but it was a great catalyst for this weekend's race mindset. Having come off that experience last weekend, I set a few other goals, one of them being comfortable being uncomfortable. 

My swim was a bit lackluster compared to last week but I still managed to come out of the water first in my category. I was passed by two guys on the bike and decided to try my legs and keep close to them. While this only lasted a few miles as they were stronger cyclists, this is where my mindset was challenged and I am proud to say, I welcomed the uncomfortable feeling in my legs and lungs for the remainder of the bike. I didn't play it safe, worrying about how it would affect my run. Whatever happened would happen I thought. I knew I came in a bit behind these guys into the second transition and while one was not in my age-group, the other was and I had quick decisions to make.

Upon exiting T2, I remembered my quantitive goal for the 5k and knew that I would have to be extremely uncomfortable the entire run to accomplish it. Within the first 1/2 mile, I caught one of the guys who passed me on the bike. Another mile down, breathing hard and beginning to wonder if I would make it to the finish without slowing down, I passed the second guy. I seemed to find a groove, a comfortable feeling being uncomfortable for the last half of the run. I remember feeling that I should just slow down and leave my finish place to chance. Whatever happened, happened. But then I thought back to the previous weekend and knew that I would not be happy with that mindset. Immediately, I threw out that thought, went back to my labored breathing and found another groove. I simply wanted to prove to myself that I could endure being comfortable being uncomfortable.

Have you ever experienced this in your life? Was it a race? At work? In your family? Sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands and not only tell yourself you can do it but also PROVE it. Some people refer to it as "go hard or go home". I think anyone can go hard but not everyone can develop the mindset to embrace what hard really is.

Next time you are in this situation, think about it before you act. Your mind is the gatekeeper to the next level of performance.

As for my race, yes, I did achieve my quantitative goal for my a mere 3 seconds! It worked and now I can close my 2016 triathlon season with a very good mindset!

Enjoy your week!

Coach Bob

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