As the sun began to rise this morning, it was chilly but bright as I set off for my Sunday run with my dog, Logan.
My running app was tracking my pace, and I was off to a good start.
My rhythmical breathing was perfectly in sync with my foot-strikes on the ground, and I recognised I was in what I call ‘kick-in pace’ from the off – something that, normally takes at least 5-minutes to find.
I thought, “I could beat my best time if I can keep this up.”
I was ‘in-flow’, it all seemed effortless.
I focused on maintaining my foot-strike and breathing rhythm. If my mind began to wander, I brought it quickly back to this focus.
About a quarter way through my run, and I was feeling like an unstoppable Forest Gump-esque runner, able to go like this for days!
But as Logan and I turned a corner in the path edging a field, he suddenly screeched to a halt assuming the ‘I’m having a crap’ stance, complete with the gurning face.
“Ahhhh, $#!+ there goes my PB!”
As I waited (poo bag in hand) for Logan to finish his (steaming) business, I looked back over the fields to see the sun had risen.
And I snapped a pic with my phone after pausing my running app.
All cleared out, Logan and I continued on our way as I attempted to regain my rhythm and focus…
And I reminded myself that the measures I’d intended for the run (the time to complete the distance) were not going to reflect the quality of this run.
The Take Home Points
Don’t only rate your training session by the physical performance, such as distance covered, time to complete, maximum weight lifted, number of sets and reps, heart rate etc.
Also rate your mental focus for the session. Ultimately, this is the most important factor.
Things like illness, injuries, lack of time, or a dog needing to take a dump, all interfere with your perception of what was a productive training session…
When in reality, as long as you are following a progressive training program, all you need to do is three things:
1) Show up
2) Focus on the critical points of the training session
3) Apply sufficient effort
If you’ve done this, you’ve maintained momentum, regardless of what any of the other measures of your session may have been.
Give yourself a ‘pat on the back’. Mentally reward yourself for staying on track regardless of circumstances (good or bad).
I’ve head from a lot of people that are struggling with their training right now. COVID has been one more obstacle to productive training.
And comparing themselves to where they were with their training, they’re finding it hard to motivate themselves to get the ball rolling again.
The problem is often that part of your identity is that you’re a “fighter”.
What are you then, when there are no fights?
You can lose your identity, and your motivation to train along with it.
Instead, make your identity that of a lifelong athlete. Who chooses to fight.
As I approach my 48th birthday next month, I’m well aware of the things my body can no longer tolerate due to historical injuries, the ageing process, and wear and tear over the years.
8 years ago now, I made that shift from competitive pro fighter to 100% performance coach. And I’m surprised how easy I found it – even though it was an elbow injury (requiring surgery) that put the nail in the coffin for my own competitive career.
The reason I found it easy, and didn’t fall into depression, was that I hadn’t lost my identity. Just like I didn’t loose my identity as a mechanical design engineer when I left that career to become a full time fighter and coach.
My identity is someone who works their hardest to get the best, both mentally and physically, out of the raw materials available to me in my body. And then goes on to share what I’ve learned to others looking to do the same.
Someone who enjoys the adventure of a challenge, who seeks to keep stepping outside their comfort zone every time things begin to feel comfortable.
Sometimes I’ve pushed the comfort zone outward, and I need to step out past it’s limits to feel alive again…
And sometimes, circumstances (like injury, age, or COVID) shrink the comfort zone around me leaving me outside in the challenge.
The results are less important to me than the process.
If I’m doing the right things, with the right intentions, then I’m 100% winning.
The fact that I’m getting older presents more limitations, more constraints, but it can’t interfere with my internal application.
I don’t let one bad session, or a bad day, put me off or affect my self-identity.
I know that I’m responsible for how I feel, and that my actions reveal how badly I want something.
I understand that reward is on the other side of sacrifice, and that it takes an investment of energy before I can expect to see any return for my efforts.
I choose to take action and enjoy the process.
I put effort into honestly identifying my personal limiting factors, design my training program around that, and then; show up, focus on the critical points of the session, and apply sufficient effort.
Regardless of your personality type, taking those three steps transforms every training session into a sacrifice of energy that guarantees rewards.
And if your a personality type that enjoys recording and rating your training, you can also try this…
• Score your focus during your session, between 1–10, 10 being 100% focused on the training objectives throughout.
• Score (between 1–10) how your training intensity matched the programmed intensity for that session (note: every session shouldn’t require 100% effort – if so, you’re doing it wrong!)
• Add these two scores together, this is your session’s “Consistency Score”.
This is a measure of how on track you were with your attitude, and how you remained aligned to your self-identity, regardless of any other measure of session progress.
Sometimes, simply showing up for the session is the hardest part of all. And even showing up and warming up, allows you to avoid scoring a big fat ZERO on that session’s consistency score.
And you may surprise yourself with what you can do with a session that you’d already written off. Something is always better than nothing.
Keeping momentum like this casts votes for-or-against the self-identity you have. Don’t underestimate the power this has on your mindset, and your long-term motivation.
At the end of the day, in your heart of hearts, you know if you made the best of your training time with what you had available on that particular day and time. The compound impact on your self-identity adds up.
Make your choices and habits add upward, and not detract downward.