As you may be able to tell from the picture below I am not in the UK. Instead I am in fact five days into a 15 day training camp in Fuerteventura. This winter escape has the aim of getting some solid miles and strength back into the legs to kickstart training progress for 2016, while of course “trying” to perfect the tan. However, this time away doesn’t just involve “smashing it” in the pool, on the bike or on the trails but time for some extra thinking, so I have been attempting some of that – easier said then done.
This pondering time twinned with my new book; “the Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg, has sparked this blog on the way in which we go about our lives to achieve outcomes, whether motivated by the desire to strive for perfection or just master a new skill.
From a young age when trying to tackle a new, mind boggling skill like tying our laces or riding a bike we are told that despite our struggles or initial epic fails – “Practise makes Perfect.” So we follow this philosophy through our young lives repeating these tasks until it becomes automatic. When you tied your shoe laces this morning could you remember which one you tied first… most probably not. Overtime this act becomes a habit, defined by Duhigg as “the choices that all of us deliberately make at some point, and then stop thinking about but continue doing, often every day.” However, I am not just going to rant on about our automatic morning routines but focus on the habits that can lead to top performance and success.
This is where I want to add on to the above, life moral we are all so common with to something a bit more specific and focused:
“Permanent, perfect practise makes perfect.”
I was first told this by my lacrosse coach, who I do owe much of my sporting success and attitude to. This quote struck me at the time and made so much sense. How was just throwing a ball around aimlessly or shooting at an empty goal going to help me progress in the fast, furious sport of lacrosse, it was not! I needed to make sure I did those manoeuvres correctly every time.
Ok I have moved on from my lacrosse days and don’t need to be learning complex defending and shooting routines to perform under pressure but the principles and approach to training have stayed the same. As a perfectionist, everyday I do aim to execute my sessions how they should be done – whether they include max intervals where I need to push myself to the limit or just a recovery spin where the lower heart rate the better – it all counts and in the bigger picture leads to the end “perfect”. However, like every human being, me included, this isn’t always the case or possible, due to something called life, body and mind – yes all three of those suck but without understanding the possible hurdles along our journey to our “perfect” it will only be pretty unsatisfying.
The best example of this for me in triathlon was with my swim, I am sure some of you can relate. Having come from a very much leg orientated, running background, swimming mentally was my vice and the only way I saw I could overcome this was to just swim, keep swimming and swim again. This time last year I was doing close to 35 kilometres a week in the pool, waking up at 4.30am twice a week to swim in a 50m pool and at all costs I felt I had to finish the set – back, breast, fly inclusive. But what was the result – nothing much in terms of time improvements and an injured shoulder. What I had failed to notice or apply, was the “permanent, perfect” element to my training. I was just continuously practising poor technique and tiredness, that became a habit. In such a technique orientated sport such as swimming my stubborn way was shooting myself in the foot. Looking back it makes sense and since working with my current coach, Mark, on my swim, since February despite swimming less per week and no longer swimming with a club my times have fallen both in training and racing as we have focused on rebuilding the habit loop of good, robust technique so come race day I just have to execute it.
With it being the off-season I would like to stress this as an opportunity for all triathletes to focus on their weaknesses, with that “permanent, perfect practise makes perfect” attitude in mind. Don’t just go about your sessions thinking about your shopping list or morning meeting, make them count. Use your training time as training time and focus on what you are doing, how you are feeling and the aim of the session. This extra attention will pay dividends and make sure your time training to gain those PBs, finish an ironman or be an elite athlete is used to the maximum, so come race day it is a habit and automatic.
“Champions don’t do extraordinary things, they do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking… they follow the habits they have learnt” – Super bowl winning coach Tony Dungy.
Lots of love,