I ran a race . . .
I always ensure that my own health and fitness training follows exactly the same protocols that we apply with our Personal Training Clients and my own sessions cover all the key constituents of a balanced training programme, ie: weight-training, stretching, core and co-ordination exercises and cardiovascular training – all underpinned by a good nutritional base.
However my first love is running and I’ve been competing since the early eighties at distances from 5K on the track through to the Ultra-Marathon. So with that in mind, I wasn’t at all fazed a week or so ago when I decided at short notice to enter the Guilden Sutton 10K road-race – an event I’d raced some ten times in previous years. My pre-race routine was sound; an early breakfast, down to the start to register and allowing plenty of time for a thorough warm-up and final preparation. Although I’m not currently racing at my best, I had pre-calculated my intended split times for each kilometre and expected finishing time and I was fully prepared.
During my warm-up it was raining hard but the clouds stopped some ten minutes before the gun and with negligible wind, the conditions were excellent. I felt good and I lined up well primed and ready to go. And that’s as good as it ever got.
Whilst the first two kilometres went exactly to plan, with my split times within a couple of seconds of my target, I already knew that things weren’t right because the effort that I was having to generate to maintain my goal pace was far too great at such an early stage in the race. Oh dear! Hence as the kilometres clicked by, my pace slipped (each one taking a little longer than the last), my intended finishing time evaporated and what had started as a fresh, morning run with a couple of hundred like-minded souls, turned into a relentless grind to the finish, all the while knowing that with every foot-strike, my performance was faltering. Not for want of effort I should add. Now, if there’s one thing that I’ve always been able to achieve, that’s operating at my limit for extended periods of time – effectively what endurance running is all about. But not this time! So during what seemed like an interminable time before I finally crossed the finish line, I attempted to distract myself by trying to identify why ‘today wasn’t my day’.
Indeed so bad did I feel that in tandem with these thoughts, the attraction of quitting continually entered my mind and it took a considerable effort to replace that negativity with my focus on keeping going! Overall it was a bad day at the office!
So what am I saying here? Okay, at one level, I’m demonstrating that we can all have a bad day. However more importantly, I’m looking at commitment. None of us are elite athletes, who seek to line up for every training session, fully rested, completely prepared and totally ready to achieve maximum benefits from each and every workout. Unfortunately, for us mere mortals, life has an awkward habit of getting in the way with little hiccups such as working, ferrying the kids around and a myriad of day-to-day tasks that can all conspire to distract us from being our very best. Tough! That’s just how it is! The key issue here is – what do you do?
1. Option A – make an excuse, don’t bother, give in.
2. Option B – put your head down, make the best of it and do your best.
Well it’s not easy, as I’ve recounted above but my vote goes for Option B every time and so this week I’m looking at strategies that you can use when the chips are down to make sure that you get out there, just do it and keep on keeping on, irrespective of what ‘life problems’ conspire to do to stall your progress.
1. Don’t give up! Possibly obvious this one but when the chips are down, you’re tired and that little voice is nagging away saying ‘don’t’ – well your response is to ‘do’. You can slow your pace, adapt your workout, back off a little but giving up isn’t in the rule book!
2. At least make a start. ‘I’m tired, I’ve too much on, the ironing needs doing’ and other typical tasks will still be there – you’re not emigrating, just taking a little time out for you. Yes, you should listen to what your body’s telling you but fatigue often stems from inactivity and good time management means that if you work and plan smart, you can factor a whole lot more into your life.
3. A little is better than nothing. If time pressures or chores make it seem impossible for you to get active, at least do something. On more than one occasion I’ve started a session and either through listening to my body or because of time, I’ve reduced the duration but still done something. That way you’re keeping your hand in. Remember, the longer you don’t, the harder it becomes to do.
4. Substitution works. Okay, so you can’t get out to your exercise class, gym session or run but that’s not the end of it. At the top of this column I listed all the key components of a well balanced exercise routine so if gym work or cardiovascular training is out then substitute something else that’s still of benefit. Stretching in front of the TV, a couple of core exercises in the lounge – anything is possible - if you apply yourself and refuse to take the easy option.
5. No excuses! Don’t let an excuse (of any sort!) creep into your vernacular. I’m tired, I’m too busy, the weather’s too hot/cold/wet/windy are rubbish and prohibited!
6. Do a deal. A trick that I use is to say to myself things like ‘if you manage a full set of repetitions on this exercise you can pack up for the day’ (but I don’t pack up!) or ‘if you complete the next mile in XX time, you’ll win your next race’ (I don’t win!) but these silly little mental tricks can really help you stay focused and achieve much more when the devil on the other shoulder is trying to get you to quit.
7. . . . and finally, As for me, well I’m employing my own strategies and putting my unsuccessful 10K race down to ‘a bad hair day!’ and basically, just getting on with it. One bad race doesn’t mean that you’ve suddenly lost a ton of fitness or you’re finished – which I’ll prove after some more training and a simple re-focus. Come on, it’s Option B EVERY TIME! So keep on keeping on from all the body4life health & fitness Team – that’s me, Duncan, Dave, Alison and Tony (we never give up!).
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