As humans we are constantly judging and comparing things. Sometimes this is effective but many times it really serves no appreciable purpose. It’s always good to shop for a new television by comparing the specifications and price but not real helpful to always compare your training splits to your fastest recorded split. While this may seem obvious, my feeling is that even if we consciously try to ignore the comparison it is probably still going on below the surface of our awareness. And it’s not doing us any favors. Let me give you some personal experiences from my training life.
A few years back I was racing the Snowbird Hillclimb every August. I would usually train by riding it occasionally during the summer and when race day came see what I could do. One year back then I decided to make it a serious commitment to break 60 minutes on the race. I was usually within 5-10 minutes but I knew I needed to take it up a notch. So I decided if I rode Little Cottonwood Canyon EVERY Thursday for 8 weeks I could achieve my goal. My experience surprised me. After the second or third Thursday, part of my brain was expecting each ride to be faster than the previous week’s time. I was more fit and had more experience so why wasn’t this happening? As I tracked each ride over the 8 weeks the times varied up and down. What I saw was overall improvement but not, as part of my brain expected, faster times every week.
It cracked me up that I could hold two dissimilar thoughts in my head at the same time (Kind of the way I feel now about Lance Armstrong): I partly expected each week to record a faster time up the canyon but I also partly knew that wasn’t really going to always happen.
More recently in my focus on triathlon I dedicated a fair amount of time to improving my swim efficiency as I wanted to reduce my race times. I’ve had good success in the past 8 months and now can come out of the water near the front of my age group. What I realized was that it may take another 8 months to chop off another 5 minutes which gave me a big AH HAH moment. The Big Picture came into focus; this was about long term planning and sustainable results, not a quick fix. My swimming skills will continue to improve and stay sharp if I take all of the small steps (4 swims a week with focus on technique, speed and endurance) on a regular basis and that will build my long term goals. It may take another 18 months to really get to the level I want. Just because I had a slow time trial test last week doesn’t give me the right to beat myself up. IT’S NORMAL! Not every test or workout is going to be faster than the one before it. Let’s stop punishing ourselves.
I might humbly suggest this book for those that want to go further with this concept. Even though I read the book 20 years ago, it provides great insight in today’s world and really helped shape my future. http://www.amazon.com/books/dp/0452267560 Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment by George Leonard
PS. My final race time for the Hillclimb was 1 hour and 5 seconds or the way I tell it “59:65” (59 minutes, 65 seconds)
Dr. Michael Cerami owns Utah Sports and Wellness and has been a competitive triathlete for over 18 years. He is available for a no charge consultation one Saturday per month at The Salt Lake Running Company (700 East store) by appointment. He can be reached at 801-486-1818 or online at www.utahsportsandwellness.com