COACH'S CORNER: June 20 - When The Going Gets Tough
Races are coming -- thick n’ fast -- and we have many athletes doing themselves proud with their individual performances across the world. It is wonderful to see, and also sparks a timely thought around fatigue management when the going gets tough in racing.
And it will get tough.
The topic bubbled up in a webinar from this week -- discussing the challenges that might crop up in the middle of an IRONMAN run -- and I feel the subject deserves broader discussion.
In any endurance event you are likely to go through massive dips in energy, mood and motivation. It is how you manage these that determines your performance at the end of the race.
Let’s work through on the best strategy. When you feel a big dip in mood, focus, energy or performance, there are a few things to bear in mind. Let’s outline them:
- Take Action. It is so simple, but the most critical. When you find yourself in a dark spot, you want to be proactive and pragmatic to shift the rhythm or mood. Do something. I should add, feeling sorry for yourself and commencing the plot of your own demise is not being proactive.
- Change the rhythm. The vast majority of folks forget that racing endurance events take a long time. If you are in an over-stress moment, from calories, fatigue or over-pacing, a proactive move for the most confident would be to do something surprising -- back off! A little space and drop in global stress for 3, 5, 10 minutes can do wonders. Drop your effort a notch or two, and settle. Commit to it not being permanent, but a few minutes to let the system and mind settle is not a bad thing. Before you ask, no, I don’t mean in the final mile of a race when you are charging for home.
- Energize. So often, the root cause is a drop in energy, and the vast majority of athletes benefit from consumption of readily available energy. It doesn’t matter what your fueling plan says, take action and consume sugar! Coke, gels, chews. Whatever sounds good -- get it down!
- Suspend disbelief. You have no idea how your body and mind will feel in 10 minutes time, so remain open to you feeling amazing. It happens all the time, and if you just stay patient and focused on the controllables, it is normal for energy to return. Chase feeling better and refuse to allow yourself to spiral into a negative mindset.
- Make small projects. You may have a long way to go in the race. It can feel overwhelming, so break the bigger project into bite-sized projects that you can focus on. If you are 10 miles from home, don't think about all those miles. Think about the coming mile. Every ounce of your focus is to navigate that mile as best you can, with good form and effort, and optimizing energy through fueling and hydration. With that project complete, there is no need to celebrate or look back, begin the next project. It will be another mile, and no more. Your projects remain tight, focused and controllable.
- You are not alone. Finally, realize that your experience isn’t something you should take personally. Every athlete enters these dips, and it is a part of the endurance racing event experience. It is the committed, smart and process focused athletes that emerge and go onto great days. The alternative is mental collapse and performance decline, all avoidable if you manage to not take these phases of the race personally.
Here is the video segment from the webinar.
I hope that you find it useful.
My challenge for us all: Let’s all circle and be the toughest, smartest and highest performing group out there.
How does that sound?
Let’s do it.
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