A lot of folk have given me plenty of loving falk over the regular 'suprises' I throw into the live and video-on-demand bike sessions. It is not uncommon for me to guide the class through the final 6 minutes of calm building effort, and then suddenly add on 3, 4, 5 or more minutes of real challenge. I often don’t tell the athletes how long the physical and mental torture might last.
It is not because I am cruel. I am coaching.
Here is the key. A major part of performance preparation is building the power, fitness and resilience to be physically prepared to perform across race day. We map appropriate training that delivers highly specific training stress, forcing adaptations, and you improve.
Job done, right? Not quite.
Actual race day performance requires you to be able to navigate challenges via problem solving, and be able to stay engaged, focused and present despite being in claustrophobic discomfort. You need to avoid panic or retreat when it feels like the world is beginning to close in on you. This is a huge element of your race readiness, and it is something to lean into in training.
When you find yourself in pain, or you feel claustrophobic with discomfort, it is a training opportunity. You can train your brain to respond and not react.
Here are the keys:
- Interact with the discomfort. Don’t run from it, or try to make it go away. It is a by-product of your work and it is normal, so feel free to accept it and allow the sensations become a signal of excellence.
- Focus on controllables. Don’t panic, don’t fret. Instead, channel your energy into all the elements that help you perform and move forward. Good posture, good form, navigating terrain and more. Remember what we say: ‘form under fatigue’. There is an art to refining it.
- Problem solve. You can face the challenges that you will face on race day. OK, perhaps not quite the same challenges, but the same themes. Isn’t it better to face adversity in training, to use it as an opportunity to refine your approach and gain wisdom in overcoming strife?
Next time you are forced into adversity, or you have a really tough day of training, shift the lens. It isn’t a bad day. It isn’t a failure because you failed to hit your supposed magical numbers. It is a character builder and a chance for you to improve. Improve your ability to handle and navigate ‘the suck’.
Lean in. You will evolve.
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