Passion is an element necessary for what we do. As athletes we make sacrifices in our personal life and allocate a portion of our limited financial and time budgets to the cause of obtaining our objectives and personal goals. We get up early to train, ride in hostile weather, or labor through tedious indoor workouts week after week. We’ll skip a dessert, but not a gym workout. This is where the commitment begins, but is also where it ends for some athletes.
What I often see is that the athlete’s commitment is limited to the activities or workouts from day to day but not to the details that can make the difference in the efficacy of the process. Clearly, regular, consistent workouts must be completed in order to obtain our objectives and progress to our goals. I also see process mistaken for commitment.
Commitment to being the best possible athlete you can must go beyond following a schedule and completing workouts. Commitment is in the details of how you live your daily life, how you track your training, listen to and take care of your body, and your efforts to change whatever is holding you back from reaching your goals.
Not all of us can plan our day around our workouts like professional athletes, but we do have options and must choose carefully. If you make a commitment to a fitness or performance goal make sure it’s realistic given all the other obligations in your life. You need to then be careful not to take on any extra obligations in your life unless you carefully measure how they will affect your athletic goals. I’m not suggesting that you risk losing your job, or family to win a race. What I am asking is that you be realistic and fully understand what it will take to reach your goals before making a commitment to them and then following through by making the necessary adjustments and sacrifices in your life. Yes, it is necessary to sacrifice something to gain something here.
When an athlete expects to be able to train to complete an Ironman in less than eleven hours, but also works 60 hours a week, is raising three children single handed, and going to school part time they are not being realistic and are not likely to succeed. In fact, each aspect of their life may suffer. They will be too tired to work or study, spend quality time with family, and their training may be less productive as well. Something has to go. It’s not likely that it will be he kids, but I have seen a spouse leave an athlete that was apparently spending more time training than their current life could tolerate.
The athlete with a commitment to their long term goals also knows that skipping a workout when their body is not up to the task will not set them back but will rather keep them moving forward. Committed athletes know the benefit of maintaining balance in their lives. When the committed athlete asks themselves “what can I do today to make myself a better athlete” the answer may be rest.
The athlete that attempts to train through an injury rather than adjust their goals believes they are committed, when they are not. They are acting obsessively rather than remaining committed to their objectives. Staying injured is not the way to progress and only creates long-term set backs. This is when obsession is mistaken as passion, or commitment.
The athlete that has poor pedaling mechanics can’t put that in the back of their mind and continue as usual. They must make it their priority to work on that issue each and every day they ride. If you’re just out “riding” your bike then what advantage do you have over everyone else out riding their bike? View every workout as an opportunity to improve. Spend time during each ride practicing something. Focus on improving your breathing technique, body relaxation, concentration, riding skills, and pedaling mechanics. Your coach should provide you with ideas and feed back about these areas, but it is your job to follow through and work on these as often as possible.
Meals must be planned to meet our needs and assure that we can train from day to day. Missing an afternoon meal can be the difference between a quality workout/race, or a sluggish effort with little benefit. Don’t use the excuse that you were busy at work. Plan ahead. Take a lunch with you so you have it at your desk. Keep a bowl full of energy bars and fresh fruit on your desk. This provides emergency food and a good reminder to keep ourselves fed. Keep a large bottle of water with you at all times and keep drinking.
Don’t lose Track.
What may be missing in an athlete’s commitment is the accurate tracking of the quality of the workouts and recovery. Noting how your legs felt on a given day can lead to more successful workout planning and adjusting than knowing what the pro down the street, or your teammate did today.
If you don’t track how your workouts are going and your body is feeling and responding then you are missing out on an opportunity to get more from your training. When I review training logs I look for patterns that give insight into how an athlete’s body is responding to their training. If the athlete’s comments simply say “I did this workout” how do we know if their body was recovered enough going into the workout, performed the workout effortlessly or struggled.
When an athlete gets sick or becomes too tried to train the first thing I want to know is when this started and why. This is the function of the daily log, and filling it out with useful information is the athlete’s responsibility.
You may reach a point when your body is telling you that it’s had enough and needs additional rest. It’s important to know why. Was it the training load? Was it inadequate nutrition? Was it an increased in work or family obligations? Was it caused by weather that made training more challenging, and did you do the workouts as scheduled? To be able to make the necessary adjustments in an athlete’s schedule without knowing This information is a critical part of the process of developing an athlete’s training plan.
Here is a list of some of the details that the committed athlete is doing:
- Eating before, during, and after breakthrough workouts and races.
- Getting 9+ hours of sleep every night.
- Checking and recording morning resting heart rate: daily.
- Filling out daily metrics.
- Accurately logging daily workout details: including comments on how the body felt/responded.
- Having all equipment ready well in advance of a race.
- Sticking to your workout rather than keeping up with a training partner.
- Practicing skills every week: even when not scheduled.
- Developing a mental training regimen and practicing it regularly.
- Knowing when to say when.
- Making notes about training/racing and reviewing them periodically.
- Filling out detailed race reports.
- Tracking daily calories to assure that nutrition is adequate.
- Checking in with your coach when necessary.
Take personal responsibility for your success!
A coach provides structure, objective feedback, support, knowledge, and experience, but achieving your goals still relies on you taking personal responsibility for your success. You may still see improvements by following an appropriate training plan, but getting the highest possible return for your investment requires your full attention to detail.
Improvements in technique, fitness, and structure begin in the mind. You must first get it clear in your mind what it is that you want to do before you can get your body to engage. Write your goals down and place them somewhere that you will see them daily. Think about your goals each time you get on your bike. Take a few moments before starting a workout to get your mind on the right track. This will get your body on track too. Don’t just jump on your bike and start riding without first fully understanding what the objective of that ride is. Don’t just be out riding your bike everyday. Ride your bike with a purpose. Give yourself an advantage over the other riders out there that are just riding along.
Not Just Riding Along.
If you have poor pedaling mechanics you can’t put that in the back of your mind and continue as usual. Make it your priority to work on that issue each and every day you ride. If you’re just out “riding” your bike then what advantage do you have over everyone else out riding their bike? View every workout as an opportunity to improve. Spend time during each ride practicing something. Focus on improving your breathing technique, body relaxation, concentration, riding skills, and pedaling mechanics. Use the ideas in this book to provide you with the information on how to improve, but it is your job to follow through and work on these as often as possible.
Sure, riding your mountain bike will improve you skills, but give yourself an opportunity to improve more quickly and the potential for even more progress by thinking about what it is that you’re doing.