Thursday, 25 June 2015

When not listening is the right thing to do...

Listening is a good thing, I've even run courses to help people understand how to really listen to themselves and others, not just to words, but to tone, to meaning, to what the body is telling us, in order to ensure full understanding of what someone is saying, or not saying.

In sport we need to listen to our body and the voices in our head, those parts of us that help us train, harder, faster, smarter in order to deliver on the pitch, in a race, on the field, wherever we are competing.  Every voice we have in our head (you can admit to having a few and believe me there's more than you think...) is a part of us that has its own understanding of how the world works and their part in it.  We've all had those moments when part of us wants to do one thing and another part wants to do something else and we have to put up with the ensuing argument going on in our head...

However as with everything there are times when not listening is really useful.  Those times when a part of us says, 'we can't', 'this might hurt', 'are you sure you really want this enough', I'm sure you have your own examples.  What we need to do is understand what this particular voice / part of us is trying to achieve.  For although the way it gets us to behave may seem to be against want we want, it has a purpose that is positive for us - just doesn't understand how to deliver it.  By understanding what it believes to be true we can then get it to work with us and not feel as though part of us is working against what we want to achieve.  This means we can then call on that part when we need it, rather than it appearing at an inopportune moment, we are then in control and make choices quickly and easily to do what we need to do in the moment.

This is what mental strategies and mindset development is all about - understanding when we get in our own way, why it's happening and what we can do about it, before it interferes with our performance.

And sometimes we will just stick our fingers in our ears and sing la, la, la until we've proved that particular doubting voice wrong!

The frogs and the tower

There once was a bunch of tiny frogs...
... who arranged a running competition. The goal was to reach the top of a very high tower. A big crowd had gathered around the tower to see the race and cheer on the contestants...
The race began...
Honestly, no-one in crowd really believed that the tiny frogs would reach the top of the tower. You heard statements such as:
"Oh, WAY too difficult!!"
"They will NEVER make it to the top".
"Not a chance that they will succeed. The tower is too high!"
The tiny frogs began collapsing. One by one...
... Except for those who in a fresh tempo were climbing higher and higher...
The crowd continued to yell
"It is too difficult!!! No one will make it!"
More tiny frogs got tired and gave up...
...But ONE continued higher and higher and higher...
This one wouldn't give up!
At the end, everyone else had given up climbing the tower. Except for the one tiny frog who, after a big effort, was the only one who reached the top!
THEN all of the other tiny frogs naturally wanted to know how this one frog managed to do it?
A contestant asked the tiny frog how the one who succeeded had found the strength to reach the goal?
It turned out...

That the winner was deaf.

What are you concentrating on listening to and is it helping you or hindering you?

Thursday, 4 June 2015

What am I actually afraid of...?

What am I actually afraid of...?

This week will see my first foray into Open Water swim racing as part of a team at the Jubilee Swim - although the team I'm in are mainly first timers we all want to do well.  But what does that actually mean and what am I afraid of!

Well I'm not afraid of swimming my 1.9K route and I'm not that worried about the fact it will be my first mass start and all the elbows and kicks that can bring.  I know that I do not panic in water and that if I do get my goggles knocked off or hit on the head I will give myself the time to deal with it - this has made it sound all a bit dangerous at the start and I am actually expecting it to go smoothly!

So what am I afraid of..?

Not swimming quickly enough... enough for what... this spiral of thinking has no real answer because at the moment I have no true benchmark for what I'm about to do - it's my first time so surely whatever time I get just is the time I get!  What I need to do is change how I think about it and what would be more useful to think is...

How do I give my best?

To give my best in that moment on my swim and to give the best I can in preparing for that swim.  This is now something I can control, because it doesn't rely on anyone or anything outside of my control, it relies on me.

This isn't about trying my best and leaving room for 'could have done more, should have done this' but actually giving it my all and coming out at the end thoroughly tired and happy (and then realise I need to get some running gear on to jog the rest of the 8K down the river to cheer on my team mates!)

What I will keep in mind is this quote

Always do your best.  Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick.  Under any circumstance simply do your best and you will avoid self judgement, self abuse and regret.
Miguel Angel Ruiz, Author

Very often we need to go past what we think we are afraid of to face what's actually holding us back, in my case the feeling of letting the team down and embarrassment of a swim time that's 'not as good' as others - the problem being those I'm comparing myself to have been training harder, for longer and more specifically than me and so the comparison just isn't equal - and anyhoo I'm an Ultra Runner, not a swimmer!

So what are you going to give your best to this weekend?