How would you best define effort? What does this mean and how is it relevant for you as an athlete?
As a coach and therapist, the words effort and efforting are important words to have clarity around. On the surface, effort may appear a simple concept. It’s your gauge of intensity right? However how do you gauge that intensity, or effort? Is it the speed or power of your effort? Is it your heart rate during the effort? Is it the level of focus during your effort? Am I concentrating hard on this effort? Am I making enough of an effort to make this session worthwhile? My year worthwhile? My life worthwhile?
I’ve been around long enough to get a clear picture of how athletes and people generally tend to effort. One of the most obvious things I’ve noticed with athletes is the importance placed on the way in which they effort.
In reality effort is actually a very complex term. As an athlete, we often don’t simply feel our effort, but instead think about and judge it too. This is what we call judgment of your mind. It’s all too easy to expend a mountain of energy for very little return if your effort is largely based around the judgment of your mind. How often do you notice your mind wanting to control and measure your effort? How often do you seek proof that what your doing in training is working?
This is based believe it or not around our childhood conditioning. As adults we mirror what we learn in our childhood, and most of this learning is unconscious ie. we are not aware of this learning. To keep us safe in childhood our conditioning leans heavily towards control and judgment of what is happening, in order to keep our parents happy. This is all well and good when we are children, but there is a problem when you an adult and an athlete trying to perform and train to realize your full potential.
The judgmental mind wants to make a recording of everything you are doing in training, its measuring this session against your last even while you are doing it, its jumping up and saying “hey how come you were holding 5 watts better than this last session? Why isn’t the speed the same? Is there more wind today? Maybe the humidity is higher?” On and on it goes, the judgmental mind, and you know what? This is what your mind sees as effort. This is what you come to believe is effort. But this is not effort, this is “efforting”. In psychological terms this is what I call a lot of hard mental effort for very little return. I have a theory that this is what the real meaning of burnout refers to. Without the judgmental mind, and without “efforting”, you are simply left with awareness.
Awareness for me is simply feeling and being aware in your body of what is happening right now. You can’t develop great technique without being present in your own body. This simply means to feel your body from the inside out (ie) what does it feel like to ride or run or swim with good power for smooth seamless technique? Can you instinctively learn to train without it feeling like a mental effort? The answer to that is absolutely, and furthermore to advance to your potential I believe that you must.
It comes down to realizing and learning that our bodies have an instinctual intelligence of their own that is separate from the mind. It’s a leap of faith for most people to accept that yes, this is the truth of it. If you think about where your emotions are held, Happiness, Sadness, Anger, Love etc you will realize that they are not felt in the mind, they are felt in the body. Desire is another big one, you don’t think desire – it comes from your gut, it’s a felt sense.
Realize these few truths about yourself, and you will soon realize that training is also a felt sense, and then ask yourself a simple question. How do I trip myself up in training with my mind? How do I effort? How much is this mind activity costing me in terms of effort?
Now ask yourself another question about your whole life. How much mind agitation do I put myself through?
You are your own heaven and your own hell, you make the call at every moment. Be at ease.