I spend a lot of time as a coach reinforcing one of my pillars of critical action for an athlete, and that is not to make sure that the computer is hardwired to the chassis. I guess most would argue that I am more of a holistic coach, but I don’t look at it that way at all. I am using the information and experience that I have gained from my years as an athlete myself, plus 20 years of coaching at the coal face with professional and age group level athletes. I truly want the best for the athletes that I coach, and hence I spend a lot of time trying to get people to see with clarity the short cuts to success. The secrets are only as far away as our own reflection.
In that sense I don’t see myself as holistic at all, I see myself as realistic. If my athletes want the best then they need the whole picture, not half of it.
So what is the sum of the parts we call training? How does that training work for us on race day?
Its deep, it’s unconscious, and it is going to surface. You can bank on that.
This is how training is imprinted into your cellular memory and into muscle memory. A lot of athletes have this idea that hard work in any form will result in great performances, and I am here with a wakeup call to remind that you that this is fantasy. Why? Because you are a direct product of what you do each day, consciously and un-consciously.
Seriously, do you know what my number one is after all these years of coaching? Keeping in mind that I had a full time pro squad here in Lennox Head between the years 2009-2015. The lack of presence. Regardless of whether you are a beginner or a top flight professional athlete, the stumbling block is the same every time. A lack of presence in training.
Now I am sure you have heard the stories of how fast young teenage swimmers improve, they are like sponges and their technical ability improves very quickly. Of course when we are younger this is true of most things, but have you ever considered that possibly the reason for this is that these young swimmers heads are not are not so congested, and therefore are able to be innately present in their body?
Have you ever tried to be present in your body while you think about the pressure of paying the mortgage, that fight you had with your husband/wife, how much of an arsehole your boss is?
Like I have said to my athletes a million times, it is not possible.
At times I feel like a broken record, but here it comes again folks; What surfaces on race day is what you have consistently practised, I can’t put it in any more simple terms than that. It will surface unconsciously, because this is what happens when we are under pressure; the unconscious will leak into the conscious. This is the benefit of a co-existing ongoing study of ego psychology over the last 8 years, that ran parallel to my work with the professional and age group squad. Personally I don’t think this is the case, I know it is the case. It is the secret to your best performances.
A focus on simply staying present in your body, with a clear head space that is directed only into what is happening in your body, will have the following effects. Here’s the tip of the iceberg for what this practise can improve, and I could go all day.
- Form – Your ability to adjust form and efficiency will explode. This coming out unconsciously on race day equals efficient form while racing.
- Nutrition and Hydration status is improved because the signals the body is sending will get through. The plan is the servant; we are not the servant of the nutrition plan. Plenty of crew are getting this backwards.
- Pain management – Is pain really pain, or is it a mind judgment? I’m here to tell you that more than half the pain is coming from our judgement of it. A clear head space will give you the clarity to know the difference.
- Pacing – This is a no brainer and we are not paying it anywhere near enough attention, or giving it the focus it needs. Why? Because pacing is not a bloody thought – it’s a feeling!
- Head to head competition – There is no pressure if you feel there is none. For every thought you are having there is a body reaction to it. If there is no thought there is no problem. Again you are a result of what you practise. If you can stay with the performance you will be far harder to crack.
- Weakness – It’s only a weakness if you assess it as such. Whilst you are present in trying to work on changing that, you are moving forwards. The second you judge it as weakness you are stuck, and it is going to surface again and again, until you accept it and work with it.
- Conditions – Acceptance is a choice you can make every day in training, and what is the result of that practise? Yes folks, acceptance of conditions in the race itself. I do not know a greater agent for success. Accept everything in training like you chose it, and the transmutation of negative thought is impossible to miss.
- Race plan – A race plan is not something you execute with a third party instrument, we execute through feeling, intuition, awareness and consciousness. Do you know what the consciousness is? It’s our true definition.
Fail to plan and we plan to fail? I don’t know how many times over the last 30 years I have heard this term. Yet when we plan on paper and fail to execute presence in training, then we are literally failing to plan at the deepest most core level, and believe me it won’t be missed on race day, because when you need it most it won’t be there. What will surface instead is the hail of negative thought that you have trained with.
What’s the skinny on all this? It’s dead simple. Accept things the way they are if you can’t change it. Maintain as much connection to your body in training as much of the time as you can. Don’t attach to thought, just stay quiet in the head while you train, that is as trainable as anything else you are doing and can be easily done at the same time. Simply focus on what things feel like.
The mind comes and goes, is negative or positive and is extremely unstable. Is the awareness of this mind unstable? Is the overriding consciousness that is our definition unstable? This is a clue, which do you think is the more powerful space to occupy?
Its sounds like effort doesn’t it, but in actual fact it’s the opposite. Once you learn how to pay attention to the body and keep the mind relatively quiet, it’s the easiest thing you can do.