Tag Archives: Back to Basics

Back to Basics Tip – Write it Down

This Back to Basics tip comes courtesy of a personal experience that recently kind of blew my mind in its simplicity. You’re gonna love it. It is, wait for it…writing stuff down.

I hate to admit that I can sometimes be nauseatingly susceptible to over-competitiveness. You’re probably thinking, “duh, you compete. In sports. That’s the point.” And yes, I would agree that it is, to an extent. There is the healthy level of competitiveness that gets you on the bike or track or treadmill every day and keeps you going in a race even when you’d rather quit and go home, and then there’s the unchecked, soul-eating competitiveness that makes irrational comparisons and stops any progress before it even has a chance to start. I am, admittedly, susceptible to the latter.

Call it perfectionism, call it hard-headedness, call it absolutely crazy for a fully-formed adult to throw what amounts to a temper tantrum when he or she falls short of some imagined standard of success, but it has happened to me and I have seen it happen countless other times to clients as well. Picture this: a successful human being by all reasonable measures descending into a mini-crisis of anger and self-loathing just because he or she can’t execute a proper dead lift. Or is huffing and puffing after half a minute of jumping rope. Or can’t bench press as much as they remember benching in college. Or sees someone much older (or younger) running, biking, and swimming much faster than they in a race. Reading this now, it may seem crazy to you for anyone to measure themselves by such standards, but that is how the unchecked, overly competitive ego acts REacts. And it is a performance killer. In fact, it can be a career killer.

So, before you let such over-competitiveness ruin your chances at greatness (or now that you’ve had a few blinding flashes of recognition in the examples above), what can you do about it? The answer is so simple, you won’t even believe me that it is actually a solution to anything besides helping you remember stuff: Write. It. Down. The purpose here is to always have your most recent benchmark in mind that you are working against. That’s it – instead of seeing what someone else is doing, how fast someone else is going, how heavy someone else is lifting, a written record can help keep your own accomplishments in mind for you to reference with each workout. Your written record keeps your focus on your own standard of performance and helps prevent distractions like ego-fueled over-competitiveness. This is not to say that you can’t use a little healthy competition to chase down someone running ahead of you in your next race, but that’s just the difference: competitiveness acts, while over-competitiveness REacts. So whether you catch that other racer or not, you have your own latest achievements, written down, in ink, somewhere that you can check it easily and often, to keep your standards (and your ego) in check and keep you acting instead of reacting.

And this goes for the new and seasoned athletes alike – if you’re just getting back into shape and getting ready for your first race, or you’ve done countless races before and you’re starting a new cross training regimen, get out your pens or phones and make copious notes of each performance, and the dates that you hit them: run, bike, and swim times based on distance, or various weights based on rep schemes. That way, the next time another racer is smoking you on the trail, or the CrossFit WOD, you will have your own recent accomplishments in mind instead of thinking, “Why can’t I [insert verb] as [insert adverb] as that guy?” Don’t let verbs and adverbs ruin your confidence! Write it down, then get out there and do your best!

Back to Basics Tip – Benchmark It

This post is dedicated to the beginners out there, whether you’ve just signed up for your first triathlon, you’re trying a longer distance for the first time, or maybe (even more importantly) if you’re a seasoned athlete that’s just getting back in the saddle after an injury or sabbatical. This is the first in what will become a weekly Back to Basics Tip series that we’ll run regularly to make sure that no one misses a chance at the finish line.

First, a word about starting something new, or getting back into the swing:  it can be hard. It can be uncomfortable, awkward, and frustrating. And it’s very easy to get into the downward shame spiral of thinking of how good we were before that injury, or how fit we were 10 years ago, or how every other athlete in this race looks so fit and fast and strong. Endurance sports are not for the faint of heart, but most athletes have at least one moment of self-doubt once in awhile – and that’s the point. There isn’t one racer out there who hasn’t fought at least one battle to get to that place. So the battle, the uncomfortable, frustrating, and awkward part, is also the fun part. Or, rather, it will become the fun part, if you let yourself get there. So, on to the battle…

Our Back to Basics Tip of the week is: Benchmark It. New athletes, seasoned athletes, recently rehabbed athletes all could use a log of their current baseline fitness test, depending on the goal. If this is your first tri ever, test each event individually, as soon as possible, to gauge your current fitness level. Once you’ve done a trial run of each distance, hopefully similar in terrain to which you’ll be competing on, write down your times. If you think you can or want to improve on any of them, set yourself a goal – don’t you love those? – and keep training. Then see where you land in a month or six weeks time with another trial run of the same distance, on the same course. The beauty of the multisport event is that you have moments to shine, and moments to challenge yourself. If you’re a killer runner but almost drown on the swim, then you know where you can lean on your strengths and where you can work on your weaknesses.

For the recently-rehabbed athletes, the same goes for you: find that benchmark and start working from there. Maybe the goal is running, biking, or swimming without pain, which alone is an incredible achievement after an injury. The benchmark is the baseline from which to measure and celebrate your improvements, not the standard to which you think you “should” be better. When you’re starting out, you’ve got to start somewhere.