The Perfect Trap

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”
― Anne Lamott

A common phrase uttered in the world of sport is: practice makes perfect… or, better yet, perfect practice makes perfect. In relation to competition, this may be the very thing that is holding many of you back from peak performance.

Competition in sport has a way of exposing your weaknesses. Maybe you train to your strengths, or obsessively compare one workout to the last, judging your performance in the present moment. These tendencies, over time, become hindrances to progress. You improve by encountering failure, embracing the unknown and using experience to move your forward. This is the antithesis of perfection.

In the above quote, Ms. Lamott is speaking of writing, and obsessing over perfection. How will this look? How will this be perceived? How does this make me feel? Is it (am I) ready? Its application is directly relevant to sports and competition. In endurance sports, you are your main rival. The other competitors are their own rivals on race day. It is your body of work that is represented when the gun goes off. All dreams of perfection must be released and the importance of acting and reacting must be prioritized.

So, how do you avoid the perfect trap? Here are a few examples:

  1. Ditch the watch: run by feel and emotion. Biofeedback is fun to track, but it can hinder the mind if the numbers aren’t where they “should” be.
  2. Train with a group: training partners, friends, and teams can provide the necessary stimulus to lift you into a new training experience. *Communicate with the group members and understand the goals of the workout before beginning.
  3. Go off road: nature is calling. Hitting the trails is a great way to add new and dynamic stimulus to your training. The mind works harder to engage with the environment. The body reacts to sudden terrain changes. Pace and speed go out the window when the terrain dictates movement. Also, proprioception, coordination, mobility, and strength are enhanced by training off road.
  4. Remind yourself that your finishing time matters to no one else. Nobody cares, but you. Nobody remembers, but you. Release the social pressure of achievement and be happy to be able to participate.

As the great Stoic Marcus Aurelius wrote:

“The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts.”

We take on these difficult challenges, because they bring out the best in us, on that given day. Be happy in the moment and embrace the beauty that competition and sport bring to life.

Onward and Upward!

Mornings

Protect your mornings. As the first few minutes pass and you begin to awaken, turn your attention to your favorite form of movement. Move the body to prime the mind for what is about to occur, and what may lie ahead throughout the day.

This time is precious. Do not put off what can be accomplished right away.
Win the day. Accomplish more in your first 90 minutes of awakening than you could ever imagine as they day wears on and its effects weaken your resolve.

Rituals of habit, work. Continually showing up, engaging, and finishing are qualities that transfer to other areas of your life.

NUTRITION & FITNESS ON THE GO – planning your healthy travel

This is a deep and complex topic that can be condensed into a few takeaway bullet points. Keep it super simple.

Foods For Flight:

  • Carbs: Sweet Potato. Bake it the night before and wrap it in foil.
  • Veggies: Pack a salad, or sliced carrots, celery, and peppers.
  • Fats: Nuts.
  • Protein: Sliced turkey or smoked fish, in a plastic bag. Powders packed as single servings, using plastic bags, w/dash of cinnamon to balance blood sugar.
  • Meal Replacement: bars. Find one you like and stock up. Patagonia Fruit + Almond Bars.

Travel Tips:

  1. Fresh Pineapple, or Coconut Water. Helpful in avoiding headaches and indigestion.
  2. Lemon + Drinking Water. Helps avoid indigestion, bloating, and constipation.
  3. 8 oz Water. Drink a cup for every serving of tea, coffee, or alcohol consumed.
  4. Cucumber or Lemon + Water. Assists with electrolyte absorption.
  5. Small Snacks > Big Meals. This will help you adjust to the lack of physical activity, new time zone, and sleep deprivation.

Movement:

  1. Lengthen the hamstrings. Engage the posterior chain muscles.
  2. Squat. Be mindful, down slow, pause, up controlled. 4 count down, 1 count pause, 2 count up. 3 sets of 10-20 reps.
  3. Push. Use a chair, wall, the floor, or any sturdy object to place your hands onto. Create tension throughout your body and squeeze up. 3 sets of 10-20 reps.

Endurance Runner: The Process of Becoming, Pt. 1

Do the least amount necessary, not the most amount possible.

-Origin Unknown

In 2012 I made the conscious decision to participate and compete in ultramarathon running. My running background (circa 2008) was minimal at best, but had begun to evolve and grow into a daily, obsessive passion. Living in a high desert climate, at the time, allowed me to spend a lot of time outside, exploring the mountains, foothills, and in New Mexico, the flat, soft ground of the river trails. The ability to easily run on trail, away from pavement, cars, and people was exactly what I was looking for. Casual 45 minute runs extended into weekend trail exploring, covering 13+ miles in an outing became the staple of my weekend. An initial foray outside of my comfort zone, created a spark for change and forever altered my view of health, exercise, and wellness. As a fitness professional, I naturally became engrossed in the history of the sport, who the top athletes were, where they lived, how they trained, ate, what they wore, etc. My gravitation towards the competitive side of the activity was natural, but also something I felt a need to temper (initially). The changes in the mind happen much faster than those in the body. I visualized the product, racing Leadville, competing well, and being accomplished. At that point I had to begin the process.

With no formal coaching or advising I began to read about training for running, and the different ways in which athletes approached the sport. Having spent many years with strength training as my foundation or mode of fitness, it was not something I was willing to give up or even begin to replace. Thus, trail running became what I did on my own, every other day. Running 18-20 miles per week provided me with a nice balance. Having a lot of recovery is beneficial when beginning a new sport or any fitness regiment. We call this “absorption”. The “rest” allows us to soak up the workouts and build excitement and anticipation for the next outing. Looking back, this is why we often perform so well in new activities. Absent of the expectation of performance a person simply flows and consistently does their best, not knowing what that is or what it can be.

Week Flow:

  • Monday: Strength / Cross-Train
  • Tuesday: Run 6 miles
  • Wednesday: Strength / Cross-Train
  • Thursday: Run 6 miles
  • Friday: Strength / Cross-Train
  • Saturday: Run/Hike 10+ miles or 2+ hours
  • Sunday: Rest

In the beginning I ran the same course, repeatedly. It was a nice distance, offering a variety of terrain: nice climbs, some short and steep, some long and gradual, with equal descents. The biggest factor was that I enjoyed it. I came to know every inch of the course, knowing my times from previous runs, and if I was “on” a good pace or not. Super simple, yet extremely effective.

A balanced schedule allows you to continually build confidence and foster strong mental and physical growth. By focusing on the daily activity, being present each workout, you can then begin to assess the effectiveness of the training (sleep, nutrition, lifestyle choices, workouts, etc.).

Gradual lifestyle changes give time to ponder your true desire and intention of your new pursuit. Patience, with persistence, brings success.

A Cloud of Fatigue

Wednesday, mid-week, hump day, recovery day, etc. When analyzed from a work, business, or training perspective it’s easy to see why this day can be a tough one to make productive. As a runner, it’s like that 4th of 8 hill sprints. Already feeling the effects of the previous 3, and knowing you’ve got just as many left as you’ve completed, it’s the duty of the mind to force completion and execution.

On this day I back off and recover. All things flow as usual, but I remind myself that this fatigued state is where I want to be. It’s a part of the process. I’ll hydrate, eat well, read, make progress where I can, while working out moderately with a relaxed, complacent mind.

Why not push through and pound away you might ask? It’s detrimental. In order to go hard, with high quality, on Thursday, I must back off on Wednesday.

Accept fatigue as part of the process, but don’t be lost in the foggy cloud that comes with it. Plan ahead and stick to the process. Everything has a proper time and place. When it’s time for quality work to be done, make sure to be ready to execute!

Pursuing Peak Performance

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Points of failure in all instances define the limits of systemic function. Right Practice must seek to extend those limits through the pursuit of failure… Outside the formal practice, physical training involves the pursuit of success. Within the formal practice, physical training involves the pursuit of failure.

Michael Livingston, “Mental Discipline

When we train, we must seek to fatigue the working muscle or energy system. Doing the plank, or forward-leaning-rest, focus intently on the position you are trying to hold, tight hips, legs, locked out arms, as well as tension throughout. If a break down occurs, stop. There is no honor in spastic extended effort. In your next attempt at extending your time in plank position use your previous best as your bench mark. The same goes for pushups, pullups, squats, or other bodyweight exercises. Crush the muscle group you are training, keeping body tension throughout. True failure is controlled. It still “looks” smooth and easy. Following this protocol helps with injury prevention and overtraining.

In my running/endurance training I love :30/:30 intervals. 30 seconds of very hard effort, followed by 30 seconds of easy recovery. We must hit these hard, and then back off completely to get ready for the next. The body is adapting and with adequate rest between these intense sessions our fitness builds and expands. New realities, new limits, personal bests, course records, all become possibilities with focused training and recovery.

Respect your efforts and engage in positive recovery practices, daily. The younger crowd seems to frown on stretching, until they become injured. Start your daily stretching practice sooner rather than later. With heightened levels of exertion comes increased strain on the major movers, i.e. hamstrings, groin, and quads in running. Seek to lengthen these muscles on a daily basis via a few simple exercises:

  • Instep-Stretch
  • Pigeon
  • Downward Facing Dog
  • Wide Founder (foundation training)
  • Wide Founder into Windmill (foundation training)
  • Narrow Stance Decompression Breathing (foundation training)

Work + Rest/Recovery = Training

 

 

Running: Speed Play

How many of you like to slip into a comfortable groove, let the minutes and miles add up, and lose yourself in your runs? Me to… this is why we run! The flow, the feeling of easy, steady effort and the satisfaction of completion keep us coming back for more of these amazing experiences!

When I first started to “train” for running, which was later in my fitness career, mid-20’s, I was introduced to track workouts and tempo runs. Man, I hated these! My ability to gauge effort was non-existent, therefore I would go too hard, too early in the workouts, and struggle to hold on and finish them. Where would this leave me? Down and out for 2-3 days not wanting to even run a step! This is how you disrupt flow.

As I’ve progressed in the sport and have a more solid grip on my abilities both in training and racing, I’ve been able to engage in these more challenging workouts and reap the benefits that come with them. I’ve also learned about another way to trickle in speed work while I enjoying my daily “cruise” runs. This form of training is termed “speed play” or “fartlek” style.

Speed play is exactly that, you mix in 10-30 second bursts of accelerated running or even sub-maximal sprinting during a run of easy pace. There is no set schedule as to when you do them, just when you feel like it. Sometimes I’ll run to a certain landmark (fire hydrant, stop sign, driveway, etc.) and other times I’ll run for set periods of time.

There are many benefits to these runs. First, I believe you can recover from them during the run much better than a standard track or tempo run. This is excellent for beginners or recreational runners, which, most of us are. Second, I believe that it prepares you to race! Setting multiple in race goals, and knowing what speeds you are capable of running makes racing fun and competing more engaging. Third, they make you faster! You’ll see your cruising speed increase, which may transfer to other runs.

How to apply:

Start walking and warm up into a jog. Take 10-15 minutes to properly warm-up before starting your first speed play interval. For the next 30 minutes have fun. Mix in some speed with your cruising pace. You’ll cover more ground, realize new abilities, and hopefully reap the benefits of turning over those legs a bit faster! To finish, slow down and jog it in. Walk around for a couple minutes and stretch your hamstrings, hip flexor, and groin area. Start with one a week and gradually increase to two of these engaging workouts each week.

Enjoy the run!

Training: The Long Run

Arrowhead 135 - Gateway
Proper pacing ensures successful racing!

 

With March upon us, many of you are probably finalizing your spring/summer/fall race schedule. Along with that schedule, of course, is your training program. Speaking to the marathoners and ultra-marathoners among us I’d like to give you some quick tips on the long run.

  1. Wear a HRM: heart rate monitor
    1. You can skip this for your tempo and interval training, but always wear it on your long run. Your races are long! Train at a sustainable pace, mimicking the pace you will run your race at. This ensures proper training effect, and smooth recovery for the following week’s training.
  2. Use MAF formula
    1. 180-Age. This will give you your effective training HR for those long runs. As an example, I’m 33 so my base MAF is 147.
    2. If you are fit, healthy, and have been injury free for at least 6 months you can add 5 beats per minute to your MAF. For me, this would make mine 152.
    3. Alternatively, if you’ve been injured, sick, or are relatively new to consistent running, subtract 5 from your MAF score. For me, this would drop me to 142.
  3. Use a HR range
    1. My range would be 142-152. This would be where I keep my effort at for the entirety of my long run. Instead of focusing on pace I’m focusing on effort.
    2. When you encounter hills your HR will rise substantially. Walk! Don’t become impatient. Keep accountable to your MAF.
  4. Communicate your intention
    1. Let others know what your strategy is on the long run if you are running with a group. They may stay with your pacing, or you may find yourself running solo more often.

Becoming more efficient at lower levels of effort will only help your racing. Making your hard runs hard, and your easy or long runs consistently easy/moderate is something many runners fail to respect.

The next post will be on fueling for the long run. Specifically, we’ll address how changing what you eat in the 36 hours leading up to that run will change your bodies fueling strategy.

Keep running!

Mindset: Change Your Focus

Arrowhead 135 Finish
Finishing the Arrowhead 135 after 42+ hours of effort. Condition the mind for success.

Think not of what you can’t do or control, but think of what you can. Changing your focus is crucial to getting one step closer to your goals. The inner game (between your ears) is won in isolation, many times each day. Engage in the battle with a solid conviction and no fear attitude.

Life is solely how we project our feelings in the present. Each day either moves your forward or sets you back. What’s your direction?

Keep the main thing. The main thing. Onward.

Massive Change / Simple Action

Forget the outcome and focus on the daily task.

I started to achieve, as an athlete and fitness professional when I looked at what I needed to do each day to progress. At first this was a “to-do” list of exercises, minutes, and miles. A list of foods to eat, and foods to avoid. Guidelines. Slowly, over time, this became a “feeling” that I sought in my daily movement and nutrition. Now I was thinking of how to win each day by finding satisfaction in feeling positive about my actions. This change was slow, and not something I set as an outcome, but it was revolutionary. It’s a mindset we utilize in other areas of our life, but often forget to apply to our fitness.

Win each moment. Recognize, when you made a bad choice, and take note of it. Don’t over dramatize it, but look at what led to that choice. Also, look at the impact of that choice. Sometimes the impact is small therefore you need not fret too much. Perspective.

  • Be present. Make cognizant purchasing decisions.
  • Know the purpose of the activity. During aerobic activity seek a feeling of flow. Look for those moments when it all clicks and you are locked into that positive state. When performing calisthenics or strength training recognize what each exercise requires, and work to maximize the effect of each movement.
  • Form follows function. The mode of fitness needs to be consistent with your desired outcome. Aesthetics differ from performance, greatly. The shape of your life should be based on your intended purpose.
  • Why. Stop here and really think about “why” you want to change. Make this a layered response. Meaning, start with you, add in your family, friends, and finally think of how you want the world to view you.

Do not focus on the time if you haven’t mastered the movement. Focus on the movements first, then increase the time your exercise or maximize the movements done in a specific time. Quality sticks. It progresses your forward. Quantity builds, but without quality, it promotes poor movement patterns and an outcome based, competitive focus. Their is a time for everything. Quality before quantity.

Your thoughts are a pattern. Master the pattern of thinking and decision making for daily success and you’ll achieve great things in your health and fitness.