Don't Tap Out

Training Insights

Bavarian Road Cycling Championship 2017 in Baiersdorf (Middle Franconia)
Photo by Markus Spiske / Unsplash

One of the most toxic performance thoughts an athlete can have is the measurement of time and distance in relationship to discomfort.

The wanting and needing it to stop.

Hell, I’ve been guilty as a coach of counting down how long we have to go in efforts and sessions. The old coach swan song, 5-4-3-2-1, stop! 2mins to go, 30 to go, etc.
It’s toxic! Why?

Because it sets up an expectation of when the discomfort is going to cease. Training the brain to expect it to end soon.

It turns a race into drudgery because when the psyche comes to the full realisation that it’s not going to end anytime soon, there is inner resignation.

In endurance racing, the worst thing you can do, in my opinion, is to watch the km markers, calculating how much pain you have left to bare.
How many people are feeling seen here as they read this?
I see you, I know you 😊.

There is a big difference between using the km markers in a racing strategy as opposed to thinking about a way out and how long it’s going to take.
How many of us look at the 18kms to go mark, for instance, and think, oh wow, I only have 18kms to go?

The fact is you only have 18kms to go, or, oh my god, I still have 18kms to go.
Both ways you have 18kms to go. That is a solid fact. What is not a fact are the thoughts you have about that fact.

It’s what we call the first and second arrow of judgment. The first arrow is the situation. It is as it is, raw and unchangeable.
The second arrow is the thoughts we have about that situation. Those thoughts are critical because they impact your bodies ability to cope.

Your brain is sending messages to your body about threat levels.
A race is no place for threat, doubt and fear. We are way past that now, there’s 18kms to go. What good is threat, doubt and fear going to do you here?

Ok then, what can I do in training to change my perception of the first arrow which is the situation?

Don’t program your brain and mind to expect it to stop!
Expectation is a tease, a negotiator and often a liar. Your mind makes a fantasy of the situation, anything to escape it.

Program your mind and brain to say yes. Always yes, regardless of how far or how long you have to go.

If it’s tough, it’s yes, if it’s really tough, it’s yes even this!
Simple, straight, pure acceptance of what is.
Don’t extend your awareness out to the voice in your head, keep it in process, keep it grounded in fact, in truth.

Sportive woman with road bike
Photo by Markus Spiske / Unsplash

Don’t try to escape, revel in the pure fuckery of the discomfort you willingly put yourself in here at the 18km to go mark.

If you really need to think about something, marvel at your ability to actually do this!

Then thank your lucky stars that you have the opportunity to do it. Gratitude is one of the most underrated moderators of performance.

So, don’t count yourself down or you’ll count yourself out!
5-4-3-2-1, don’t follow it, leave it alone, it’s creating expectation.

Don’t tap out.

Gilesy 💪