What's up all? It’s been a couple weeks since my last post, and have had an opportunity to spend some time pondering this post, not to mention observe athletes who are struggling with this topic. Today's topic is something that I have struggled with, as well as athlete's I've coached, and close friends. Its also not something that is exclusive to athletes. I call it pressing, the feeling that happens when we lose confidence in ourselves and our decision making, our plan for training, racing, work, life. And it often happens without us noticing. Until we do.
See if this sounds familiar. You are preparing for a big race, say your first 70.3, or Ironman. (I use these distances because they tend to illicit the response I'm about to describe) and things are going along well. You're following a plan, whether it’s from a coach, or your own making, and you've been feeling good about it. Things are moving along well. As you sit down for some breakfast before you start your training, you decide to do a quick check on social media. While scrolling through your friends posts, you start to see photo after photo of people who are also training for the same race, or the same distance, and the pics show them putting in some huge miles, maybe at a training camp someplace like San Diego or Colorado. And before you jump to someone else's post, you notice more pictures from this person, maybe at a pool, maybe posting what workouts they've been doing, and you begin to see a pattern. They seem to be doing nothing other than training, spending countless hours running. biking, swimming. They somehow seem to be looking fitter in every picture. Suddenly, within 10 minutes of jumping on the "Gram" or FB, you feel a cold sweat streaming down your back. A panic begins to cause you to feel flush, almost sick. You go over your day's training, and it seems weak, it seems inconsequential. It seems like its not enough.
This feeling begins to snowball, and within an hour, you've deconstructed your entire training program, found flaws with every single thing you've done to this point, and are near tears thinking that you've wasted a lot of time not doing enough. You no longer feel confident, or perhaps, not as confident. Every workout you have planned moving forward needs more. It might start out with an extra 15 minutes on the bike two times a week, or an extra mile of running 3 times a week. You steady yourself, and remind yourself that you've been doing good work, things are going to be fine, just need to add a bit here and there. Except the train is already off the rails, and those "few extra miles" have become extra hours, a lot of extra hours. Your view of your training is not getting any better, your panic has turned into a 5 alarm fire, and you aren't sleeping, your nutrition has gone to shit, and well, you're spiraling. This is what I call pressing - its when we've lost sight of our own goals, and the plan we've created to get there, and have allowed someone else's plan or several someone’s plans, to get in your head and you can't see anything clearly. Its like being in quicksand. The harder you try to get out, the deeper you sink.
I did this very thing this year. And I trust my coach with my 16 month old son. I started my season out well, getting a big win in Florida in March, only to come home and get sick, repeatedly. My training became sporadic, my sleep was terrible, my weight was all over the map thanks to antibiotics and steroids for sinus infections. Then I got hit with strep, twice. I was watching months pass without being healthy enough to race. When I felt even remotely decent, I would try to jam 4 hours of training into each day, regardless of what it was doing to my health. My health was completely tanking, requiring me to have my tonsils removed. I did 2 races completely blown up and miraculously won 1 and finished 3rd at the other. But I was so trashed, I actually looked forward to surgery. And now, 7 weeks post op, with my head screwed back on straight, I am ready to race again. Am I where I want to be? No. I realized during the first week after surgery, that I stopped having fun because I was so sure that I had lost any semblance of fitness I had before my March race. I complete disregarded years of hard training, successful training, learning, growing, failing, succeeding. I allowed a 5 lb weight gain to send me spiraling. I was focusing more on that than my training. My attention was drawn to nonsense. I couldn't see the progress I was making because all I wanted to see was something that wasn't supposed to be the focus. So, it was not a surprise my training was a mess. As was my sleep. My mood, my relationships. It took surgery to wake me up.
You don't want this to happen to you. I've witnessed athletes preparing for early fall Ironman's literally trying to supplement running with time on an elliptical because their run got cut short due to rain. Cramming as if it was for an exam in high school. It’s not helpful. It’s not safe. Pressing is how we get injured, overtrained. It is more likely to cause us to stop enjoying the process, and begin to hate every training session. It’s not a place you ever want to be. Stuck in quicksand, without a rope to pull us out. The good news - you can stop before it gets out of hand. Here's how - TRUST YOURSELF. Believe in what you have been doing. Stop creeping on other people's social media posts. And if you do, have the courage and confidence to know that you are going to be FINE. If you need to, jump off social media for a while. Trust me, you are doing yourself a favor. Especially before a big race. Or find something else to read or watch. Do what is necessary to keep focused. Meditate, breathe. But stop allowing others work to derail you. Remember - social media is one dimensional - you don't see the whole story. Rarely does anyone show a bad picture of themselves, like a picture of an epic fail while training. Keep that in mind when your friends look like everything is just rocking. Odds are, that's less than 5% of the real story.
The biggest enemy we will face is typically between our ears. But its an enemy that can be easily defeated. By not feeding it. Be UNSCARED as you go through life, following your dreams, your plans. Do that, and success will always be with you.