For many endurance athletes, focused training is often a solitary activity. Even for folks who do group rides, runs and pool sessions, the majority of training time is spent simply with ourselves. In fact, ALL of our time spent training is with ourselves, even when we are with buddies or with a group. Put another way, we are our own constant training partners, and we get to decide how we treat ourselves. It's unfortunate how often athletes, and people in general, talk to themselves in ways they would never tolerate from others. If I could give one key piece of advice, it would be this: Be for yourself the training partner you’d wish to have.
Let’s picture two different scenarios. I bet you can identify with both.
First, let’s picture training with a great partner. You both are digging deep to complete a particularly hard session. "Nice! Great job! Get it!" and "$8#@ yeah!" are among the things breathlessly yelled back and forth between you. During a rest interval one of you points out how you’re already more than halfway done, and you both agree that this workout feels like it’s going by unusually quick, even though it's still challenging.
Now, let’s picture the second scenario. You are training alone and you’re digging deep to complete the same session. "Ugh! you never do well at this workout! You don’t have to do the whole thing! You should just stop!" and "$8#@ this is too hard!" are among the things you’re telling yourself. During rest intervals you think “How can I possibly only be halfway done, there’s no way I can finish this.” No one is immune to occasionally having these thoughts and feelings, but we can certainly decide how much weight we give them.
I’m sure at times, we’ve all been extra hard on ourselves. But in order to maximize success, those times should be very rare. No matter what, during the majority of our training we should really be our own biggest fan. I’m willing to bet that many of the things we say about ourselves we wouldn’t tolerate hearing on a consistent basis from someone else. Who wants to train with the person who’s always talking you down, telling you to quit or otherwise taking away your self-confidence? If your training partner was always telling you that “You don’t have it today”, I bet you would stop choosing to train with that person. No one would happily choose to train with the person in scenario #2, yet many of us do on a consistent basis simply because we are not kind to ourselves.
The Golden Rule tells us to treat others the way we wish to be treated. So we encourage our fellow athletes; we yell "Dig deep! Good work! Almost there! You’re killing’ it!" when we see struggle on their faces, and we enjoy with them the pride and satisfaction that comes from hard work well done. As athletes, and as people, let’s remember to treat ourselves with the same encouragement we would give others.
We are the person that each of us spends the most time with. Be for yourself the training partner you’d like to have. Now go get after it! You’ve got this!
Thanks to Speed Science athlete Traci and our friend Carl for the pictures.