Energy Management

“Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.” – Albert Camus

As you’ve probably figured, it’s time management month here at EC. I’ve deliberately held off in writing a piece on time management because, well, to be honest, time management (at least in its traditional sense) has to be one of the areas that I am one of the least qualified of the entire EC team to comment! Not so much because I think I manage my time poorly but more because I don’t have a lot of experience in juggling a lot of activities into my waking hours. See, the issue is I value my non-waking hours far too much.

I realize I’m at the extreme end of the scale when it comes to this. I have worked and do work with athletes that fall all the way along the spectrum, from folks who manage to cram an unreal amount of productivity into a number of roles to those whose lives revolve around the singularity of the sport. While there is a wide range of time management abilities among the athletes that I’ve encountered, one ability separates the highest level athletes…

The higher the performance level of the athlete, the greater his or her awareness of and ability to manage the energy available to work with.

While the core energy levels of athletes are almost as varied as their abilities to manage time, one thing is certain, it is finite! It is one thing to plan what you will do on paper — whether that paper takes on the form of a training plan or a daily work schedule — it is another to have the energy to execute that plan. While talking of certainties, here is another: when you try to extract energy that you don’t have, your body will force you to pay it back one way or another!

The world of age group athletics is full of athletes with Spartan discipline, meticulous time management abilities and perpetual runny noses, sore throats and chronic under-performance! Based on my experience, most athletes’ time management abilities far exceed their energy management abilities. Furthermore, this ability is often a defining one between the decent athletes and the athletes at the top of their game.

So why are we, as a group, such experts in time management but such novices when it comes to energy management?

Admitting weakness – In our culture, recognizing weakness/tiredness is seen as a negative. This is exemplified when you look at training camp behavior. Folks will turn themselves inside out trying to hold a wheel rather than admitting that they’re having a tough day, retreating and coming back stronger the next day. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” is macho to be sure but it is not the motto that will lead to athletic greatness.

Everything to everyone – No one enjoys saying “no.” It’s human nature to want to take on responsibility and make an impression on others. But as the old saying goes, every time you say yes to something good, you say no to something great. Every time you say yes to something you commit energy to that cause. Always keep in mind that this energy is a finite quality.

Jack of all trades – Despite what the self help books may lead you to believe, you’re not going to be employee of the month, father of the year, have the body of a male model, the wattage of Cancellara and have a million dollars in the bank account. There will always be those who choose to devote their energy in one direction and those who adopt a more “renaissance approach” cannot realistically expect to compete (even those with the highest levels of natural vigor and the strongest constitutions).

So, what’s the take home message?

  • Be honest with yourself about how tired you are — whether quantitatively through metrics or qualitatively through honest introspection.
  • Be honest with yourself about the time it takes for you to personally recharge your batteries and stay healthy. Prioritize this. When it comes down to it, pretty much everything is contingent on good health!
  • Recognize that energy is finite and when you channel it to one sphere you must scale down the energy demands of another. It’s physics!
  • Breakthrough performances are most often precipitated by creating space in your life.

Oh, and most of all when you’re tired… sleep!

Train smart

Categories: Planning

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Alan Couzens

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