Belief Systems

In sport, there’s nothing as addictive as our first experiences with looking better or racing faster than we ever thought possible.

In early March, I wrote a personal blog about sources of motivation. If you want to balance satisfaction with sustained performance then understanding your true motivators is essential. If your successes in life leave you feeling unsatisfied, your efforts may not be directed towards your inner values.

One of the tricky things about endurance training is the belief system it sets up. For me, the most challenging beliefs have centered around training load, volume, performance and self image.

The attraction of “more” runs strongly in me. More training load, yields more fitness, which results in more speed.

Likewise, more training load, means more fuel required, which lets me eat more food. For a guy that started endurance sport so he could eat… more food is very attractive!

The tricky part of the above is what happens when more ceases to be an option. As well, am I really sure that the world is the way I believe it to be? What are the implications of being mistaken?

Age group racing and fatherhood have been a test for my beliefs. By removing any possibility of “more,” I’ve been forced to do less and watch what happens. Here’s what I’ve seen.

Training load is related to, but not equal to, performance. My training load in 2010 and 2011 was half of elite loads but my short and middle distance race speed was similar.

Perhaps I would have been faster with more, but being similar on less was a very good trade!

Stressed out and exhausted is no way to go through life. When you reach the limits of more, or if you are underperforming, then the cost of less is tiny.

Speaking from experience, “less” will deeply challenge your belief systems. I had resigned myself to slowing way down when I cut my load. The fact that I didn’t was a very pleasant surprise. I’ve seen similar “successes” in other athletes that were forced to back off.

My son, Axel, was born last summer and I had my bike crash in October. So from November onwards there was a further cut in my training load. The additional cut had a material impact on my fitness. So the link between load and performance is valid, just one of rapidly diminishing returns after 700 annual hours, or so.

When I cut further, I resigned myself to getting soft. You see, like most endurance athletes, I believed that my appearance can only be sustained from high volume training. There have been times in my life when I was certain that I couldn’t look good without devoting every spare hour to exercise.

So I took six weeks off at the end of last year and managed a handful of longer days in January and February. I slowed down but I still look the same. What gives? I was certain that I’d fall apart.

Factors that directly impact appearance:

  • Consistent daily movement
  • Strength training twice a week
  • Minimal sugar
  • Simple diet of real food

When you are operating at the limit of what you can handle, then you’ll move away from the points above. You may justify this move by a desire to be fast, to qualify for World Champs, or to cover up disordered eating. I’ve done a lot of rationalizing in my life!

Irrational beliefs are far more common than long-term exceptional performance.

Consider the beliefs that drive your daily choices.

Choose wisely.

Categories: Lifestyle

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