Friday, October 12, 2018

Never Waste A Good Crisis

First up, a big shout out to everyone competing at the Ironman World Champs in Hawaii this weekend. Race strong and have an awesome day out there!

Special mention to British pro athlete Tim Don making his comeback at Kona after being wiped out horrifically by a car and breaking his neck during race week last year. If you haven't seen the mini-documentary about his incredible recovery and comeback, watch it now. It's super-inspiring:

Tim's a good friend of Swim Smooth (you can study his stroke technique in the Guru here). Give it full beans and enjoy every minute Tim!

Never Waste A Good Crisis

If you live in the northern hemisphere, you might be reflecting on your race season just gone. We hope you had a brilliant time, smashed some PB's and achieved everything you set out to do.

But what if you didn't? What if you under-performed, didn't hit the targets you set yourself or perhaps you even went backwards?

There's a saying from the worlds of politics and business "never waste a good crisis" and it applies to athletes just as much as diplomats. If you think about every big change you've made in your life for the better, most were been made at a time of crisis, when everything felt tough, when your world was in reverse, when your confidence was low.

The worst thing you can do in a crisis is nothing: Stay in the bad relationship. Don't look for a better job. Repeat the training you've done before. Keep your head down and keep plugging away. That's blindly carrying on as before but hoping for a different outcome.

The key to getting yourself out of a hole is to make some changes. We see the process in three parts:

1) Think long and hard about everything you did and what happened as a result.

Make a list - as long as you like - about what you did that had a positive impact and what happened that was a negative. Think about all areas, for example:

- Training and preparation - both the nature of what you did and your consistency doing it.
- The quality of rest and recovery.
- Your diet, alcohol consumption etc.
- Your mental attitude and approach (e.g. positivity, self esteem).
- The impact of the people in your life.

This reflection can take a bit of time but it is absolutely critical to recognise each element to move forwards.

2) Ask your support network for advice.

Talk to your coach, your family, your friends and ask them for their input both on what went wrong and what you can do differently to get a better result. If they have your best needs at heart it's amazing the sort of insight and clarity they will have and will likely have some thoughts and ideas that never occurred to you.

Don't be afraid to chat to some athletes who are that bit better than you and ask them for their input too. Approach them in the right way and more often than not they are happy to help.

Whoever you ask, remember to be open minded and actually listen to what they have to say!

Need to actually spend some time in open water?

3) Make changes.

You need to make changes to move forwards and this involves an element of bravery because although the ideas for change normally come easily you don't actually know whether they will work. There's nearly always a leap of faith here.

Some examples of change:

- You've realised your working relationship with your coach has broken down and the element of trust is disappearing. A new coach is needed - take your time finding the right person but kick off the search immediately.

- An athlete that you train with, or someone in your friend network is a negative influence, eroding your self esteem and knocking you off track. A frank discussion, or making a change to distance them is required.

- You have a weakness for alcohol. Friday and Saturday nights normally involve some drinks with friends and it's hard to get up and train for your key sessions the next day. Recognising addictions like this and breaking them will not only improve your performances but make a huge difference to your long term health.

- Your training is good when you do it but your consistency is poor. A key change would be to do slightly less training to make it more achievable so you can execute it consistently week-in week-out. Don't underestimate how much difference this could make!

- Something is wrong technically with your training and preparation. For instance, in swimming you could be focusing too much on technique work to the detriment of your fitness development (the classic "Overglider Hermit" scenario) or you don't swim in open water until race day - remember open water skills are worth just as much time as your swim fitness and stroke technique!

Of course there's no limit to how many changes you can make in one go but it's probably best to focus on the key one, two or three that are influencing you most heavily.

Swim Smooth!

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