“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the now the primary focus of your life.”
– Eckhart Tolle
As a triathlete, a cyclist, a runner trying to achieve your goals, you are most likely very driven. Your competitive spirit is brimming over the top and that motivates you to train. Add in your job/career and your family and it’s clear how busy your life is. Add in the context of a culture that glorifies busyness and has made exhaustion a status symbol. Burnout and even resentment toward your sport of choice is a very real possibility. As someone who has been in endurance sports as an athlete and a coach for many years I have seen countless athletes come and go. The ones that go are the ones who don’t create balance. Their desire to win races and/or reach goals is not balanced with restoration and enjoyment of the lifestyle and most importantly a true enjoyment of the sport at its most basic level. I’ve seen cyclists get so burned out they don’t ride their bike anymore (let’s not go there). Have you ever just stopped and taken a step back? We live in a culture that just wants you to go nonstop, grab your to-go cup and just go go go until you get to the next thing. We are not present! What follows is my attempt at explaining my philosophy that I believe promotes long term gains as an athlete and as a human.
You’ve ridden that bike, ran those miles, swam endless yards, strength trained – you know how to train (or perhaps you’ve come to us and we are helping with that aspect – we got this!), bottom line is you know how to suffer, you know how to race. BUT, do you know how to use your sport as a means for rejuvenation? Are you able to go and do your sport in an unstructured, unplanned way for the sole purpose of just refilling yourself with energy? If you don’t take care of yourself you are not going to be as effective/loving as a parent, an employee, a husband/wife. Many endurance athletes can’t even get in the door that opens to this experience due to the obsession with always needing to train or perform at a certain level. What I am telling you is that if you don’t eventually start to do this there is a high likelihood you going to burn out at some point and maybe prevent yourself from reaching your goal.
What am I really talking about here? I am talking about expanding your relationship with your sport. Being able to go out on your bike, or run or swim where you don’t have any workout goals whatsoever. Recovery (ZR) workouts are actually really great for this. Your only goal is to be 100% present in the moment and just simply enjoy being outside and explore. Take your time. Stop and smell the roses. Notice and listen. Be present. Listen and observe what happens to your body when you really let go. If you are stuck in a feeling of guilt over not training then you are not going to be able to access this relaxing soul filling feeling yet. This also plays into recovery. Many athletes simply can’t truly relax and let themselves go easy on recovery days – they are significantly limiting their progression and only speeding up the point at which they will burn out.
Let’s try and sum this up. You have your competitive side, you’ve got your race schedule, your histogram and motivation is brimming however let’s build up your ability to refill your cup – using your sport. You want to try and establish another relationship with your bike, your running, your swimming – a relationship that fuels you that you can draw on when you need to refill your cup. Being able to switch modes from competitive training mode to relaxed adventure/soul filling mode is a skill that will take some practice but I guarantee will make you happier and a better athlete (and human!). Balance is what we want. This also means being selective about who you spend time with on the soul filling rides/runs/swims. Avoid the super aggressive training partners for this. As you are making this a new practice, I recommend doing them alone at first. Generally speaking doing these alone is the best. Racing and hard training breaks you down, having an ability to use your same sport to refill your cup and restore yourself so to speak will keep a smile on your face and help all aspects of your life.
Coach Spinney has always wanted to be a DJ. For the most part, this manifests as Spinney DJ-ing the rides at training camps after surveying what artists people really like. What follows is a recommended playlist that goes with this writing.
Emphasis on the lyrics
- Heaven is here by MC Yogi feat. Matisyahu
- Living in the moment by Jason Mraz
- Duppy conquerer by Bob Marley
- We don’t know by the Strumbellas
- Just say yes by Snow Patrol
- Hey now now by Michael Franti and Spearhead
- Speak truth by Homeboy Sandman
- Shine by Mondo Cozmo
- Check on it by Beyonce feat Slim Thug (not really related to this article but hey, you can’t not have Beyoncé in here)
This post was written by QT2 Level 3 Coach, John Spinney.