Do not adjust your screens! Yes, yet another post from between my ears has made it’s way onto the interwebs for your reading pleasure. You’re welcome or maybe I’m sorry? Anyways, I did say that I want to make the most of my uni break to pump out a few of these bad boys and I am if nothing else, a man of my word. I was recently listening to a podcast talking about ‘The Rumble in the Jungle’, the famous fight between Mohammad Ali and George Foreman. While I had heard the name and was obviously familiar with the legend of Ali, I knew very little about the specifics of the event. One of the main things that I learned (and found super interesting) was Ali using a technique called the ’rope-a-dope.’ This technique saw Ali get Foreman in close and then lean on the ropes around the ring. Ali would then let Forman punch the crap out of him. Ali was a genius! By leaning his weight onto the rope the majority of the impact (google some details about George Foreman, the guy was a beast) was absorbed by the ropes leaving Ali relatively unscathed. By employing this technique, Ali let Foreman punch himself to exhaustion and ultimately Ali won.
So you may be a little confused at this point. Has Tim run out of triathlon and weight loss things to talk about so now he is trying his hand at boxing? Well you see, this my dear reader is what I like to call an analogy. Over the weekend I endured one of the hardest weekends of training I have experienced. The volume wasn’t crazy. In fact I only really did 2 sessions. But the intensity was high, very very high. On Saturday I rode with a friend and training partner of mine who is a better athlete than I am. Charlie pushed the pace on our ride so much so that I was on Struggle Street from about 50km of the 160km ride. When I thought we were just about finished, Charlie decided we would add an extra 30km on (needless to say he is an Iron Man.) This broke me. I finished the ride barely holding on and was shaking from low blood sugar. I then backed it up on Sunday with another hard bike ride. I did not want to do it. I did not know how I was going to do it. But, I did it and I did it well. But if I thought I was tired on Saturday, Sunday afternoon was even worse.
The weekend finishes and I wake up on Monday morning to the news that I have a long hard run to complete. 20 minute easy warm up then 16 lots of 3-minute intervals at race pace with a minute jog recovery in-between. I could barely walk, how the hell was I going to run. I procrastinated and did everything I could to get the body ready. I even stood in an extra hot shower to try and warm up my legs before the run. I started the run and the warm up was hurting. I told my self to shut up and kept going. The first few intervals I was running quite quickly but I could feel the effort it was taking. Man, I still have 13 of these to go. By the 7th and just as I was about as far from home as I would go I had to stop. My legs were throbbing. I was not having much fun and my pace had dropped right off. I took a minute to regather my thoughts, I remembered why I was doing this and also told myself that if it was easy, everyone would be doing it. I stopped briefly after the next few intervals but then as I passed number 10 I started to find some rhythm again and low and behold, my pace increased and the last one was actually one of the fastest.
So I mentioned an analogy. Well here it is. Over the weekend, my body took a beating. On Saturday it was my training partner who gave me a touch up. On Sunday it was the workload. But come Monday I was able to bounce back even when I thought I wouldn’t be able to complete the set. I think that is what training for performance is all about. Allowing your body to absorb the majority of the impact, the load, the pain and the suffering. Then after you have allowed it to carry the burden your mind is able to take over and get the real work done. I managed to complete the run set through sheer willpower. I told myself I could do it. I believed I could do it and guess what happened? I did it. I even managed to make it to swim squad after the run and felt like I swam very well.
So remember that when you are training, the whole point is to lean on your body and allow it to take the impact for you. It is meant to be hard, it is meant to be uncomfortable but it is also the point. Then after you have taken all that your body thinks it can take let the mind take over and get that last little bit out of you. It isn’t always easy and most of the time your mind will be the first thing to go. But I’ll tell you what. I know that next time I am racing and hurting and hating it. When I think I can’t go any harder, I am going to remind myself of that weekend where I smashed myself for three days in a row and managed to finish just as strongly as I started.
Remember that we train hard so we race easy and as always, remember to TRI!
You can also check out the latest Think Fit which is all about goal setting and success and failure
Death By 1000 Cuts
(What a dramatic title this week)
Two weeks in a row! What is going on! I know, I know, I have been a bit sporadic with my posts of late but I have a bit of free time while I am on uni break and thought it was a good idea to post again. Plus, I have something to write about this week too (which always helps). I had an experience last week with an athlete that I used to coach where basically I realised it was time for us to both go our separate ways. This was not an easy decision to be made at all. This was one of the athletes I had been working with for the longest time. I was and continue to be super invested in their success. But I came to the realisation that I was no longer able to assist them and that their best bet would be to try working with someone else. A new approach might kick start their journey again and get them back on track.
I think coaching has become one of the greatest things that I have ever fallen into. I mean this; I never intended to become a coach (and still consider myself a student of coaching as well.) It just sort of happened. The pride and joy I have in my athletes success and the pain and frustration I feel for their failures is something I never would have expected. I mean it is so easy to get caught up in what you are doing as an athlete. It would be easy to assume that you only have the energy and focus for what you are doing. But this is not the case. I have experienced so many high’s seeing those I coach exceed their expectations. I have however, also had plenty experiences with those who fail to meet mine or their own. I think this is where coaching can get tricky. Yes, it is a service that people pay for and it is good to be professional. But when coaching you tend to experience people at their most vulnerable and it can be quite difficult not to develop a genuine relationship with them. If there are any coaches out there who have learned not to do this then please let me know. One of my athletes who has also turned out to be one of my closest friends and I have come up with a system where there is ‘Coach Tim’ and ‘Friend Tim.’ But look as long as things are working there isn’t really a problem. It isn’t until things start to go wrong that the closeness can become an issue.
My Mum has always encouraged my siblings and me. I think if I called her up now, a semester from finishing my law degree, and said, ‘Mum, I decided that I actually want to join the circus as a lion tamer’ she would be the first one to say ‘You would be the greatest lion tamer the world has ever seen.’ Now as her son, I know that this is the parental bias thing but as a person without children I have never really experienced it myself. That was until I started coaching. Now don’t mistake me. I am not a pushover. I write challenging programs to get the best out of my athletes and when sessions are missed, I am not afraid to ask why and say that the excuse is not good enough. But what I have started to struggle with are the athletes (and there have been a few) who start to make skipping sessions a habit. There are only so many times you can encourage an athlete to get focused again and get back on track. I always question what is going wrong, if it is timing; I ask for a new schedule and adapt their program to meet their availability. If it is the intensity, I back it off to a level they are comfortable with and start to build again. Basically, whatever they tell me is the limiting factor I try and accommodate it.
Now this isn’t an opportunity for me to write about what an amazingly service-minded and capable coach I am. Instead, what you start to identify is the athlete who is a lost cause. Now I use the term lost cause nervously here because I don’t want people to think I am saying that these people are hopeless or anything like that. What I mean is that there are some people that I work with who you just can’t write a program for. The first person I ever started weight loss coaching with approached me about a plan. From day one (I think from memory it was a 45 min walk) would not do the sessions because they were too busy. I tried so many different things like fitting their sessions into their lunch break, selecting classes at their gym after they finished work or even made the intensity slightly higher and the session shorter so they could do it before work. But every week when literally NO sessions were done I asked, ‘what is the problem?’ I asked them if they had made any changes from before they started working with me, getting up earlier, going to be later, anything? The answer was no. So if they knew they didn’t have time (they did) before starting with me, how were they going to fit in time to train after they started paying me? That relationship lasted 4 weeks and was a waste of both of our time.
But back to the point I was trying to make. Some athletes I think we both know when things aren’t working and it might be time for a change (a good tip is to stop coaching someone when they don’t pay you!) But then there are others who you have that paternal bias for. No matter how much they struggle or inconsistent they are you believe that they are going to work it out. Well that is what happened to me last week. I realised that I was not going to be able to assist this person anymore because ultimately, they needed to want to help themselves. Now it is easy to say that you want to do something or you want to make a change. Watch, I want to play the piano. But in reality, I am not going to give the piano the attention it requires to actually learn how. I may pay someone for lessons and tell my friends I am learning the piano but the reality is I am not. I spoke to another person (coach) I know about this athlete multiple times and asked what to do and the conversation ended up at, ‘if they are happy to keep paying you, write the plan.’ I couldn’t do that. So instead, I made a call and decided to stop coaching the person. I refunded their money for July and suggested they try a new approach.
I believe that this was the right thing to do for both of us. The relationship had obviously become stagnant. It was a cycle of training hard for a week then slipping to the point of doing nothing and this had been the case for over a year. There were constantly obstacles and hurdles that had to be managed. Some of these were incredibly legitimate but others were not. It was causing me increased frustration and I can only imagine how demoralising it must be as an athlete to keep missing sessions and have it cause stress. So I did what I didn’t want to do because I thought it was the best and most responsible thing to do. I like to think that if things ever became stagnant or were no longer working with my coach he would do the same. In fact, I would like to think that the majority of coaches out there would as well. The problem lies though in the place where the professional and friend line is blurred and one or both parties is unable to separate them. I think that may be the case here. I was accused of not supporting the athlete because I ended the coaching relationship, which upset me. But I am confident that I actually did what I did to support them. Maybe in time they will see it too.
So that is my little tale of what has been happening with me. It was a tough decision to make but I do not regret making it.
The coach, athlete relationship is a two way street and has to work for both parties. Remember this and as always, remember to TRI!
Remember to tune into Think Fit where this week we discussed the biggest fitness excuses we have and did use
I. HATE. WINTER!
Yes I can already hear all of you people in the really cold parts of the world (like Melbourne) saying “but you don’t even know what cold really is!” and yes this is true. Sydney has a relatively mild temperature and yes I know I am being a sook. But hey, I never said I wasn’t. I always reply with the fact that I did my cold time. 2 years in the Arctic wastelands of Norway mean that I should get a lifetime of warm weather right? In reality it isn’t that bad here. It is just a case of me being a massive sook. But enough about the weather and how soft I am when it comes to the weather.
A friend of mine who I met through sport posted the other day about how her and her husband are going through IVF treatment at the moment and how she is balancing this whilst still training and racing etc. I found the honesty and rawness of it really struck a chord with me. I think it is maybe because it is a similar approach to that which I take when writing, being as honest as possible, even when it isn’t easy. Here is the link to Kelly’s post if you want to have a read.
I think the main thing though about that post is that it really made me realise that everyone, regardless of your ability, weight or progress has his or her own relationship with fitness. Some people make it central to their life, while to others it is an afterthought. Regardless, I have come to realise that everyone has some sort of relationship with it. This has been reinforced even more since I started my podcast (yes, another shameless plug!) As the show grows and grows people from all over the world are reaching out to Robo and me to share with us their stories. I think as a person who has gone down the weight loss path it is very easy to forget that there are people dealing with a whole manner of other challenges. Losing weight and having the before and after image is actually relatively easy. Ok, it isn’t easy to lose weight and keep it off. But what I mean is that it is probably the most socially acceptable and ‘popular’ fitness change that you can experience.
While I have always been aware of some of the health challenges that people face I guess I never truly understood just how similar my experiences are to other people facing completely different challenges. At the same time though their experiences (I am actively trying to avoid using the term journey) are in many ways completely different. I have had people who suffered serious issues with eating disorders and being too skinny share their experiences with me. The challenges they faced of needing to put weight on being restricted by the fear of being judged or not being ‘good looking’ anymore literally blows my mind. I mean I think, as a person who tried so hard for so long to lose weight the thought of struggling with putting weight on would have seemed almost laughable. I am a bit embarrassed to be honest that I have restricted myself so much to my simple weight loss bubble.
It goes beyond weight though. People who I know and are very close with have overcome injury in order to reach their goals. Something that again would seem quite simple like, get better then start again is a completely ridiculous approach for a person who can barely walk. I have one friend who overcame a serious injury and was starting to really perform only to suffer a completely different (and ridiculous) injury which set them right back to square one. To see that person start from scratch with the same determination they had all along almost doesn’t compute with me. Come on, you have probably read some of my posts complaining about how I feel rubbish after taking a few weeks off. I do not know how I would go if I had to start all over again or if I even would. It is a completely different story to a fat kid getting in shape but man it is just, if not more impressive.
Then there is another friend of mine. This friend is gay. Now to me, being gay is not a big deal at all. My Godfather is gay and I have known him my entire life. In some ways I feel incredibly lucky because I can never remember a time when I thought that being gay was weird or a problem. To this day, I struggle to understand why people have a problem with it. But this friend has made me aware of some of the issues they have had to face in their pursuit of fitness as well. Again, these are things that I never would have thought of. They are serious challenges and hurdles which need to be overcome on a daily basis for the people facing them and unlike myself, they don’t get a before and after photo at the end to show everyone their progress.
I guess the point I am trying to make is that in recent weeks I have had more and more people reach out to me and share their story with me. This has made me realise that fitness and sport and health are not just something that I do. They are central to my life. I have worked incredibly hard to get where I am today and to see other people face challenges I literally could not imagine makes me realise that they are incredible things to pursue. Some people will often say to me that I am lucky to be in good shape and it usually pisses me off. I am not lucky, I work hard, I make sacrifices. But now I am starting to see it. I am lucky. I am lucky to have made my health and my performance one of my priorities and a cornerstone of my life. I think next time someone tells me that I am lucky I will agree with them. I will then try and encourage them to get lucky to.
People come to health from all different cultural, ethnic, sexual or disadvantaged backgrounds. But ultimately we all pursue a goal that unites us. I realise as I am writing this that it sounds a little preachy which I hate. But man, if you are reading this and think you have it bad or that your situation is special or unique I am going to hit you with a truth bomb. There are many others that are dealing with things just as difficult and challenging as you are. How you deal with them is up to you.
Get some perspective, make your health a priority and remember to TRI!
You can also download my podcast on ITUNES or via direct download
I lost 50kgs though triathlon and completed the 2016 70.3 World Championships. Aiming to hit 4:05 for a 70.3, the same time it took me to complete my first Olympic Distance Triathlon. I want to bring as many new people to the sport as possible. Whether you are fit and active or want to make positive changes to your life.