Many years of coaching and deep self-exploration in myself have unlocked a lot of realisations about the athletic journey and the smoke screens we use to bullshit ourselves into a false sense of security. Our lack of honesty with ourselves can divorce us from the potential inside of us, which goes far beyond the capacity of the mind to understand. The three key athletic modalities, Will, Gut, and Heart are felt in the body, not in the head. When we define ourselves by thought it causes a disconnect that severs the tether between brain and body, that is like only using half your brain, because the body is a brain, as is the heart. Intelligence is not just a conglomerate of thought, thinking, and regurgitated information. Intelligence is awareness. If we narrow the bandwidth of our awareness, we seriously tamper with our potential to produce the right outcomes for the right situations.
When we agonise over projected outcomes, we rob the process of its underlying intelligence. When we try to overcome our bodies by treating the body like a passenger that needs to learn how to stay in its seat, we get ourselves into a problem of lag. The lag between our body’s signals and the key drivers of body intelligence will, gut, heart, and a mind that wants to ignore those signals, because they do not line up with its projected outcomes. Thus, we get a lag between what is and what we want. The circuit frags out and tries to run with the mind’s script and we get internal chaos.
The body’s intelligence is overrun by an imposter, a dealer of illusion and delusion.
We misunderstand what we see when we see outstanding athletic performances, what we are seeing is a sync between body, mind, will, gut and heart. An unseparated whole, not a splintered fractured mess that has been overcome and overrun by an outstanding mind. In moments of pure flow, the performance flows through the organism with an unhindered rhythm where the athlete loses its sense of time, so absorbed by the performance do they become that they literally disappear in it. What disappears is actually the evaluation, the mind takes a back seat to the automated instinctual drive of an athlete in sync. What we see from the outside, we recognise as breathtaking; the mind can hardly comprehend what it is seeing.
We try to get our head around it, but the mind cannot be wrapped around perfection, because perfection can only arise in awareness, in an empty state of pure drive, will and heart.
That is the true axis of our potential!
So, when athletes talk of overcoming their bodies, what is actually happening is the athlete is overcoming their mind. The body was inbuilt with that capacity, feats of incredible survival are common in normal human beings when they are stretched to their limits; disasters, plane crashes, avalanches, lost at sea, injured on mountain tops, so many of these events are recorded again and again and go far beyond the limits of what the mind recognises as possible. When the mind accepts the situation and is overcome with the enormity of a situation, it stops resisting, the body steps up to the plate, conserves fuel, everything provided automatically. In those situations, thought at best is a replaying of information that should have already been acted on.
However, the overcoming mentality also often leads to overreaching.
When athletes are feeling good, they have this tendency to push themselves until they feel bad again, and then bemoan the fact that they feel bad more often than good. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy of circular thinking, that can keep an athlete from the possibility that their bodies are enamoured with.
My advice is to always leave the session feeling a few percent underdone, like you could have pushed further. Why? In a race you should be able to push beyond your normal capacity and often people don’t, their bodies flatlined by a constant training philosophy of overcoming, driven by a mind that is hell bent on making hay while the sun shines, unconsciously pushing until the sun goes behind the clouds again.
I’ve witnessed coaches operating this way, it’s not good coaching, it’s relying on dumb luck and a theory of breaking eggs against a wall to see which ones don’t crack. At best it’s short sighted and irresponsible at worst. Our programs are littered with broken athletes that could have found a different way had they been introduced to it. Thinking otherwise is just more thinking.
There is more than one way to skin a cat, one can look at a different model of slightly underreaching in each session.
Now in a training sense this builds a bubble around your recovery, the body starts to become more supple, it can relax because it knows you are not going to stretch it to its limits too often. It’s no longer having to cower at the threat of your thoughts of the need to overcome it. Then on race day, it is prepared to be stretched beyond its capability because it is a one-off, keeping in mind it is here to protect you and serve you. Of course, we still need to approach the desired race reality, but when we are not constantly overreaching, we are teaching the body that we are going to provide it with the space and room for it to evolve past the limitations of mind and thought.
It’s almost as if the body knows how stupid we are.
If I tell you I am going to hit you in the back with a piece of 4 by 2, what occurs? You tense up, right? The muscle goes into protection mode, it spasms to protect the muscle groups around it and the internal organs. An interesting reaction and a fully automatic reaction to a thought based on something I told you that may or may not be true, the thoughts you throw out there your subconscious is taking quiet literally.
Be careful what you think!
If we allow thought to run the show and we are constantly overreaching, we are literally teaching our bodies how to protect themselves and protect it does by making you feel like shit, it’s trying to get your attention. The overreaching will cause a chronic tension, compression that will have the effectiveness of your program looking like a pinball machine, if you are not moving and progressing, something is wrong!
You get the picture, right? You can’t outsmart your body using your mind, it is a mind of its own and a far more intelligent one, that is not interested in being overridden by overreaching.
If you want this athlete side to play ball, give it the space it needs to give you back the adaptation you need. If you take this philosophy forward, you will know the definition of true consistency, and realise it relates to a whole lot more than ticking off sessions driven only by numbered outcomes that revolve around overcoming the clock and yourself.
You set the body a project, it will hear you the same way it hears everything your subconscious throws up. From that point on it will begin sending you the messages you need to hear. From there your job is to listen, and to stretch slightly with each gain, and apply liberal amounts of patience.
If you teach your body it can trust you, the tension will arise and contract in sync with your application of awareness and adjustment. It will then teach you something you did not know, that you can relax into pain. Then you will know the definition of disappearing in the process, and the ultimate potential that we are all born with.
15 years experience working in an online coaching capacity both with age group and with professional athletes in a training camp environment. My passion is the future of young upcoming pro triathletes moving to an international level.