Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mind Games

"Our reaction to a situation literally
has the power to change the situation itself."

We have all heard the old saying: "Pain is temporary, pride is forever", but often times getting from the "pain" to the "pride" is a treacherous proposition.

As triathletes and runners, as well as cyclists and swimmers, we have our training plan nailed to the smallest detail. We know what to do, when to do it and how to do it. We get up each and everyday knowing exactly what's on the agenda for that particular date and time; how long a swim, how long a ride, how long a run.  We watch our progress as time ticks and brings us closer to our goal, whatever that may be.

But as time passes, our body begins to take a hit. The longer the workouts, the more difficult they seem. Progression is methodical but it takes it's toll on our joints, bones, muscles and most dangerously, our mind.

As our physical being begins to ache, we often know what to do. A date with our masseuse, a session with the foam roller, a stint in the hot tub or ice bath, an extra day's rest. Most often, one or a combination of these, is enough to get us back on track.

But what happens when we begin to feel sluggish, in a way that we start not looking forward to our workouts? What happens when the struggle to finish the laps or miles becomes a chore as opposed to a a joy? One of the most important elements of our journey is the "fun". We must have fun. We must look forward to each workout. We must look forward to the progression and the work required to see improvement. Without fun, well... it's not going to be worth it.

At least for me. I have to have fun. But remember that "fun" is relative.

We are not the only ones that are affected when we lose the edge. Our personality changes and those around, those that support our journey, are affected as well. We become irritable, we complain about "everything", we start driving our loved ones away. All of the sudden we could find ourselves alone.

But we continue. We continue because we're not quitters. We continue because, heaven forbid, we made a commitment and we're going to follow through, no matter what. But the journey becomes miserable and gets more difficult each and every day.

So, what's going on? How did we get here? How did things fall so far out of control?

Mind Games.

Before I go on, I must tell you that I'm not a Sport Psychologist, I don't have a fancy degree in the matter, I haven't studied hundreds of subjects to come up with any answers. What I have however, is experience. Real life experience in the subject.Those of you that have followed me for any time at all know that I am not a life long athlete, far from it. Real far from it. At age 52, I was still on the couch, gaining weight and wasting my life away. And then things changed.

I have learned that the body will go longer and farther than the mind thinks is can. Often, the mind wants you to give up, to call it a day, long before your body is ready to do so. You're tired, you ache, there are a thousand other things, your mind tells you, you'd rather be doing. You will look for excuses and options. "I will do this workout later", "I really need to take today off", "my knee hurts", "it's cold outside", "the wind is blowing", "the water is cold", "the sun is in my eyes", etc.

So I have a plan. And I work my plan.

1). I always take the stinking thinking thing and turn it into a positive. When it shows up, I know its time to buckle down and push through. It's my sign.

Regardless of the race I'm training for, I always have a reason and a "goal" for doing said race. This reason is one that I have to believe in and know it adds value to my life and those around me. Once this goal is cemented in my mind, I won't let go. I take it with me wherever I go. Because I know that sooner or later, I will need to refer back to it.

Sometime during the Peak Phase of our training, its when we need to pull this little gem out. On that killer Brick workout, in weather exceeding acceptable levels, our mind is pushing and pushing hard. Our legs are heavy, our lungs are tired. Our family misses us and our friends... well, what friends?! You want to go back, you want to cut your training short. Heck, a couple of hours less today, will not make a difference? or will it? I will know. I will know that I turned back. I wont be happy. But its hard. Real hard.

Remember the reason you're doing this? Remember it well, for this is the time when you need it. This is the time when you want to revisit and refer back to it. Strong enough a reason and you'll finish your workout. You'll finish strong. You'll finish proud. you'll feel good, much better than you feel had you turned back. I won't lie to you, it will suck, but you'll be proud.

2). Visualization. I am a strong believer in visualization. I visualize everything. A good swim. A great ride, an awesome run, and yes, a fast transition. I visualize myself at the starting line. I visualize myself coming out of the water. I visualize myself finishing my bike in one piece. I visualize myself on the run, making it to aid station number one and then two, and then... I visualize mile 17 and thinking "not today, no walls today." And finally, I visualize myself entering the finishing carpet, all alone, having the crowd cheering and knowing that each one of those cheers is just for me. I visualize my wife and daughters, family and friends, all of them at the finish line. It's been a long day, and they're still there. I visualize Mike Reilly calling me in: "Mauricio Sanchez you ARE and Ironman." I visualize all this. And if this doesn't get you goose bumps, nothing will.

3). Mantra. Everyone's gotta have a mantra. Do you?  Sometime before IMKY 2011, I started thinking of one. I knew that I had to have FAITH in my training, in my body and in myself. I knew that I had to have FOCUS. It's gonna be a long, long day. I can't lose my Focus. I have to keep what's important, important. And my mission that day was to FINISH and finish strong. So there it was, my new mantra; FAITH. FOCUS. FINISH. I believe in this so much, I had bracelets made. I've spread a few around. If you want one, drop me a note.  I wear my bracelet anytime I train, any time I race. Any event, any distance. On the bike, I can see it most of the time when I'm aero. On the run, I look at it when the going gets tough. If my Road ID goes on, and it always does, my bracelet goes on as well.

Everyone has a system. This is mine. It's worked and I expect it will continue to work. What do you do? How do you get out of the funk?

The next four/five weeks of IMChoo training are going to get tough, very tough. You're going to doubt, you're going to second guess your decision, you're going to wish you never started this, but you will hold strong for you have a reason, you can see yourself at the starting line and then through the finish line. At times it's not going to be fun, but "fun" is relative.

However, you will make it and I WILL see YOU at the finish line!

"Our environment, the world in which we live in
is a mirror of our attitude and expectations"
~ Earl Nightingale

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