Soft? Avoid Training Weakness and You’ll Soften Right Up.
Before we get into this, here is a disclaimer. I write these emails, based on experiences I have, or have had with athletes I have worked with directly, or observations that I have made from over 15 years of Coaching. Most of the harsher criticisms are based on my own personal experiences as an athlete; I do this because I have lived and breathed the very mistakes that I would like our EC athletes (all athlete for that matter) to avoid, wherever possible.
So, if these emails ruffle your feathers or make you a bit uncomfortable, then ask yourself why.
EC exists to help educate athletes the right way, and sometimes that content sparks a bit of push back from some. If that’s you then before you dismiss it, ask yourself why does it agitate you – is there a truth there that you have been ignoring? Does it force you to check in with yourself? If so, then that can only be a good thing.
With that in mind…..let’s get on with it.
For a long, long time, I thought the way to approach endurance sport was to be tough. And while you do need an element of toughness, it can be taken too far. I certainly did that “back in the day”. I was a ruthless athlete who made no-compromises when it came to training, recovery, eating or anything else directly related to my performance.
I took it so far that it bled into my social and personal lives. I wasn’t the most pleasant person to be around. And there are plenty of people who can validate that.
I did this because I thought you needed to be that way to be successful in endurance sport; if racing is brutal, then I will match that with my own brutally ruthless persona. Everything was about being as tough as could be. I talked tough, I trained tough, and eventually, I started trying to avoid anything that was “soft”.
Recovery? Yeah, that’s soft.
Yoga? Definitely soft.
Enjoying social activities with friends? Too soft – I need to stay laser focused, and not be distracted by friendships.
Dealing with my emotions? Don’t even get me started. No time for that, it distracts me from racing.
I thought that if Iet any of my weaknesses show, I would instantly unravel athletically and fall into mediocrity. You had to mask it, make sure it stayed pushed down, and don’t dare let anyone see you suffer. Do you know that saying: “6ft tall and bulletproof”? – Well, I was that (Ok, I am still 6ft tall, but I now regard ‘bulletproof’ in a different sense.
Thankfully, I have grown up and evolved my attitude. But not until I realised what being soft truly meant. It’s actually super easy:
Stop showing up each day.
Stop doing the work.
Stop listening to the body.
Stop holding yourself accountable.
Stop looking for feedback.
Do that, and in a rapid amount of time, you will become soft. The drive to be better than yesterday will vanish, and faster than you think.
You will stop setting your early alarm; you will stop checking your schedule before you go to bed; you will simply stop caring about the things that are important to your goals. Everything turns mushy; you become a big sad bag of apathy and excuses.
Being tough, or hard, or a bad-ass or whatever word works for you is an attitude – the right attitude. It’s about looking at the bigger picture, and when you are preparing for, say an Ironman, that can be really difficult. You get caught up in your own world, you start believing your own bullshit, and you start missing the point entirely.
You can still succeed in endurance sport, and be a nice person, a loving parent, a good friend. It’s not about how much better than ‘them’ you think you are, or the bike you own, or the medals on your wall, or even the race times you post. It’s about how you carry yourself.
Tough is a straight back, with confidence (not CON-fidence). Tough is that person who recognises that the easy route isn’t going to get them there. They also know that the start of anything challenging is the hardest part.
Don’t confuse the real soft or the real tough.