Over the past few months I've focused on all things mindset when it comes to triathlon. During my run last week, I had a heap of people run past me that I'd usually be rolling past nice and easy without too much effort. Yes, I did think on a few occasions that I SHOULD speed up a little to be where i normally am at their level, but alas, i didn't. How often do you hear of people running, swimming or riding faster when they're with a group of a people that may be stronger than what they are or have been in the past? It's your ego that pushes you to go faster, harder or to places you haven't been before.
However, ego is what gets you injured. It's the single biggest thing that can ensure you miss your goals, explode on a long run or push yourself to a point too far where you're training for the next week is affected. In the past I've been that guy. The one that rides because I can upload a PR on Strava, knock over a few mates on a long run and couldn't wait to rush home and share what I have done with my social media network to show how good I'm going. This ego mindset certainly doesn't help me or indeed anyone else achieve long term goals.
So, if this is the outcome then why do we tend to act like this at times and end up injured, unmotivated and generally unhappy when we know the outcome?
My thoughts are that as humans, we have a sense of belonging that we have a simple need to fulfill. This I think explains the need to upload, tell others and somewhat gloat about your achievement. We are looking for praise and we have an inbuilt need for acceptance. I believe that many of us also have the built in fear that life is survival of the fittest. Yeah I know that's a bit of deep thought but I think Darwin got it right when he told us all of his Survival of the Fittest concept. A built in need to survive, conquer and prosper is in all of us. We see this in everyday life from sport to business and everywhere in between. The reality now is that this completely natural human response to prove ourselves, is somewhat null and void in our modern world. Let's face it, we don't need to kill our neighbour and their children in order to ensure we have enough food to see out the winter. We don't need to be the fastest human in order to run away from a lion or tiger.
So what has this got to do with training and performance? Well, i feel there's simply no need for ego in training. Slow it down, turn off your Garmin, Suunto or any other device from time to time and enjoy the training experience for what it is and should be. The goal of every session should simply be to continually strive towards your goal, to enjoy the session and to dial into your mental capabilities that when race day comes, we can dive into these mental reserves to overcome adversities and problems that could arise in a race at anytime. This doesn't obviously mean that come race day when you're 20m off hitting the lead of a race you don't go for it. I believe if you adopt some strategy around listening to your body and stopping a training session when things don't feel right or sleeping in on a morning every now and then when you have a niggle or two, will only see you being able to challenge for the win or a PB when race day hits.
So back to me. Last Sunday I had a 4 hour run to do. From the first kilometer things didn't seem quiet right. Yes, I did let my ego get in the way prior by doing a hard 5km Parkrun the day before this scheduled long run. These Parkruns are awesome fun, however, I should be doing them at snails pace, not trying to crack PB's on Saturday mornings for 5kms because my training is all supposed to be slow and steady and hard running has no place in the program......actually I wasn't even supposed to run at all last Saturday. So after 5-6kms last Sunday i made a decision to turn around. My legs were heavy, I could feel a little pain in my right knee and to keep running for another 3.5 hours, whilst I could've done it, was absolutely pointless to the entire cause. My decision was based around the basis of 'yes I could tick off this session, be hurting for 3 days and miss half a weeks training' or I could roll back to the car, have a coffee with a few friends, recover and get ready for the week ahead. I think you can see the reasoning behind dropping the ego and going for the second option.
Leave your ego in the tool bag for race day. When you kill it in a race, set a new PB or take down a few competitors let's hear about it. Until then keep your powder dry, train hard and be respectful of your body. Remember, if you're injured you'll be doing no more training and your ultimate goal will be negatively affected.
So here's my simple message after all of that. Stop the ego. Use it on race day when you're hunting someone down in front. There's no point exhausting energy on shit that doesn't matter!