Let me get one thing straight. I won’t even pretend that I am truly optimizing my triathlon performance as a current highest life priority. The fact that triathlon performance is tertiary to a host of other higher priorities like family, career, finances and longevity in sport means that I’m not riding on the razor thin edge of my capability to absorb work. This truth makes certain training and racing decisions much, much easier.
Studies have shown that those successful in business build their success on the back of mistakes and failures that they learn from. They immerse themself in the learning experience– taking notes from experts and from their own errors. The same is true for any success. It’s never about just having all the answers and getting it right the first time. It’s about pushing, trying things, failing, watching others do the same and then adjusting to the lessons with steely determination.
My experience in self-coaching has been much the same. I immersed myself in online expertise and a shelf full of books about swimming, biking, running and triathlon. After a while, they all started to say the same thing once I peered underneath the pointless debates about “the one and only best way to achieve (fill in the blank)”.
- Improvements are incremental.
- Use reliable methods of measuring current capabilities and desired end points.
From those gems, the fundamental process to performance improvement is really quite simple. Create a plan to incrementally close the gaps between current and desired state, create some sort of feedback loop to assess progress, adjust the improvement plan based on feedback, rinse and repeat.
It’s too simple, right? We know all this and yet we stumble all the time. Why is that?
- Uncertainty about how to interpret the feedback in terms of next steps.
- Taking unecessary risks in the name of testing personal limits.
- Expend energy focused on feedback that doesn’t directly improve our ability to perform in the high priority events.
So how am I able to navigate these obstacles?
Well, experience and self-awareness helps with #1, and I don’t allow myself the time to bother with #3. I still do #2 from time to time, but I commit to learning from those errors.
I avoid risky training and racing choices when the A events loom near. I just can’t afford to put all the time and effort I put into preparing for these races to waste by never making it to the start line. By not pushing the myself to the very limits, am I possibly leaving untapped fitness on the table? Maybe. Probably. Yet I know that this time and energy will be redirected to more important things in my life and I’m protecting myself from not being able to capitalize on the work at all. It’s this conservative approach that makes me seem faster after pregnancy than before, when the truth is that I’m probably a little less fit but a LOT less overtrained. Actually, not at all overtrained.
Another way I keep my focus is by picking just one or two key performance events to prepare for. Those are the events that matter. Everything else is just preparation or for sheer enjoyment. It is guaranteed that results will be imperfect many times during the “everything else.” So what? I refuse to feel stretched thin or beat myself up because I can’t be on my A game 100% of the time. With only one or two priority events, I only need to be on my A game a very small percentage of the time. This is much easier to acheive not only physically, but mentally and emotionally that expecting perfection all the time.
Mental approach and personality preferences. Maybe there’s something in my personality that facilitates a cool-headed problem solving approach. Maybe my lighthearted nature, goal-driven determination and high level of self-acceptance prevents me from taking myself and my athletic results too seriously. Maybe these things help keep me focused. Perhaps. I’m not sure how important all that is, but I do strive to encourage the characteristics that add to my resiliency and diminish those that do the opposite.
Additionally, I’m fairly certain that having a coach outside of oneself is probably a really good thing for most people. I’m a firm believer in delegating things to others who do them better. If thinking about your training plans isn’t something you’re terribly interested in or feel you do well in comparison to other ways to spend your time, then a coach is a very wise investment.
Whoever your coach is – commit to the system. Lack of faith in yourself can easily be deflected onto those that are trying to help you. Lack faith in your coach is really diverting you from the real problem,which is lack of faith in yourself to achieve. One thing is for sure– lack of faith is a sure path to lack of satisfying results.
Does any of this make sense? Does it help answer the question of why I can self-coach and still have some success? Are there any questions you have about this that I haven’t answered?