I put a lot of thought into when to give up, when to give in, when I should call it a day. It’s easy to justify taking a set easy or an interval off because I went hard yesterday or because my quad is tight or simply because no one is really watching. While all of those things may be true on any given day, or substituted to a myriad of other conditions, this isn’t a job, or a crossword puzzle or a riddle, it’s a lifestyle. It’s one that we have all chosen for ourselves. We all have different motivations for being out at a Tuesday Night Run or a Friday Morning Swim, but it’s undeniable that getting there on time is a victory over excuses in itself. So, once i am there, I am not going to be undone by any bullcrap that I already outdid when I put my bike on my bike rack or stuffed my goggles in my swim bag or lacked up my running shoes, so I want to share my top tips on how to never give up.
- Once you break, you’re going to keep breaking. I often reference the great Brett Farve to help illustrate this one. Coming into his final season with the Minnesota Vikings (which of course no one expected to be his last because he had ‘retired’ every season for the past 6 years), Brett had played 297 straight games regular season games. Neinty more than the next guy, Peyton Manning. Quite amazing when you look at the battering NFL quarterbacks take on a weekly basis. Brett had played through concussions, jammed fingers, rib injuries, probably everything that could have sidelined him. However, once Brett finally gave in and missed that first start, he played one out of the final four games that year. Addmittedly, it’s a different sport with a different set of demands, but once Farve gave in, his will was damaged for good because that was his last season.
- Have a scheduled rest period and stick to it. Don’t lift weights, don’t go for a jog, don’t do anything. My second key to never giving up on a workout or on a training plan is all about rest. For me, that day off if just about resting my muscles as it is resting my mind. In order to stay focused during a big and long work out, I need to be able to know when it’s going to end, and the same goes for my week and my season. Your time off needs to be something to look forward to, enjoy and appreciate. When I hear commentary about people saying one day off a month, I know that that is a good way to wear your body and mind down. Eventually your body is going to need a break and whether it tells you with an injury, sickness, burnout or exhaustion, it will come. And I would rather take one day off a week and be able to plan it than have to take 2 months off for something preventable.
- When it’s time to go hard, go hard, and when it’s time to go easy, I do just that. Similarly to taking a rest day, everything cannot be at 100%, and it shouldn’t be. I used to be one to go way to hard on a warm up during a swim practice and find myself struggling mentally and physically to stay engaged throughout a main set. If I would have warmed up the way it was intended, I would have been right where I needed to be when it came time to get down to business. The same philosophy can be amplified to the week. My long run on the weekend or a 60 mile bike ride shouldn’t have the intensity that 800 meters on the track should.
Of all of the top athletes that I have talked, one of the things they all share is a positive mental attitude and extreme will power. There is always something trying to distract me, tell me to quit and try to prevent me from pushing through, but I have found ways to rise above it. Others can encourage me all day long, but if I am not going to stay strong in my own head, I am never going to have the physical strength to be who I want to be on the race course.