April 26, 2016 George Foster

Training: Psychology

Za-to-pek a man who really knew how to thrash himself!

I’m what I would call a realist. Others would take a look at that realism and in turn refer to me as a pessimist. This to me is ironically funny as that opinion in itself appears to be a pessimistic appraisal of my character…..it’s all a question of perspective, and what do I know about myself, right?

What I am sure of is that I am an expert in both training and sports psychology. I have no formal education to back this up and track history through this blog would suggest that I have no idea what I’m talking about in prior musings, so why should this be any different right? Wrong. Everyone is their own best coach deep down. Certainly when it comes to sports psychology. No one on earth knows better than me how hard I can push myself and no one on earth, again apart from me, knows how much effort I can put into something. So that’s all true at the base level. Performance coaching comes into its’ own when we, as individuals, are introduced to the methods and techniques that can awaken those ‘known unknowns’. That’s a whole other story and one that I, frankly, cannot be arsed researching and so I will choose to ignore it.

Feeling better now that logic and reason has been successfully side-stepped?……or has informed debate now become the elephant in the room in this post? Bah, who cares, let’s see where this takes us.

Where was I? Ah yeah…..talking a good game/having a good game talked for you. The point of this post (three paragraphs in) centres around the fundamental question of ‘effort’. As in, how much effort do we really put in when training? I mean really?

For me the biggest detriment to my running ability is my own perception of effort, compounded by others’ perception of my abilities. There is a very fine balance to be had between fooling yourself into thinking you’re better than you are (past victories/runs or training partners blowing smoke up your ass etc) and taking on the self-confidence gained from structured training delivering systematic gains. Personally I love the ego-stroking that goes on when I’ve had a good training session then at the same time I absolutely hate it. When people tell me I’m a good runner I allow a split-second of self-congratulatory chest beating before the rational (read: realist) side of my brain says “nonsense, if you were any good you’d be running for GB” – or something to that effect. And it’s true. I’m not that good. At all. This simple truth is my biggest motivator.

Now, this isn’t some case of past/present George trying fool future George, no no no, I’m not that clever. I genuinely believe this and it genuinely motivates me in a totally non-false-modesty-crap kinda way. If I was as good as others tell me I am (thank you very much and I know you mean it in the best possible way, but you’re wrong) then why am I sewing my own shoes back together rather than having them delivered by the box load to my front door by doting sponsors?! Being told that you’re good is very important, it breeds and nurtures self-confidence. It positively reinforces a myriad of emotions and worries i.e. have I got my nutrition right? Was switching to this new training plan the right thing to do? etc etc etc. It’s also just plain cool to be told, or tell someone, that. BUT. Be frickin’ careful that you’re not upsetting the see-saw. Never, ever rest on your laurels. For me I will be ‘good’ when I’m running for the GB mountain running team. I may never achieve that and that’s sad. Very sad. I’m probably going to go through some times of feeling that I could have given more, gone better and further, trained harder and wiser. Then I’ll have an eccles cake to take my mind off it. Then one more. And another. I’ll become a fat old knacker and spend my remaining days living vicariously through the achievements of other, more dedicated and harder-working folk. Until that day comes and that realisation dawns I’m going to carry on in my ignorant stupor, believing that it’s not too late to get ‘good’.

Training is the key to this (Duh!) but do we really train properly? I’m not so sure. Ironically (it may not be but I’m still dallying with the correct application of that word) it took a running injury through thoughtless training and the subsequent panic, endemic to all junior officers in the Army (if there’s a problem THROW MONEY AT IT), which resulted in the purchase of a fancy road bike, for me to appreciate what training is all about. It ties in nicely with a previous point, lost up there somewhere in that boiling broth of letters, about ‘perception of effort’ or somesuch wittering. Why do you train? To get better? To get better for what? A race? To burn off your mates? To be the biggest flame in the fire? To get all the girls? Do you give everything you’ve got to each training session? Do you? Really?? Not just each session but each repetition in each session. Each interval. Each turn of the pedals or each tap of the foot. I thought I did. I honestly didn’t though. If not, what are you holding back for? What’s your goal? Seriously? It’s only since getting injured and getting back into the swing of things at the back end of last summer that I was given the opportunity to re-assess and decide that I was fooling myself. You need the man with the hammer.

Za-to-pek a man who really knew how to thrash himself!

Za-to-pek a man who really knew how to thrash himself!

You can wax on about ‘train hard, fight easy’ or ‘I will kick my ass today so I can kick yours tomorrow’ yeah, yeah, yeah. Easy to say. Very easy to say. No-one who’s any good comes out with crap like that. They just do the business and win stuff. At the end of the day, you’ve done what you’ve done but one week later no-one cares. And why should they? I don’t mean that what you or I do doesn’t have meaning, it does, but really it’s only ever got any sort of longevity as personal meaning. No-one else gives a hoot. And again, why should they?? Just please, don’t fall into the trap of kidding yourself. Train hard. Starting a fartlek session of 10 reps but only actually giving your absolute all on 1 or 2 or 3 of them means that you’ve only done a fartlek session of 1 or 2 or 3 reps not 10. It suddenly doesn’t look so good does it? you train to progress but where’s the progress in that?!

Too much......but no one can say she didn't give her all

Too much……but no one can say she didn’t give her all

The irony is (there’s that word again) that I have just written a mind-numbing blog, wasting both yours and my time, when I’ve just button-holed the debate right there. NO-ONE CARES. Don’t worry or fret though friends……if we recognise that we’re maybe not that good, or that we want to prove to others who think we’re good that we can be that much better (i.e. REALLY good), then we’ve just solved the motivation factor that might be missing from our training. What better challenge is there to train than to GET BETTER??

On another note: Jasmin Paris ran a BGR in 15hrs 23mins the other day. Rapid!! I missed that one.


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