Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Would you hire your own internal coach?

What does your brain tell you when you are training or racing? What does this internal coach say to you? Would you hire that coach, pay him/her money to say those things to you? Or is it a destructive voice, one to silence, to fire?

You train your body, are you training your mind?

I do most of my training and obviously all of my racing alone, so the coach I spend the most time with is ME. While I have a generally positive outlook, I have had to do some work on my own internal coach and have become aware of an evolution, a maturation, through the last four years.

Things have broken down at times. I can clearly remember several training runs, a swim, and a race where my thoughts turned toxic, bringing a torrent of pessimism and self-doubt. Last fall was my most recent episode. I finished a moderately long marathon training run in tears because I was off pace for a tempo section -- a pace that I (not my Coach) had set and defined as "success".  What scared me more than being a little slower than I wanted, was how I reacted and the flood of negativity that my own head was capable of producing. I fired off a text message of disproportionate despair to my Coach and was left with a feeling of defeat that stayed with me for days. After that, I decided that I could not let my thoughts get away from me like that ever again. It's too damaging and costly.

Now,  as I train and race, I spend as much time checking in on my internal dialog as I do checking in on my form, effort, and technique. A great antidote to negativity is gratitude. I might "grump" here and there but I remain keenly aware that I am fortunate to swim/bike/run. My history of injuries means I don't take these opportunities for granted.

I am enjoying the sport more than ever and I know the key to longevity is maintaining positivity, fun and playfulness. I cling to that and avoid threats to it. For instance, people react differently to pre-race stress and I gravitate to those whose pre-race chatter reflects confidence, good-natured competitiveness, and maybe even some bravado. The down-trodden and defeatist attitude is not beneficial for anyone and I won't engage in that kind of discussion. Sadly, it seems women are more prone to that.

I have a great role model in Coach Jim as he provides honest feedback and perspective and puts a quick stop to counter-productive dialog.  Similarly, my internal coach has learned to set high standards and demand effort, but she's honest, patient, encouraging, positive....and just a little silly.

I would hire my own "internal coach." Would you?