Today I wrote on my bike training record: ‘Got stuck in cleats when I needed to stop suddenly. Fell off. Knee and ego bruised. Knee is getting better.’
Immediately I knew I had to write about discipline and how I want to improve. Falling of my bike was the fourth time in the last couple of weeks I have noticed that my lack of discipline is going to cost me dearly if I don’t improve it.
Now you might think that a bloke that has been in the Australian Regular Army for 23 years should have his act together re discipline and I’d have to agree. I even finished my career as ‘the’ head disciplinarian of my unit. Mostly I think I do OK in this department but there is no way I do as well as I am capable of doing and so the purpose of writing this is to bring such solid awareness to my daily activities that I do improve – and if you are a bit amused by my tale or get something out of it for yourself then all to the good.
One of the things I am pretty good with is that I turn up to training or events. I turn up if I am tired, I turn up if I am emotionally upset, and I even turn up if I am a little bit injured. I know that if I just turn up and start whatever activity is planned, then usually everything works ok and I get a lot of benefit. I allow that if I am still not well after I have started then I can quit. It is ok for me to pull out of training or a race, and go home. Recently I did just that. I went to swim training and swam 100 meters, got out of the pool and went home because I did not feel well. Now however, the rules are changing for me. I am now aware that it takes me more than 100 meters to properly warm up in swimming. It takes me about 300 meters and then my body clicks in and is ready to start work. My new rule now is that after I have allowed enough time and distance to warm up, if I still feel bad, then I can go home.
Recently I got a power meter on my bike and subsequently coach ‘Christian’ stipulated a range of power I was to work within for a session. I suddenly found that I lacked both the skill and the self-discipline to hold within that range. The slightest bit of a hill, or change in the wind, or my mind wandering off and the power was way off. I am sure that with more practice I can improve this one. It is obvious to me that to have the ability to stay in a certain power range will pay huge dividends in a longer race. If you don’t have power on your bike then I am pretty sure that the same could be said for maintaining a cadence, perceived exertion level, or even heart rate.
Talking about heart rate, this morning Christian had told me to do a running test where I had to maintain a certain heart rate over 4 Kilometers. I couldn’t do it, and my inability to do it had nothing to do with my running ability. I couldn’t do it because I couldn’t discipline myself to run at the steady pace that was required. I want to run faster and I am improving all the time but I know that if I want to achieve the best times I am capable of over any distance I am going to have to discipline myself better. Any runner worth their salt knows about pacing oneself. Surely, I can move from knowing to actually doing. Some people say that you don’t really know if you can’t do. I am pretty sure that discipline will be the key for me.
Last situation: I have seen cyclists unclip their pedals just in case they need to stop but not me. I get all excited going as fast as I can on the bike path and then slowing dramatically with my beautiful disk brakes at the intersections before speeding off again. Today however, this habit cost me because suddenly I had to stop dead, I failed to unclip my shoes quickly enough with the only result possible – I fell over. I hereby resolve that when I can’t be sure there is no vehicle coming at the intersections, I will either unclip or I will plan to stop and hold onto the barriers that are there for cyclists to hold onto. I will never assume there will be no vehicles coming. As an older athlete I have to be especially careful about getting injured because it takes me longer to recover than it did 40 years ago. My self-discipline will ensure that no matter how much adrenaline is flowing, no matter how excited I am, no matter how competitive I have become, I will not take unnecessary risks by not unclipping.
You can stop laughing now if you want. I am finding more problems where I lack discipline and will power but right now, that is probably enough to work on.
I have found that many triathletes have a similar personality type, they believe that if one is good then two must be better, if a session heart rate / power / speed cap is put in place then the session can only be improved by going above and beyond…going faster, going harder, going stronger… but as we know this is not the case. When I begin to work with an athlete, the first thing I generally have to do is to educate and slow down the athlete in training. At times we train easy, at times we train hard, and sometimes we train in the middle, but every session is structured and part of plan to get the athlete to achieve the development, goals and success they desire.