Today I was swimming with Brett and Nalani. We were doing a set of 50's with fins that included some butterfly. A total of 4 x 50's fly within the set and the intervals were roomy enough that we could do them and not die.
Before the second one, Brett said, "I'm gonna go 25 fly, 25 free." Of course I protested and told him there was no reason he couldn't pull off another 50 fly. Come on... We had fins on! Quit being a wimp.
So we swam the 50 and of course Brett did the whole thing fly. At the wall, he proudly said, "Under commit. Over produce." My initial reaction was Awesome, Brett! You did it! But then I started thinking, of course he could do it. It was ridiculous to think that he couldn't do it in the first place.
I couldn't stop thinking about this notion of under-committing. For the rest of the set I dwelled on it. It's very common among runners and triathletes to do this. Set the expectations too low from the start so that when you do better than you predicted, you can feel good about yourself. And everybody says, "Good job!" So you're proud of yourself for an effort that may not have even been your best. But it was better than you predicted. So therefore you can feel good about it. Right?
Does that help us become our best?
Right before we pushed off on the 3rd 50 fly I said, "I'm going to beat Brett on this one." Newsflash: That was a ridiculous statement. I wasn't going to beat Brett. First of all, he is a way better swimmer than I am. AND, his fins are bigger. But, the fact that I over-committed and said that out loud caused me to work WAY harder on the 50 fly than I had on the first two. I also went faster. I really tried to beat Brett. Did I beat him? Of course not. But did I actually achieve more in the absolute sense because I tried? I think I did.
I tried again on the 4th 50 fly. Nope. Didn't beat Brett. But man, I got a good workout trying!
So I'm not done contemplating this Under-commit Vs Over-commit thing. It's so easy to under commit, especially on a race morning. I'm tired. I don't feel that well today. I trained too much. I didn't train enough. I think I'm getting sick. Blah blah blah. The list can go on and on. We all do it. Sometimes the excuses we offer before a race are indeed quite valid, but in the end they are all forms of under committing, no? So that way we can feel good about ourselves even if we put in a sub-par performance based on our actual capability.
I am not immune either. In fact, I may be under committing to this marathon. See? I say, Oh, I'm totally not ready. I haven't trained enough. I don't even know if I can finish!?! And then any finish, no matter how far off my potential I cross the line, is a big win and I can congratulate myself. Vs if I still have some sort of time goal in my head and I try to hit it but I don't... well then, I feel like I failed. But it's all just a matter of perception. If I say I'm going to run 3:40 and then I run 3:47, I failed. But if I say I hope I can just finish and then I run 4:05, I succeeded. In this case is it better for me to under-commit or over-commit?
I don't have all the answers here, but I am intrigued by this idea of under-committing. But you miss 100% of the shots you don't take, right?