Friday, February 1, 2013

A Quiet Brain

Phew! I did it... got through the little 4 day block coach just threw at me. He might as well have sent me this e-card along with the plan for the week...

He said this week would be "mentally challenging" which I think I took as a dare of some sort... like maybe I would crack again part way through so my goal was to not do that.

So I had a lot of time the last few days in my own brain... training by yourself will allow you to really think about things... maybe too many things... Maybe you start thinking too much and overanalyzing too much and is my power where it should be oh no I'm off pace 10"/mile I should be swimming faster or maybe this is too fast and not sustainable... blah blah blah.

We hear a lot that our brains have a ton of power that most of us don't even start to harness and I'm learning about that more and more as the years go by. I'm a total believer in the power of our brains but I'd say that until recently I have not really learned how to harness it. But I've got some interesting examples/lessons from this week that I thought I'd share.

My notes in Training Peaks from yesterday's key swim:
"Woke up feeling like I'd been hit by a bus BUT all week I'd been mentally prepping myself to swim fast today, so this turned out to be a stellar swim! Fastest 800 on record then the 100's were really solid as well."

So if I would have listened to my body yesterday, I would have had a super shitty slow swim. But since I'd made a decision- before I even arrived at the pool- that I was going to rip it and swim faster than ever , I was able to do that. Pretty cool. 100% that was my brain telling my body what it was going to do. I think some of my athletes are starting to experience this a bit now too- recognizing key workouts as key as mentally gearing up for them ahead of time and then surprising themselves at what they can do! Good stuff for sure.

The description of the bike ride after that swim said something like "Most wouldn't give you a ride like this the day after a run like that..." Then he told me this ride would "hit me mentally" and reminded me that I requested ''No kid gloves..." So, um, needless to say I was scared shitless of that ride before I even started! I swear that the only way I got through it was making a concerted effort to shut my brain up and just not think. I rode mostly by effort and really tried to not obsess over what my power meter was telling me and I'm not kidding when I say I hardly even remember doing that ride. Quiet, brain! And it worked! Part of my post ride notes:
"Ta Dah! No kid gloves needed! :) This went way better than I anticipated it would... no big efforts at all but no sightseeing either... moderate winds but weird- coming from all directions today not normal at all... BUT roads were dry so it was good... I got stronger as I went and covered 81 miles in 3:59. And it didn't feel hard. I just shut my brain off and pedaled my bike. Perfect. Interestingly, I was not pissy at all during this. Somehow, I expected to be..."

So I think the key there was that I had a healthy fear of that ride but going into it I had already decided that whatever it was would be fine and that I would not beat myself up over it. Turns out, that was a good mental approach to the ride b/c I didn't need to beat myself up over anything! Pleasantly surprised for sure.

So on the other side of that coin, when you don't mentally gear yourself up for a session b/c you don't think it's going to be that hard or it's not key or whatever, it's easy for it to go very poorly. Pretty much any swim these days that says 'aerobic' I just think will be fairly easy so I don't give it two thoughts... No 'healthy fear' at all. This mornings swim was like that and I was shocked every time I looked at my watch at how slow it was. Like, I was just barely making intervals I'd written for myself thinking they would be super roomy but instead I was coming in getting like <5" rest and just laughing at myself at how slow I was. Polar opposite of yesterday! Had I lost all my swimming ability in the last 24 hours? Of course not. But clearly I need the right mind-set to get myself to swim fast when I'm tired... which I can do, as evidenced by yesterday, but it requires more grit than I was willing to put forth today. I can accept that.

Finished up the block with a long run and of course back comes the healthy fear. I have not had a decent long run in months- I think I'm typically just going into all of them too trashed to run well. Last week my long run was simply practice putting one foot in front of the other while feeling like ASS. Maybe I needed more healthy fear? One thing I know for sure is that I needed to quiet my brain. I think one key to that, for me, is to not obsess over data. I am not kidding when I say I did not once look at my garmin until mile 18 today. I felt it buzz every mile- so I knew when to take my gels and e21- but no idea of pace. I actually just assumed it was going to be super slow and really I just didn't even want to know b/c I knew that information would just piss me off. I didn't feel like I was sucking today but then I didn't feel like I was sucking last week either until I saw the numbers that told me I was sucking- which then made me think I felt like I was sucking. Don't know if that makes sense? So my goal today was to avoid that knowledge and just focus on running as I felt vs what any numbers were telling me. So when I came through 18 miles 9+ minutes faster than last week I can tell you I was SHOCKED. The beauty of a quiet brain... I am learning! :)

So this weekend, as you're out doing your training, try quieting your brain and see what happens... You just might surprise yourself!


Katie said...

It is an amazing thing when you can shut up your brain and do things you didn't think possible. I am really excited to see you rip in Cabos!

Ana-Maria RunTriLive said...

It's such a fine line between listening to your brain and not listening to it. Both so important I think, at different times! Sounds like the new coach is really working for you! Excited for your race. You train harder than anyone I know:)

cherelli said...

Ah yes, i think quieting the brain helps access those "zen-like" workouts. I recall going into squash matches similarly to your first swim - and totally amazing myself with what i could do when I didn't over-analyse! Love the header pic and that postcard :)