Sunday, 17 August 2008

Can I change?...

Warning... I'm not sure where this post is going to take me!!!!

All of the time that I've been training for something (whether that be table-tennis as a junior, a running race or a triathlon of varying distances) one major problem I've had is my attitude. I've always been a bad loser since I was a kid. My brother could out do me on every game of Monopoly, ludo, bingo, chess, draughts etc that we ever played and basically I rarely won a thing when I was a kid. I hated it, I hated losing and I hated Jonny for winning because of how it made me feel. It's something that's formed me to be who I am but it's a nasty little sting in my personality that over the years I've just accepted because I thought that was just the way I was made. However, as my training has progressed and with it has come natural improvement one thing that has also followed me is this attitude. I'm only just starting to learn that it's actually inhibiting my progression as an athlete and no doubt as a person.

I've always known that mentally Tom and I are completely different creatures, but I've always put that down to Tom being better than me in most things. I used to really struggle when we did similar sessions and he would always beat me in the pool or look stronger on a run or even enjoy his achievements. It's taken a long, long time to accept he's naturally stronger and of course comparing him directly with me he's going to be better but actually in races looking at our positions against the rest of the field we're fairly evenly matched, thankfully now I have the odd moment where I can see the wood and the trees! Most of the time though this attitude of mine creeps out in my sessions and holds me back. In a recent talk that Tom was on he came home with some great notes and information that could help me.

Basically we can separate athletes into two forms... 'action-oriented' and 'state-oriented'. The 'action-oriented' athlete approaches the action with a positive attitude and will remain focused on the action. The 'state-oriented' athlete has less control over intrusive thoughts while pursuing a goal, concerning themselves with earlier failures which hinders the efficient tackling of a new goal. The 'action' athlete is Tom and the 'state' athlete describes me to a 'T'!

I've got two choices of course. I mean I'm not doing too badly in this triathlon malarky and I do enjoy it, but I do feel like my attitude on occassions hinders me quite a lot. I've always known what I've been like but along with this is also the fact that I've been happy to accept that I'm like that. Actually what Tom is showing me is that I don't have to accept anything, all I have to do is change. But that's the problem... because it's so ingrained and so natural for me to have thought process's which hinder my improvement how do I change? Will it make me a better person in general or just a better athlete? And how on earth do you tackle changing the thoughts that come so naturally that they pop into your head before you even think you're thinking them? It's common knowledge that negative or dysfunctional thinking tends to produce negative or dysfunctional results and although I do okay in races I definitely hold myself back when I'm training because of my tendency to accept that I'm crap when actually I'm either just off form or making a training session worse than it needs to be with my negativity.

Thankfully I am getting better than I was. I no longer fear competition so much in races and have started looking forward to racing athletes who are that little bit better than me instead of dreading it and naturally assuming I'd NEVER be as good as them, instead I use them to compare how I'm improving in a bid to eventually over-take them. But I'm far from changing my thought patterns, it's really, really hard. In moments of positivity, when I've had a good race, a good training session or I'm just in good spirits I tell myself I won't be so negative or 'bad loser' like but all it takes is a bad session or race and I'm back to square one and the natural way I express this is to go on about how bad I am, how slow I am, woe is me and the word is going to end!

I guess I'm querying whether I really can change this deep, deep routed thought pattern and I plan to read up about how you go about this. I need to learn to overcome self-doubt and set backs and learn the process's of change. I don't think it's going to be easy but the first step is not to accept the 'what if I can't' and replace it with 'what do I need to do right now.' And what I need to do right now is to learn how to start thinking more functionally. The first step of this being to set goals, define the action steps and establish a plan. So today Sunday, 17th August 2008 I will set myself the goal of being more positive in my swim training (the cycling and running will hopefully follow)... the action steps to do this will be to banish negative thoughts as soon as they pop in my head and my plan for this week coming is to behave differently in my swim sessions (especially when I don't produce splits that I think I should be doing.) I need to look at my long term Ironman swim goal and break it down into the various swim sessions that I do and take control of what times I need to be able to produce in order to achieve the goal. I read an article called 'The seven habits of highly effective athletes' and one of the main points is 'Concentration and focus.' Rule 1 says 'Try for every ball', Rule 2 says 'If it's too far away to reach see Rule 1' and this is what I'm going to aim for.

I can accept how I am and never change or I can take control and make change, I'm up for trying but I don't think it'll be easy. I'll keep you posted!

I've had a good week of training and racing this week with a pb in the Pool Triangle on Wednesday eve - 35.09 (I would love a sub 35min before the season ends (only 2 races left!) and I'd need a fast night with the wind on my side but I'm riding well at the moment so I'm going to cross my fingers. Today I did Allerthorpe Olympic and felt really strong in all three disciplines and came in 3rd girl.

With only three weeks to The Vitruvian I'm feeling positive (must be the cathartic process of writing about it working already!) and am hoping for a good consistent race where I ride as well as I'm capable, matching my swim and my run.

Time to go me thinks, I've got my first test in the pool tomorrow and that's not a physical one, it's a mental one!!!

"If you don't like something change it; if you can't change it, change the way you think about it. " Mary Engelbreit

H. x


Jon R said...

it's not so much you that needs to change but the way you view things that happen.

There is a book called way of the peaceful warrior by Dan Millman, you may enjoy it especially if you are in a stage of contemplation.



Great post & one which I can definitely relate to.

One of the biggest benefits that training for the long distance stuff has given me is an improved mental attitude.

I'm not there yet - but I have made progress and continue to work hard on adopting a PMA.

I'd be really interested to hear how you progress on your journey.


H said...

Thanks Jon & Mark,

I struggled in the pool already this morning but I'm making the right decision in taking control, I'll definitely keep you posted.

Jon, your comment about changing the way I think makes sense, I'll have a look for that book.

Cheers guys.

runtilyoudrop said...

I have struggled to become more positive and would say it is a long term battle. My personal battle is achieved by being positive about others and reflecting on why I have negative thoughts about those around me and turning these into positives. Through this I have found it is easier to be positive about myself.

Are you gonna do snowdon?