Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Keeping It Real

One of the harderst things we have to do as athletes is be honest with ourselves.

Though we will invest thousands of dollars in equipment and training that allows us to reach the finish line in the fastest, most direct way, I often find that we will take great lengths and many detours when it comes to being honest with ourselves.

I know I am not the only one guilty of this. We will find a hundred excuses why we could have gone faster or why we are really faster…..know what I mean? Take for example my other night on the track. I looked back at my mile splits and thought to myself yeah, but I would have gone about 1 – 2 seconds faster per 400 if I had worn racing flats so really my mile times were x:xx minus 4 – 8 seconds.

WHAT?

No, no Liz, really there were x:xx. With or without shoes. But sometimes our minds just work like that. It’s like a self-protective defense mechanism to feel less doubt about ourselves.

But what is wrong with doubt? What’s wrong with feeling like oh shit maybe I’m not that fast. Maybe I do need to keep busting my ass week after week. Maybe this will really hurt. Maybe this is going to be hard. Maybe I can’t do it but…maybe I can. Why do we run from this honesty rather than towards it? After all, feelings like that should keep it real. We can always go faster. There is always someone better than us.

Honesty is one of those traits that athletes have to work very hard to possess. I’m not saying we are dishonest – I’m saying that we are not always honest without ourselves. We will search for all sorts of excuses about why we are not performing up to par when really the answer is right in front of our face.


Because at the deepest level we know what is wrong with ourselves.

How do you know what is wrong with yourself? Think about something you didn’t accomplish lately or something you had to spend 10 minutes writing an excuse about or 10 minutes convincing yourself that you were righteous in failing at. Let’s say you missed a workout or didn’t hit your intervals. Other than major events beyond your control (unexpected meeting, child got sick…) what was the real reason it didn’t get done? Strip away everything else (typical excuses like that pool has shallow gutters so it’s slow, running in the rain is uncomfortable and not something I need to do, it’s too late at night to start that ride) – strip all that away and what you are left with is…YOU.

The pool isn’t slow you just didn’t hit your intervals. The rain is not the problem after all you might just race in the rain. It’s not too late to start the ride if you are really committed to your goals. You don’t need to juice all your vegetables to lose weight you just need to stop eating the crap. You’ll never know if you swim bad in the morning until you stop being too lazy to wake up. These are all reasons where the finger can really only be pointed at: the self.

When I reach an obstacle I often find myself trying to explain it away, attribute it to anything, everything but myself. So lately I’ve been trying to practice more honesty. And admittingly this is a very difficult thing. It is not easy to head-on face yourself. And say to yourself – yes, yes, BUT the real reason is YOU.

This hurts your feelings more than anything else. Makes you feel like you’re not the superstar you thought you were. Or as helpless as you thought you were.

And what you realize is that YOU ARE STANDING IN YOUR OWN WAY. Your excuses and reasons are just obstacles you create for yourself. The real obstacle is yourself. Not the pool, not the workout you did the day before, not your coach, not shoes, not anything that has happened to you in the past, not what you eat or what you don’t eat, not the workouts you do or who you are riding with. IT. IS. YOU. Face it, accept it, and get over it by pushing through.

Though we are all hard-working, driven, intelligent adults that will stubbornly ride through anything - ride 100 miles in the pouring rain up a 10% grade mountain with 85 ounces of fluids on our bike and soggy shorts – we often ride the other way when facing ourselves. We avoid ourselves by starting at the top of a steep hill and pedaling like hell with the wind. Why - when this seems to easy is it so scary? Because it is frightening to take responsibility for ourselves. It means that things really are within our control, failure is (mostly) our fault, we are to blame.


It is frightening to admit that we have a weakness. And even more difficult to face that weakness to then admit that we are strong enough to do the HARD work to get over our self.

I was reading Triathlete magazine the other day. Look in the back at Tinley Talks. In it, he writes:

To strive for something, to really go after it is to be organically honest with you.

Organic is simple, real, clean. To set a goal and say to yourself – I will do everything within my reach to arrive at that goal. This means uncovering yourself. Admitting that your habits are not winning ways. Admitting that you have weakness, failure, that there are things you can change.

Last week I asked my coach if I was doing everything I could to reach my goals. She was organically honest with me. She told me to get my ass to the pool earlier. Stop swimming on tired legs. Commit to it, Elizabeth. Quick making it more difficult for yourself.

Last week I swam first for three days.

Sometimes I ask the coach for the honesty. Other times I bring it on myself. I realized every time something gets really hard in a workout I back away. Especially in the pool. Most notably when holding my breath.

I hate breath control.


I makes me feel like I will die. It makes me want to soil myself. It makes my legs burn and my lungs feel like they will explode. I hate it because it is scary. I hate it because it hurts. I hate it because I know it’s my weakness and to work on it and push through it requires being honest with myself.

But these are things I want: to do no breath fly, to have more lung capacity, to turn off the wall without taking a breath. I want to swim faster with more air. I’ll never get there if not honest with myself. The problem – Liz – is you. You are the reason you can’t do these things. Not little lungs. Not learning to swim as an adult. It’s just – you.

Every day I could make a similar assessment of myself. It would be easy to get bogged down and sad. Instead I’m writing goals. That by such and such a date I will master the no breath in the turn off the wall. That I will do 8 consecutive 25’s of no breath. That I will survive no breath fly. I can do these things. I know I can.

Why? Because I’ve just been honest with myself. That’s the first step. Admit it, get over it, move on. If you are struggling with something sit down and make an honest assessment of yourself: why aren’t you going faster on the bike, why are you walking during the run, why? Be honest with yourself then help yourself. Set small and manageable goals. Celebrate your success.

In our friendships we are always striving to be honest with others. Think of how much guilt we carry if we lie to a friend. It’s not even an option. But we often don’t set the same standards for ourselves. Why? Because for some reason we will accept a less than honest version of our self. It’s easier to swallow. It makes us feel good to give ourselves an excuse or an out.

Work towards becoming a better version of yourself. Have a better relationship with yourself and base it in honesty. When you keep it real you can face up to the things that really need work and move on to improve.

9 comments:

Ashley said...

Hello, my name is Ashley and I'm making an effort to LIKE (ok, ok LOVE) swimming. Thanks for keeping me honest ELF and JH. Great post - one I'll read again.

Odysseus said...

Your post reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:

“It is terrifying. At the center, it all comes down to, ‘How good and how loving and how smart do I really want to be? What kind of physical condition do I really want to be in? I am my only obstacle. There is no X-factor. I am the X-factor.’” - Will Smith

Anonymous said...

This is VERY TRUE. As an athlete I find myself NOT wanting to do the EARLY season 5ks or 10ks because I know the time next to my name will NOT be a PR...what is this obsession we all have that EACH race has to be a homerun, a PR? It is the raw truth though and I can be JUST as guilty. And, as a coach, I find myself "convincing" athletes to GET OUT THERE and just do it....the first race HURTS and sucks bad, but after that, nothing will be as hard. It is like the track, the TTs, the swim meets KEEP US HONEST and we all find out that we are NOT superpeople and there is ALWAYS ALWAYS someone faster than us. It is a humbling realization...but one that keeps us hungry and fighting for more. Good job on the swimming (hee hee). Jen H.

Beth said...

So, so well said. People who are always making excuses for their shortcomings annoy me to no end. But if am I brutally honest with myself, I do the same exact thing all the time.

I HATE breath control stuff with a passion too. Oh man. I cringe when I see it on my workout. But it's time to stop making excuses as to why I can't master it. And not breathing off my turn? I can hear our masters coach screaming it right now! These will be my new tasks to accomplish. Thanks for helping me to keep it real!

Colleen S said...

Excellent post Liz- thanks for the reminders. I will re-read this one when I have breath control workouts to do and remember its me in the way :) Cheers

Kellye Mills said...

I needed this today because my big thing I've GOT to get honest with is nutrition!! Not really because of weight but just for better overall energy and health and I excuse my way in and out of treats constantly!!

Thanks for keeping us all in line!

Marit Chrislock-Lauterbach said...

Good for you Liz! Early swim workouts have never been fun for you - I know this after our two trips together... :) Way to really go for it! So now, I'll have to cluck like a chicken and toss feathers at you at the pool - or at some point when you're swimming.

Great post, very thought provoking. I go through the same things in recovery right now - not getting in my own way... very well said. Thanks for turning the mirror back on us.

Now - go find your chicken in the pool!

Bob Mitera said...

Do I post my writing about accountability? Seems like you nailed it. I've been thinking about this too. Nice work!!

PS: I LOVE breath control. It is a cheap buzz.

TJ said...

A friend recommended your blog to me. This first post that I read was great stuff. Very inspirational... talk about an x-factor... I've been doing tri's for 5 years and I don't even know what breath control is. I guess I better do my homework... and also stop whining.

:-)