Sunday, January 18, 2015

Testing


(written earlier this week) 

This week, I have two bike tests on my schedule.

Schedule a test, heck, say the word test to adults and some find the nearest corner to hide.  Testing means we are being evaluated, means we open ourselves up to being shown what we’re doing right but more importantly shown what we’re doing wrong or what we’re lacking.  Scary stuff.

At this time of year, testing is a starting point.  Guarantee that most of us are starting at points that we don’t necessarily like.  We’re a little slower, rustier and out of shape than we care to admit.  But you have to start somewhere.  We’ve all heard that what you measure you can improve.  Truth for an athlete.  Testing low is motivation to work harder.  Testing high is reassurance that you’re on the right path.  Progress, no matter how big or small, is proof that hard work pays off. 

Testing is the look in the mirror you need to make if you are going to improve.  Showing up and guessing at your paces, HR or power would be like showing up to class and telling the professor – I know the material, just give me a “A”.  Never happened for me.  Were any of you that lucky?  Tediously you had to sit through the lectures, learn the material class by class and then put it all together on test day. 

Yet many of us get scared by that look in the mirror.  We fear the test.  Some flat out refuse to do the test. The reason?  Insecurity.  Case in point: as I get older, I find I avoid mirrors more.  Especially ones lit by bright fluorescent lights.  Why?  The mirror reveals exactly what I feared was the case: pronounced lines and imperfections.  I am what I fear – getting older.  Easier not to look and accept.  No doubt many of us feel the same way about the scale. 

The truth hurts.  The same goes for what you learn from testing  Take it from someone who has faded in and out of various levels of fitness in the past 3 years.  Each time I’ve come back, the first test is that embarrassing look in the mirror that reveals the truth.   The first time I tested, 8 weeks after having Mackenzie, my threshold was my former half Ironman wattage.  In other words, the power I could hold for 20 minutes was once what I could hold for 2 ½ hours. 

Ouch.

Starting points, or let’s call them check points, however, never scare me.  If anything, they motivate me.  They provide the fire to get up, day after day, and follow the plan.  I would rather know the ugly truth than live by some fantasy of strength and confidence in my head.  I would rather quantify and accept the distance between where I am now and where I want to go.  I would rather know that on race day I am prepared to do “x” rather than show up hoping I can do “x”, falling short and being disappointed. 

Insecurity can keep us from doing the things that will actually make us get better.  These things start with being honest with ourselves.  You can bullshit yourself in a lot of ways.  You can bullshit yourself into thinking you can hold xxx watts.  But until you do that, you can’t.  Imagine if I had said to my coach “my threshold is xxx” when I tested after having Mackenzie.  I would have been thrown in a world of hurt, failure and falling short in workouts by using numbers that weren’t appropriate for me.  Physically I would have felt pain.  Psychologically, I would have had more proof that I wasn’t good enough, fast enough or that I would ever win again.

I can’t say that the tests ever get easier.  By I can say that I always look forward to them.  Because I want to know.  I want to look in the mirror and accept the reflection.  If I fall short on the test, I regroup and ask myself why.  Most of the time it’s pacing.  Or not wanting it badly enough.  Letting my mind wander.  I put together a plan for how I will nail it the next time.   If I nail the test, I look back at why (or how).  I take notes.  I set a new goal.

Some will read this and say – easy for you because you’re confident. 

I wasn’t always on the confidence train. 

When I tested a few months ago, I knew I had to not just gain watts but gain my confidence back.  It’s hard to feel confident about high goals when you’re starting at such a low point.  But I never doubted I could do the work to get there.  That’s all it takes – do the work, day after day.  But you have to accept the starting point – otherwise you have no idea of the work that needs to be done and have no business being upset with the outcome if you don’t get what you thought you were working for. 

One of my athletes told me they didn’t have the confidence to push a gear at xx rpms, 
yet.  I told them to stop waiting.  Confidence wouldn’t show up on the doorstep one day and say surprise, you’re ready!  I told them to be prepared to earn it one pedal stroke at a time.  Push that cadence for 5 minutes in one workout.  Congratulate yourself.  Try a little longer in the next workout.  That’s how you become confident.  If I could tell women anything, it would be to stop waiting for it.  Go earn it, with each painful step/stroke/pedal.  It will not magically appear.  It will not be effortless.  It will not be comfortable.

Tomorrow is my second test of the week.  This is the tough one.  Why?  Because I have over 11 years of tests to compare it to.  The only person I need to beat is my biggest competition: myself.  I know what I can do when I’m unfit and superfit.  I know what I did 8 weeks ago.  I know what I want to do.  I know what I need to do if I want to “win” again.  The “pressure” can feel stifling – if I let it. 

I’ll admit it: I’m a little nervous.  I’m going to eat my oatmeal breakfast and put down 16 ounces of fully leaded coffee.  But I know the rest will be all me.  Me pushing those pedals and chasing after a number.  I know where I need to start and know that about 10 minutes into it, I’m going to want OFF of that pain train (incidentally, to all the parents of preschoolers out there, I was thinking the other day – what if you were expecting the Pain Train and the Dinosaur Train pulled up instead? WHAT THEN?).  When it’s all said and done, I’ll have it ---- > the truth.

It might be good.  It might be ugly.  But I’m not the athlete I think I am until I prove that’s who I am through action. 

Especially in today’s world of social media bullshit smoke and mirrors hype --- it’s important to remember that what we think and what we say is nothing compared to what we can actually DO.  So, go and DO it.  Take the first steps.  Put yourself in motion.  Get close.  Fail.  Get up and try again.  The only thing that counts is action.  The only thing – I repeat, the ONLY thing – that builds confidence is what you actually do – not what you say you’re going to do, not the goals you set, not the number of likes you get, the number of “friends” you have, the team you’re on, the brands you wear, the comments you don’t get – it’s all you.  Doing it.  Earning it.  Facing it.  And building it day after day.

I’m ready to test tomorrow.  Another building block of confidence.  Another opportunity to see if who I am lines up with who I want to be.  And if not?  I’m going to get up the next day and continue to work for it.    

What about you?

2 comments:

Kris said...

I *might* be to the point where I get a little excited when I see a bike test. But I think if I saw two in one week I might pee my pants a little. :-P Excellent post as always Liz!

Jennifer Cunnane said...

Awesome post!!!!!