If you feel overwhelmed, breathe. It will calm you and release the tensions.
If you are worried about something coming up, or caught up in something that already happened, breathe. It will bring you back to the present.
If you are moving too fast, breathe. It will remind you to slow down, and enjoy life more.
Breathe, and enjoy each moment of this life. They’re too fleeting and few to waste.
These are the words off Zenhabits. They came to me importantly this week as it has been a week of feeling completely overwhelmed. There is so much going on. I have been in Sweden, France, Switzerland, Denmark, Turkey & South Africa this week. Sure, some stops were only 3 hours or so, but it was a week of travelling, learning, sharing and growing with companies I really respect and people I can now call friends.
After I read the above, and Zenhabits is great for little bits of wisdom, I read this one:
In our lives immersed in technology, we rarely shut everything off.
We turn on when we wake up, and are on our devices until we go to sleep. And every hour in between.
I’m not immune to this. Very few people these days are.
And yet, there’s value in shutting everything down, so that we can reconnect with life. With people. With the moment. With ourselves.
There’s a time to work hard, and there should be a time to shut down. Otherwise, it all blends together and nothing has any space.
What time will you shut down today?
I have a rule in general, at home. I live by it, but I break it from time to time too. 6pm is shut down time. It’s the only way for me to get out the door, do some mild exercise (afternoon intense exercise leaves me without the deep sleep I crave as the body is too excited to rest), prepare to eat and spend time with my loved ones, either in person or on the phone.
In the last week, I have not shut down before midnight on any given night. Sure I have run in the afternoons, in amazing places, but I have gone back and worked every night. It’s the major contributing factor for my tiredness right now. So, travel and rest didn’t work this time, but its time to breathe again and tonight, this is my last task – writing this blog post.
I am also investing in one of these for my future travels: Sleep Tracker
It’ll allow me to monitor my rest and make sure I am not overdoing it. Breakdown is not a great place to get to, and I can clearly see the approach right in front of me right now. Overloaded on caffeine, working towards the end goal of list completion every day so that I can rest for minimal periods of time and try do it all over again tomorrow.
Less than ideal.
Time to breathe again. Time to be not only aware of what’s going on, but have the swingers to say it’s enough and it’s not good for my health.
Thank you for listening.
I am currently trying to do something new, risky and at moments, a little silly. I am doing a massive block of work in a very short space of time to “kick-start” the engine before I head off overseas. It’s tricky because it requires a lot of awareness of my body and the subtle signs that are telling me that injury is not on the horizon, but imminent. Fatigue is not just fatigue and there are various types – some good, some bad.
It’s fun for me.
These limits and managing them. Where do you give? How much do you give?
Currently I am 90% certain I will not make a race this weekend because of a R5 coin sized blister on my right foot which means I have not run for 4 days. It’s frustrating because I was looking forward to another big trail run.
Instead, we’ll go deep and try to ride 4000m of vertical gain on a ride on Saturday in prep for CCC.
The aim is to keep the foot on the gas for the next few weeks, but just enough to not make the car break down. It’s a tricky one to get right and I am putting all my years’ experience into this. Complete overload is not a schedule I would recommend to anyone lightly but it is something that works really well in the following scenarios:
- You’ve built up to it with solid weeks of training for a few months before.
- You’ve in the past done similar efforts, albeit smaller in size.
- You can control your social schedule and commitments for a few weeks and cut some people and things out for a while.
These are traits I learned as someone who prepped for Ironman success a few years ago. I went monk after a bad break-up and buried myself into weekends of big work and weeks of “blinkers on”. While looking back has me smiling in that I could likely have done it all a little differently, the experience over that winter did teach me a thing or two about overload.
So what is this article all about? Ive gotten 350 words in and what am I actually trying to say?
Why should you care?
All relevant questions. All with answers that work just for you. I want you to know that:
- Overload can be hugely successful.
- Not knowing what to look out for can break you down and cost you an entire season if you don’t read the signs.
- Only you can learn to recognise the signs.
- Getting the blinkers on can be a good thing.
- And a bad thing.
If you want to try something like this, and by going deep, I mean a sudden 100% increase in volume, then remember the following things:
- Eating is recovery
- Sleep is mandatory, not optional
- Cut the social commitments for a few weeks
- Explain to your loved ones that you are going to be tired and grumpy. But a better person, eventually.
Have a superb day!
I am currently suffering from a little writers block. You’ll have witnessed this if you came back here regularly looking for fresh, new content.
If you look on Privateer, there is no new content from me either. Same problem.
It’s not that I am not out there in the amazing spaces that inspire me. Actually, its the contrary. I am back on the trails where I love it most. I am training myself into the ground to prep my diesel engine for Knysna Xterra which requires a bright, fast-twitch engine to be in contention after two very average showings at Xterra in the early parts of the year.
I have gnarly new gear to play with – new Craft kit, a new Trek Superfly 100 and new Salomon shoes to explore with. There are no excuses here that would be sufficient for my lack of information and inspiration here. And yet, there is no new content.
I am just blocked up and after 1200 odd articles written for this website, I am pondering a new direction for it because really, how much more can be said about:
- Training techniques
- Life balance tips
- Inspirational stories
How do I take this to the next level where I am completely inspired to write every day again? Do the events I am racing in not inspire me to write every day and is the journey done for me?
All relevant and timeous questions to ask.
In terms of Ironman – yes, I believe I am done for a little while here. I had very little motivation to find that extra form this year and got through the race as unscathed as possible with as little training as possible. A 9:15 came out the bag and I likely had a sub 9 in the bag if I just trained a little harder and hurt myself a little more on race day. Would it have changed anything?
I current list of upcoming races would scare the life out of most people and yet, their results are unimportant to me. Facilitating the growth of this community and changing the world to be a better place seem higher up in the list of importance right now. Our food gardens, a training library resource and evolving this platform into something cleaner, slicker and simpler are what I am after at the moment.
Hence the lack of content. There is plenty going on in the background, but would you really want to hear about it?
I am not sure.
There are some really useful articles I could reference and list, but are they really going to inspire you to change? To manifest? To grow? More and more, I am looking towards self-starters, to those who learn and mould and grow almost organically as our relationships grow. Fascinating human beings and I am almost just the sides of the journey when it comes to their journeys – a little guidance here, an answer there. I coach an incredible bunch of athletes right now and my current list of close friends would make the world jealous because they are real people with real values and a real concern for the growth of those around them.
I dont believe there are any huge secrets to still let out the bag here that will revolutionise your training or your eating habits – they are all there if you just search for them either on Google or in the Search bar here.
While I work out where to take this next, remember that it’s simple, not easy:
- Eat clean. High fats, high proteins, high good clean carbs.
- Avoid sugars, wheat and dairy where possible. I am not saying 100% because I am not able to do that, but where possible.
- Sleep enough. You’ll know enough when you meet it.
- Train consistently.
- Build as big a base as you can for your aerobic engine. Bigger than you think you can.
- Have fun when racing, most of the time. Every now and again, go full caveman and don’t think about anything but the pain.
- Create something. Anything.
- Give freely. Dont skimp.
- Laugh more.
- Eat more bacon. Clean, pasture-reared bacon. Where the packet of ingredients says Bacon. Sodium Preservative (so you dont get botulism).
- Drink more good wine.
- Wander freely.
More than that I cannot teach. Go out there. Be more. Have a great weekend.
I have been trying my utmost to settle back into a work routine after the amazing triple Ironman, Joberg2c and Sani2c experience.
While I came back with a mind full of expert-level ideas, my execution of them has been a little slow and frustration levels are rising to the point where I had to do something about it this week.
With the lack of structured training (read: my addiction) a few other things fell by the sideline – eating cleanly, sleeping regular hours, etc. These things all affect my concentration during work hours and the realisation that my addiction keeps my life in check was not a mild one. I was having lunch with an amazing guy yesterday who has had a profound impact on my life this year and we both agreed that the period post-Ironman is a tough one, all on its own. There is no manual on how to cope with the sudden lack of structure, focus and discipline towards something as easily quantifiable as a 3.8km swim, 180km bike ride and 42km plod.
While there have been some really superb break throughs in the last few weeks, I have had to tighten up things around these parts this week and have tried to come back to a simple day. I had to think about what a simple, successful day includes.
So I broke it up into its two parts. Success on any given day for me includes:
- Getting through my task list at work.
- Getting outside at least once to exercise my body to clear my mind.
- Eating cleanly to maximise my energy production on the day.
- Sleeping 8 hours peacefully (ie. Stopping work by 6pm to get to bed at 9:30pm without a busy mind).
- Having time to research and play with ideas and concepts.
Then the second part, which involves getting through those things as simple as possible.
It made me realise a few things:
- Be realistic.
- Be a planner.
- Be prepared for change.
To get these things done simply, I need to:
- Wake up early enough to get in a bit of exercise. It makes me easier to deal with all day.
- Have the right food in the fridge to have a clean breakfast and lunch ready to roll.
- Manage my task list daily and be realistic about how much time I have in each day.
- Plan my day to include time for myself / research / playtime.
- Switch off my brain from work around 6pm latest.
Other little tricks that really help:
- Assign an importance to each task in the day and manage the important ones first.
- Say no to extra commitments on the day. Schedule them.
- Limit tasks to 7 per day. Successful days repeated build a happy life. Falling short every day is not good for self confidence.
- Slow the hell down, twice a day. 11am and 3pm I take 10-15min to just re-order things, bring my attention back to central and ready myself for the next push.
- Single task, like a boss.
Today is Thursday. I had an 8:30am & 9am meeting planned – each would only take 10min or so. I then had to collect something, deliver it somewhere else and then, by 10:30am, be back in the office for my third and last meeting of the day. 11am I took my break and at 11:15am I culled my email backlog. An hour ago, or midday, I set about grooming my lead list and now, at 12:45 I set 15min for a blog post about this topic.
Six tasks ticked off before lunch. This gives me an afternoon to really get my head around a new CRM program I am starting to use to manage my time better. I have set out 4 hours for that task, for today alone.
Every day is not as successful as this one, but it’s been quite well planned out and that comes from having done a little exercise this morning after 8 hours of sleep last night. Its through constant practise of this simple, successful day, that suddenly successful weeks appear.
A last, vital benefit from these days is that they allow unexpected change to enter without huge derailment of the entire day. There is space, time wise and head space wise, to flex and adapt to suit changes and new demands. Really, a win-win for all involved.
Here’s to more simple, successful days.
It’s no secret, right? This boy loves going long. Since the early days, I preferred running the 1200m to the 100m and swam the 1500m far better than the 200m. Efficiency was always my game.
In the last few months I have been through various forms of this and wanted to share some of the things that made it easier, some elements to avoid and some processes to work on in the future. A summary of sorts.
During the Cape Epic, I learned about routine more than anything. The Epic is filled with schedule and organisation and they made it easy for us to get into the routine. While I added the element of running to the photography theme for the week, the endurance required for the day is quite specific and the seasoned photographers had it down from Day 1. It was very much a “hurry up and wait” approach to the day which revolved around key moments like the start of the stage, the three or four major points to get to, the rush to the finish, then a break before frantic editing of images and seeding them into the right channels. A quiet dinner would follow and then the next days’ briefing would follow, followed by a mad setting of the days’ plan ahead to make sure you got somewhere others may not have thought of. Collaboration and fast decisions require rest periods after. The serious guys were asleep early and prepped before anyone else.
It’s the same with endurance sports. Small bursts are great, but only if you can recover adequately in the middle.
Knowing where the red zone lies and where the point of no return lies is SO huge in this game. Look at marathons, Ironmans and the grand cycling tours. An attack is only rewarded if the attacker can sustain the effort, then recover slightly before attacking again. Those in the group that can’t recover are first out the back.
The lessons out of Ironman for endurance were simple. The pain is far more manageable when you are having fun. If you are desperate or completely “over” the whole experience, the pain is so much worse. This includes the days after the race. I finished strong and with a happy heart, happy mind & happy body this year. I walked well the next day and had no niggles out of the race. It was a huge lesson for me. As we get a little older, we realise that life doesn’t stop for us to smell the roses. It’s this continuous moving thing and change is the only constant. This year I moved well in the days after Ironman and wasn’t in that space where nothing made sense or where I felt life had no purpose.
Joberg2c was a biggie and I learned some lessons the hard way there. I learned that you have a deeper dark place than you currently know. By letting go and by feeling an obligation to a partner, you can give a little more, every time.
On day 3, I pushed to the deepest, darkest place I have ever been. It was great because there was no reason not to. We were going well and then *poof* by body just gave in. I didn’t want to drop back as we were gaining momentum as the race was going on and so, I rode till I couldn’t. I then recovered for about a minute and then would do the same again and again. I went till I thought about giving up. Then I went again. I learned there is always more.
A few days later, I was watching my partner go through severe illness. I was guiding him, chatting with him and distracting him as much as possible as he struggled through his days. In the long run, we eventually all slow down. Something will slow us down and Nic was slowing down. Ironically, I was also slowing down a few days later and much more so than he was. It was in this period where I learned that two competitive sick people should never ride together.
“We’re taking it easy today, eh bro”.
“Totally bro, soft pedalling”.
The gun would go off, and both of us would be there, mixing it near the front 10 teams. FOR NO REASON AT ALL.
1+1 = 3 times the motivation to be there when it comes to 2 highly driven individuals working for a common goal. Our natural endurance can keep us in the mix easily, despite it pushing one of us completely over the edge. This led to the last lesson for Joberg2c.
Health = wealth. I got an extremely stern talking to by the doctor in the race village. I knew what she was saying and I agreed with her 100%, completely contrary to my behaviour in the 6 hours before that.
If I didn’t slow down, I could have caused long term damage to myself. It was a big moment for me and the final nail in the coffin of a lesson coming for a long time. I rested for 7 full days after the race and slept 10 hours a night.
Sani2c was the culmination and we applied all these lessons with gusto. We rode and recovered like champions with little bursts and enough time to get back our strength. We rode incredibly well, as a pair. Brett and I ride like no other partners out there. We let loose on the penultimate evening and got to bed late, in a red wine haze and rode as hard as we could the next day despite being a little tender. Sure, we lost one place overall, but even if we lost 8 placed, it would have been worth it because who cares whether you were 18th or 28th?
So what’s next and how do we apply these things going forward?
I would be lying if I said that I had all the answers. Mostly though, I want to make sure all my systems are 100% through winter – immune, endocrine, nervous, integumentary, etc. I saw many many tired looking unhealthy 40-50 year olds at these races and my aim in life is certainly not to replicate their paths.
As for the rest – they will make superb topics to talk about here. So stay tuned.
Let’s all take a moment to relax a little…
There has been plenty to be serious about in the last while. Heavy training loads, focus on economy / volume / recovery, heavy stress to prepare nutrition plans, race plans and how to resume with life plans after the big day next weekend. Weather considerations for equipment, watching videos to inspire you and reading every piece of literature that was ever written by any blogger, writer or person with a twitter account and finally, practising your rain dance.
All in the middle of doing the peak & taper thing as your energy levels and irritation levels return to the state where your wife / girlfriend / friends are thinking that they just wish the damn day would come and be over so their normal friend can return.
But there is hope…
The Ironman Taper does not have to be all this stress.
It can be #moreawesome as I wrote about recently. This is the time to control those beautiful energy surges that are coming and be mindful when the energy lows hit us like a freight train in our taper period.
Accept the following and you will have more peace around you:
- What’s done is done. You are not going to get more fit.
- Getting less fit and adding some speed in the next ten days is essential.
- Your niggles are not injuries.
- Delegate little things to those around you who want your trust and want to help you in some way for the big day.
- ARacing someone else on the day will bring nothing extra. Race yourself.
- There will be pain on race day. Nobody is going to get anywhere without some discomfort.
- You are already a hero. Now behave like one on race day & race with grace, with honour and to improve the day of those around you.
The taper is a immensely difficult period for all those around us.
Let’s try and put some panache into this period and ensure the run in to Ironman is enjoyable for all those around us.
I talk about Strides with my athletes a lot. For them, they are 15 second bursts of perfect form, balance and speed during their runs. I find they help us teach ourselves to run with pride and teaches us to run smartly.
Strides are also a part of life.
With enough practices of small bursts of perfection, our average balance rises a little. Our goals move a little closer. We are driven towards our goals.
We dont have to be perfect all the time to get to our goals. Sustaining a good average with key moments of perfection will help us rise to the top of our potential as well. We are all human and we are not perfect.
Nobody is perfect. Aiming to be perfect is loaded with errors.
Aiming for the best version of yourself sounds like a superb notion to put in motion.
I am looking at the riders here at Cape Epic this week; so many of them aiming for the perfect week. It doesn’t exist. It’s about hitting the best average possible on all the stages and scrambling with gusto and speed (less haste) when the poop hits the fan.
It’s just one of those weeks where a lot comes to mind about how to approach things. I am missing out on quite a bit of key training this week, but my fatigue levels are super high already and its only thursday, so I have to admit that the body is doing a different kind of work. Hopefully it’ll pay off in a few week and if not, this run in to Ironman has been superbly smooth and without any sort of pressure.
As the week looks towards the weekend, with 3 more days of heavy racing to go, I have to look for the best place to take my strides to maximise the week. Today I ended up short on superb places to shoot and high on frustration. Not ideal but it is what it is and tomorrow, we strive to stride a little more.
This has been a week that has been filled with incredible challenges. It reminded me to look after myself first instead of keeping others happy as a primary concern – which is always a tough ask for a eldest child like me. I started in a new office this week to help revamp an existing area of a business that needs a gentle touch.
We also shipped out all our Pan Y Agua tees and took in two other orders of gear, worked on a new range of bike maintenance gear and had to clean up a few processes and instill credit card payments and international shipping on Privateer.
As I ran around on a high, I realised it was not sustainable. I knew, in every single step this week that this is not the pace that wins the race. But still, you push on, hoping the pace will reduce.
Just like the start of every running or bike race you go to, there are those who shoot out the gates like a rocket and fade quickly, leaving the strategists to take the honours at the line. Start for show, finish for dough.
This week, I was trying to slow things down, but alas, running on a high got the better of me. Just like every one of you, I am prone to mistakes. I hope the lessons this week carry forth into the future with some grace and integrity.
I did, however, write the best blog post of my life – but alas, I have to turn it into a workshop PRESENTATION (click here for more details on the workshop or to book a spot) before I can share it with you. It made me realise how I have changed in the last few years. It’s an exciting journey and I hope to keep improving this version of myself over the next two years.
Before I get too distracted…
I just wanted to reiterate that the finish for dough approach works much better. As I sit here, I am shaking my head with a little smile. I know this week is unsustainable. But still, it was fun to push the limits a little.
As athletes, we are prone to excess. We awe at athletes training 25 hours a week just to finish the IRONMAAAAAAN and we justify every piece of compression-aero-drag-reducing-tweaked-modified-naca-profiled-tubing-minimalist-cushioned gear we don’t need. We are obsessive. We like excess.
I am guilty of this. I have to continuously clean out my closets as I hoard like a pro. I am doing my best to keep things to a minimum and at the moment, I am cleaning out my closet by using a service like Bikedeals.co.za to help me clear my unwanted goods.
A while ago, I tried to get down to 100 material things. I got pretty close and perhaps this is the way to approach it again. What would the minimum amount of material things be that I could get away with? What is my minimum for happiness, for success?
These are important questions to me. Perhaps some of you are going through the same questions and it makes for an interesting debate.
For a hoarder like me, it’s something I will consistently have to monitor my whole life. Just like being serious about my long term health – my family history suggests I am going to have to remain stress-free and healthy if I want to live as long as I envision my life to be – I need to be serious about minimum excess. We founded Pure Planet Racing based on this concept.
If I had to clear it down, I could likely get away with the following stuff, as a wardrobe, for example:
- 2 sets of jeans
- 3 warm jackets
- 5 t-shirts
- 3 sets casual shoes
- 3 sets running shoes
- 2 sets cycling shoes
- 2 shorts
- 2 formal shirts
- 1 suit
- 1 set formal shoes
- 5 sets of cycling kit (3 x summer, 2 x winter)
- 5 sets of running kit (3 x summer, 2 x winter)
- 8 pairs of socks
- 2 sets of pyjamas
That is 44 items in there. Doable? With careful approach, I believe I could get down to this.
So what is my minimum for success and what determines my happiness?
- Ageless athletic economy
- Maintenance of stable weight and mental, as well as physical health
- Riding with my mates.
- Being engaged at home.
- Having the emotional freedom to create, in order to play with the world as my playground
- Changing the world to be a better place through this, my platform and you, my audience
Repeated loading till breakdown is a pattern I want to remove from my life. The risk is huge and the rewards are not worth it, yet, as athletes – we strive for this pattern. Do not underestimate the risks of your pursuit of athletic prowess. Be aware of the minimums you need to adhere to in order to achieve those goals and stick to the minimums.
It’s also worth checking into the motivation behind your goals. These are items I have to consistently check and make sure that my goals include a large dollop of:
- Healthy competitiveness
If those are not there, then I don’t enter those races or don’t commit to those personal goals beyond sport.
Surely our biggest goal is long term athletic health? If there is no fun in that and the reasoning for your exercising every day is not based on an outcome that is integrity-based, what the hell are you doing flogging yourself out there among the injured, tired, unhappy masses?
Maybe I am just getting old and considering success beyond the result. Maybe it’s the current strife we are facing in our sports where every “result” is being scrutinized. That is the big hope for Privateer – we hope people will get back to having fun, doing it for the right reasons and forging healthy competitive behaviour. We hope that the beautiful reprobate athletes who make up our following will become the leaders for this new, minimum movement.
They are athletes who cut the excess better than 99% of the athletes I have spoken to in my life.
These are my minimums. I hope to keep trimming the excess in pursuit of these minimums.
This week, one of the athletes I guide (he gets the basics, just needs a reminder from time to time) reminded me of watershed moments. It made me wonder about my own watershed moments, as I had just given him a moment where it all made sense to him. He is a great athlete, an incredible guy and a monumental human being. He listens, absorbs and takes the best forward with him. Something we should all aspire towards, living a life like his.
Those moments where a mass of small decisions bring you to a moment where possibly it all comes together, or someone comes to you and gives you a piece of wisdom that ties up all the loose ends. It could be the smallest thing, because it’s so difficult to see behind that space where you are facing the rock, the hard place and the stubborn ego that doesn’t like to look behind the obvious.
Watershed moments are pivotal to change. Once you realise it, there is no turning back. These aren’t realisations that fluctuate like your belief that it’s ok to eat a slab of chocolate after a hard training session. These are crucial things that affect decisions for the rest of your life. To give you an idea, here are some of my watershed moments.
- While riding my bike along the coastal road, realising that economy and the zone around 75% of max HR would be the focal point of most of my improvement if I wanted to have a long sporting career.
- A naturopath who told me to “learn to breathe and let go” at a pivotal moment in my life which changed the way I laughed, slept and lived every breath I would ever take from there onward.
- Making the food connection. Realising that my central energy system is being fuelled with molasses when it should be fuelled with jet fuel.
Those 3 moments (among others) have made me the person I am today. I spend 5-10 minutes a day exercising my breathing to make sure I am “clean”. I eat “clean” which is a moving target but a target which has meant that I now research where the meat comes from at restaurants I frequent, means I have stopped using deodorant (that sweat smell is from what you eat), stopped taking any vitamins and brought my average sugar consumption on a 4+ hour bicycle ride down by about 90%. Training in the right zone and being aware of economy has turned me around from an average age grouper to hitting it out with some of the pro guys. That is doable by anyone with enough time and plenty discipline.
Don’t be scared of these key moments – in fact; relish them and look for them. They come at the most unexpected times but there is a feeling of deep understanding when they do happen to us.
To the guys and girls doing 70.3 this weekend, I have a bunch of tips which I posted a year or two ago here: http://www.urban-ninja.co.za/index.php/2011/11/70-3-first-timer-tips/
Have a great race out there and really embrace the feeling going through your body as it does the work to get to your goals. It’s a beautiful thing.