Interesting Thought: Finding Stability with Flexibility
A few weeks back, I wrote a bit about what we all can learn from trees. One of the things that stood out to me was how forest life forces trees to slow the growth of their branches and crown to ensure their trunk and root system is strong enough to support it. Healthy trees resist the appeal of more sun, more energy, more leaves—more, more more— in favor of tending to their core.
I just came across a related passage from Thich Nhat Hanh, who is one of wisest souls I've ever read. I thought I'd share:
"When you look at a tree in a storm, if you focus your attention on the top of the tree, you'll see the leaves and branches blowing wildly in the wind, and the tree will look so vulnerable, as though it could be broken at any time. But when you direct your attention down to the trunk of the tree, there's not so much movement. You see the stability of the tree, and you see the tree is deeply rooted in the soil and can withstand the storm. When we experience a strong emotion, the mind is agitated like the top of the tree. We have to bring our mind down to the trunk, to the abdomen, and focus all our attention there."
This came from the book No Mud, No Lotus (as a general rule: you should read everything by Thich Naht Hanh). The context is that we, like trees, should cultivate a strong core, so that when the winds in our respective lives are blowing strongly, our cores will be strong enough to support us. It's easy to get caught up in the inertia of growth and the next neat thing. But it's imperative we grow at a pace our cores can support and prioritize time to tend to, to "thicken," or them.
Chew on that for a while and I'll catch you next week.
Coaching Corner: Get Out of Your Own Way
NOTE: This is an excerpt from an e-mail Steve sent to his college cross-country team.
No one wants to fail. No one sets out to race slow, perform poorly at the next board meeting, or write an incoherent book. We all desire success, however, we may define it. Yet, often, we are the ones holding ourselves back.
We create perceived barriers to progress, justifications for why we cannot reach our goal. Maybe we convince ourselves that we are too slow to compete at this level or that we can't handle higher volumes of training. Maybe we convince ourselves that we can't run the 400m or that an 8k race in cross-country is much too far.
Or perhaps, we convince ourselves that the key to success is not in the running that we do, but lies in the extra "stuff"; lifting, stretching, speed work or plyometrics. Or, just maybe, we've decided that the training program is the reason we are not progressing as quickly as we'd like. The key to performing better lies in doing CrossFit, HIIT, PAAVO, or whatever training method we've heard about but aren't utilizing.
It's easy to come up with reasons why you won't, can't, or aren't succeeding. Your mind craves them. It needs justifications for why you aren't winning every race or running a personal best each time you step out on the track. Failing is difficult. We often (incorrectly) interpret it as a measure of our self-worth- showing that we are 'inadequate' and don't have what it takes. When confronted with not hitting a goal, it's easier to fall back on justification.
You didn't run well in the cross country race? It's okay, You aren't a cross-country runner.
Every time you come up with one of these sayings, you send a clear message to your brain that it's okay if you fail because you have a built-in reason for why you aren't/can't/won't succeed.
And I guarantee you, when running or life becomes difficult, your mind will grasp on to the thoughts of why you can't. We've all been there in tough races, where your mind goes to a negative spot, seemingly trying to convince you that it's much better to slow down then deal with the ever-increasing pain.
So as you get into the summer training, all I ask is that you focus on getting out of your own way. Stop coming up with reasons why you can't or shouldn't succeed. Often, with driven and motivated individuals, we search for perfection. We want our training to be perfect. We think "If only I did this...or If only I performed this workout at this speed..." we'd reach our goals.
On the other hand, successful athletes embrace the uncertainty that comes with trying to do difficult things. They realize that training (and life) is never going to be perfect. They realize that they are going to be put in situations where they might "fail."
So this summer as you enter the training grind, get out of your own way. Don't be an enemy to your own improvement. Don't come up with excuses or convince yourself that you should be doing A, B, or C workouts or that you can't make the travel squad. Instead, shoot for good solid consistent days. The training doesn't need to be perfect, it needs to be good. A bunch of average days stacked over months and months is what leads to breakthroughs, not a few perfect days or workouts.
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