Making it your own

There is a scene in Cool Runnings where Jamaican driver Derice is studying the top ranked Swiss team to learn what they do that makes them so good.

He latches on to how they start with a chant of ‘Eins, zwei, drei’ and gets the Jamaican team starting with the same mantra. Unfortunately for the Jamaican’s this routine doesn’t really work for them and herein lies the challenge when we observe excellence in action with the intention of improving our own performance.

In Cool Runnings the excellence learning is actually that the Swiss have a consistency of routine before the start and they do it in a way that is meaningful for them. The impact that this routine has is that it primes then both psychologically and physically for a top performance.

Jamaica get creative and come up with their own chant: "Feel the Rhythm! Feel the Rhyme! Get on up, it's bobsled time! Cool Runnings!". Its only a small change in the grand scheme of things but their starting improves (in the movie) and the rest is history.

Whether you are a business looking at how the best do their demand forecasting or if you are a runner watching an Olympian warming up for a race you need to be able to take the time to make sense of what you have observed and work out how make it applicable in your context.

Starting a fitness routine - adaptation is a marathon not a sprint

This week I’ve seen lots of people braving the weather to put on sports kit and run. No doubt many are driven by a New Year’s desire to get fit/raise money for charity/experience nature.

Sadly, in 4-8 weeks' history tells us that many of them will be hurt or sick, they will take a break from running (or whatever their chosen activity was) and possibly not get going again for a long time, or until next January.

What we need to remember is that training is a process of breaking down the body at a micro level and then allowing it rebuild itself stronger. Each run tears muscle fibres, depletes glycogen and smashes blood cells.

Unfortunately the re-building part can’t be rushed and our enthusiasm often leads us to do too much of the ‘breaking down’ before we have rebuilt and adapted.

The mantra is to do less than you think you can/should but to do it consistently for 3-4 weeks. When it is feeling easy then you know that you are adapting and you can increase the load. This is as true for a novice runner as for an elite marathon runner.

If you live in the Zürich I will be leading some beginners running courses this spring that will guide you around the overtraining pitfalls. The first course starts in Rapperswil-Jona on 3rd February and places are limited.

Use it or lose it

This week I went to Yoga for the first time in a month. Summer holidays, mine and the teacher’s, had meant a break. The class was a horror show for me. My strength had declined, co-ordination was all over the place and as for my balance…

In contrast I also did running drills for the first time in month. They were smooth and with no discernible quality difference from a month ago. So what was going on?

Yoga is a newish skill for me in the last couple of years. I practice once or twice a week with gaps here and there when I’m away on business. The result is that the movement patterns aren’t yet burned into my deep memory. Any let up in practice and I quickly start to go backwards in my skill level.

Running is a different game. I’ve been doing it since I was 18 months old. I’ve practiced specific technical drills countless times. The nerve cells in the relevant pathways are coated deeply in myelin and the complex skills of those drills are now as good as unforgettable.

Sport shines a bright spotlight on this learning regression when we miss practice but what about less visible skills. The kind of stuff we ‘learn’ on training courses at work and then practice only periodically while kidding ourselves and our boss that we really have improved.

Great training may start with an inspiring experience to show us new skills and get us going but it requires sustained, focused practice over an extended period of time to really shift our skill level to the point where it becomes automatic. It is one of the big challenges of the time for businesses - how to create that learning environment for employees (and suppliers, customers and freelancers?). There is much that can be learned from elite performers in sport and the arts when it comes to designing learning programs.

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Something small

You know the kind of thing. Its small, we know it will make a difference and yet we keep avoiding it.

When I was an athlete, one of mine was replacing a couple of my four daily cups a coffee with water. Better hydration, better sleep, prizes worth having as an athlete. For years I managed to avoid changing my situation, it was bonkers really. Then one day I just did it. And the next day. And in no time it became permanent.

What is your small thing to change this week in pursuit of better performance?

Throw away the watch

When the RunNudge launched in the autumn one of the most fun parts for me was seeing which nudges got people engaged and really thinking about their running.

This was the first in the series and the title says it all. Its also a great metaphor for other parts of our life. How often do we find ourselves measuring things out of habit that really don't need to be measured - i'm particularly thinking about work here !!

If you haven't yet signed up for the RunNudge here is that first nudge on our Facebook page to get you on your way. 

Maintain your biggest assets

Does the driver service their car regularly or wait for it to breakdown - then face an urgent and expensive repair at the moment when they need their car the most?

Does the chef sharpen his knife daily or wait for it to become blunted - causing him to cut himself when prepping the most important meal of the week (have you noticed that it's always the blunt knives that make the nasty cuts)?

Does the athlete make sure that their body is properly aligned with all the muscles working optimally or do they wait until they get injured - invariably in the lead up to the big race that they have prepared for passionately?

Whatever our work or hobby, if we are passionate and committed then maintaining our biggest asset is a non-negotiable.

If this made you think, then sign up for the RunNudge to get an exclusive weekly video clip of actionable inspiration to make you a better athlete.