Friday, June 17, 2011

Week 1; Bob's Building Blocks

So I had my first session with Bob on Wednesday. As I mentioned, Bob is not a trained sports psychologist, just a guy with an idea, a system, that helps athletes, teams and coaches achieve their potential. In our first session we discussed how that system works, and how it will help me achieve my goals in the triathlon world and in life in general. After that, we talked about how i can identify when i am in the right place for optimum performance and when i am not. I am told that over the course of the next 6 weeks i will be learning strategies that will help me be my best self at all times. (These are my words not his!)

Bob likes to talk about The Zone. This is a phrase used in sports psychology to describe the mental state of being completely in the moment. It is also sometimes referred to as Flow. It is a single-minded immersion in the moment that can help us harness our very best performance. Bob's goal is to help athletes achieve The Zone not just once or twice in their careers, but all the time, every day.

I personally prefer to apply different language to Bob's "Zone," to talk about a sense of centeredness, or of just being being. A place where swimming, biking and running flow out of me and my best performance just is. The concept is the same (i think!), but the semantics are different. Imagine a kid playing a video game, he is the game and the game is him. Like the Buddhists and their non-duality.

Traditional sports psychology starts with goals, makes plans and works towards achieving The Zone, maybe, someday, eventually. Bob wants me to start with The Zone first and let everything else take care of itself. The challenge is to stop thinking and to live from that place. To live as if my goals have already been achieved. So my decisions on a day to day level become unconscious. I no longer have to fight the urge to eat the chocolate cake, i simply don't eat it because i want to be lean and fast. The idea is to take the thinking out and live unconsciously at my best. Yoda comes to mind "Do or do not. There is no try."

So, over the next few weeks, Bob and I are going to build a series of strategies to help me get into this state of centeredness and also to help me get back there when i fall out. We identified some of my "blocks" and are going to explore strategies to clean them up. They are as follows:

  • I have lots of tired, overtrained bike rides to "clean up"
  • I am still bothered by my SI injury and feel tight in the back
  • I have a problem with sleeping before races
  • I never have enough time in my life and always feel behind on my work

  • We discussed my goals of racing well in Hawaii and of racing consistently over the next few years. If Bob can help me with all this then truly he will have rebuilt my mind.
    For now, my homework is to learn what cues, feelings and sensations let me know that i am in The Zone. I am also supposed to take note of what takes me out of The Zone. Here's what i have learned so far:

    1. When I am in The Zone i feel relaxed in my shoulders and core.
    2. When i am not in The Zone i carry tension across my shoulder and if i am training or racing, my limbs feel tight and sore.
    3. I have some skills that help me get into the Zone during training, like focusing on technical cues and controlling pain with my mind.

    4. I have more of these skills for swimming and running that for biking.

    5. Thinking too much is the first thing that takes me out of the Zone. In training and racing this is often related to what others are doing, for example, if someone overtakes me and i start thinking about them instead of myself.
    6. If the pain in training is too intense, my mind starts to wander and pulls me out of The Zone. Usually i start thinking about my athletes, planning programs etc... This way, my mind can convince me that i am doing something "useful" when i should be focused on myself. My mind can be very crafty when it wants to be.
    7. I am much better at getting into The Zone swimming, biking or running than i am in everyday life.

    Thats my summary for this week. We have a big job before us, me and Bob. OHM!

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