Execution & Discipline

Already we are into the thick of race season and thus brings more specific training as each of you prepare for your big 2018 goals. Even though the ground work has been laid in the winter, now is the time to bring it together, translate the training to racing, maintain self discipline (more on this below), maintain a high level of ‘desire to train’, and define execution for your key events. As race reports flow in or coaches meet one on one with athletes about upcoming races, the narrative evolves towards execution and best efforts. 

Sometimes when I ask an athlete “what’s your execute a plan?” they glare back like a deer in headlights. I too delivered a first-class glare before understanding what a) a successful day meant to me b) what the term execution even meant. 

So let’s talk about execution. 

Let me just say this, if an athlete decides to execute the plan, I mean really follow through, a good day almost always presents itself. Optimum execution can be a complex concept to play out effectively because so many factors can influence a long race (some controllable, some not) and for some a long day can be 14, 16, 24 hours+.  I don’t need to tell you guys that the margin of error grows with every passing hour.  Nonetheless, the formula to success is the combination of a million good decisions with as many executable factors as possible. The sum of these two factors almost always net out a great result. 

Make a lot of good decisions + set and execute upon achievable targets = successful execution.  

What about all these decisions to be made? What about external forces? How does one remember everything they set out to do in the plan? The best execution plans stem from a somewhat simple outline. Too many complex details packed into one plan can derail your ability to execute simply because you have too many things to think about.  Athletes use all kinds of tricks to remind themselves when to eat, when to drink, how to feel, who to thank (pictures of their kids on top tube!), what pace to ride/run, where their bike is racked, what direction to go, etc. As we tire, the more reminders we may need. Optimum execution takes planning and lots of it. It starts early in the process, it takes practice, it takes time away from your day to sit down and write it out, visualize it, create the framework then make sure it is possible. Create techniques that work for you and watch what others do. Over the years I have observed and learned from so many athletes - I adopt and adjust their ideas to work for me. On the rare occasion, I make up my own trick. Brite Coach Britni Bakk has taught me more tricks of the trade then she will ever know! 

The other aspect of embracing and owning race execution is to practice it and simulate it in training sessions. Practicing your execution in training allows you to process decisions, visualize the sequence and plot fuelling or gear or hydration or pacing. Come race day, it’s just a matter of doing what you already know how to do with a few other people around to bring out the best in you.

Consider this “execution” mindset for your next event: 

Focus on OUT-EXECUTING your competitors or peers around you. If you are the one athlete that remains focused, holds attention on the task at hand and sets out to do what you planned to do, you will guarantee yourself a great outcome. If you focus on out-executing everyone around you, you will rise to the surface simply by committing to execution. The trick is to apply your plan in action. Anyone can write out a plan, create lists and set intentions but the magic happens when the plan is applied in the field when critical decisions need to be made. So few actually do this. It is all too easy to go off plan. It’s much harder to stay the course, persevere and carry through with your execution plan especially when unforeseen forces are driving you to give up and give in. Those who do execute always have a great race. 

 

++++

 

Where Does Discipline Comes From?

On the heels of execution, I wanted to also touch on discipline since this too is a reoccurring theme in recent discussions and observations in training logs and athlete feedback. 

On occasion, I notice athletes seeking external discipline to help carry their training especially at this time of year when training gets specific, longer and more interruptive of life. If you signed up for a race or event, you experienced a moment of commitment to a goal. The goal was in the future and the consequences of your commitment did not seep in quite yet. As days, weeks, and months rolled on, you started to notice how this commitment had consequences to your usual schedule. That volleyball game you play on Sundays is now bumping up against a planned ride. How’s this going to work? 

If you are one of those athletes that easily flips the switch, gets onboard and structures your life to accommodate new training time with work, kids, family and many one hobby then you likely understand where discipline comes from. If you are someone that is bumping up against a new training load or how to “get it all in” or creating a new normal for yourself, then maybe discipline is a trait yet to be developed. Either way, everyone, including myself, can use a reminder about where discipline comes from. 

Discipline comes from within. Discipline is an internal force.  Sure, you can have discipline imposed on you by another person, a coach or a self help guru but the reality is none of them will give you real discipline.

External discipline is not strong. It will not survive. It will not stand on its own.  Self discipline, as the very term implies, comes from self…from within you. It comes from an internal decision to be better. If you don’t think you are disciplined it is because you haven’t yet decided to be. You haven’t created it yet. You haven’t become it yet. To become disciplined you have to make a decision and commitment. You must embrace it’s relentless power and become it. Discipline, in my experience, will make athletes better, stronger, faster, than anything else.  When an athletes doesn’t want to get up early on a weekend to ride, that’s discipline playing a hand. When an athlete would rather do other things but then later regret that decisions because they could have done it, that again is discipline playing them. 

And yes, if it were easy to have self discipline it wouldn’t be such a unique, practicable and improve-able trait. To get up early, to get it done and to get the training in is what you signed up for when you paid the money for that race. The process is not all unicorns and rainbows once you sign up for the event. Athletes don’t magically create themselves into the event: they have to do the work and put in the hours. No one, there is not one single except, is unique to this requirement.

The glory of finishing, completing and accomplishing something you signed up for is a direct result of the work you put in, the discipline you showed and the commitment towards that discipline. What’s not so shocking to anyone is that  discipline is a common thread through everything - if it shows up in our athletic life and training endeavours, it shows up in other aspects of our lives. We can use athletics and sport to practice a renewed commitment to being self disciplined. Every day we have a choice. Every day we get to renew our commitment. Every day we get to practice disciplined from within. 

 

Christine

Mindset & Iron Camp

Athletes - It's been on my mind to write a piece on mindset and the influencing factors. Mindset is likely 90% of this whole endurance sport we pursue. Being the middle of July with some races in our pockets and some big ones still to come, I hope you will pause to consider how you may shift a little to show up every day, every training session, every race, every recovery moment, every presentation, every personal encounter with a supportive mindset. Below is specific to endurance sports however the ripple effect is real. Carol Dueck wrote Mindset - a book worth owning and reading. 

An Athlete's Mindset

Being an athlete is a mindset…not influenced by your physical appearance, nor your talent, nor your experience in sport.  If being an athlete is a mindset, how does one emulate an athletic mindset day-to-day, session-to-session, in training or not in-training?  What are the thought patterns, approaches and action items that support an athletic mindset? I have 6. You may have more.

Before getting there, it’s important not to confuse mindset with mental training. Mental training is a form of visualization or mindfulness practices that create scenarios, emotions, circumstances, efforts, and flow to help cope with upcoming challenges or mentally experience a forthcoming event. Another form of mental training is to attach words or mantras to how we want to feel, behave or experience an upcoming event. 

Mental training can be extremely effective for athletes looking to pre-create the sensations of a race (temperatures, wind, climbs, fatigue, hunger, smells, etc). While practicing mental training is a part of having an athlete’s mindset, is it only one component of how broad mindset can reach in all areas of our lives.  With the upcoming Ironmans, Gran Fondos, Haute Route Stage Races, Ultramarathons, Ultraswims, SwimRuns and adventure races, there is no better time than now to adopt or reboot your mindset. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that the difference between having an athlete’s mindset and not is…everything.

The Athlete Mindset Influencers (zero pre-requisites required):

Purpose. An athlete with a goal for a training session is determinately better than without. A plan gives purpose and purpose feels productive. The athlete that simply “gets through”, reacts to, checks the box, mindlessly “exercises” will rarely thrive beyond mediocre. Being deliberate with your training leads to performance gains. Training with purpose is a mindset.

Sleep. Think recovery, repair, reset, reboot, rejuvenate and restart all the physical and cognitive functions your body needs to operate at a high level. Sleep deprivation is a great depressant and destroyer of performance and perspective. If you are serious about developing as an athlete, sleep quality and quantity is the best performance enhancer out there. Deciding to make sleep a priority is a mindset.

Hydration. For those that attended the Brite Training Camp you will have learned the importance of hydration (www.precisionhydration.com). Simply carrying a water bottle around with you throughout the day signals to your mind and body that you are thinking ahead, looking after your needs and maintaining fluid homeostasis in your body. Dehydration can lead to severe training mishaps, elevated perceived efforts and brain fog. Hydration greases the joints, ligaments and tendons for movement and range of motion. Sipping clarifying water throughout the day is a mindset.

Reflection. Positive training sessions lead and feed more positive training sessions.  After successful training sessions, our mind not only becomes resilience to adversity, we also tend to deflect challenges thanks to our newfound self-belief and confidence. Success breeds success. Effort, paces, watts become possible and therefore repeatable. Of course, the reverse can happen when negative workout experiences are fed. We start to limit effort and seek confirmation that we are unable to produce effort, watts, pace as proven previously.  Flora Duffy is a great example of a world class ITU athlete whose success bred exponentially more success. Her dominance was so severe most competitors were racing for second. Reflection through the appropriate positive lens is a mindset.

Stress.  How do we encapsulate the impact stress has on our lives? Unfortunately (and typically) when we are stressed in one area of our lives, it impacts everything else in our lives. What comes forth is only a B or a C effort vs. an A effort. When we allow stress to take over and engulf our entire being, we dilute much more than the course of stress, we dilute everything. The relationship we have with stress is complex since in order to grow we need a certain amount of stress to develop stamina and strength. Chronic stress is what really needs our attention. The non-stop relentless stress (physical is equal to cognitive is equal to emotional stress) will eventually sap us of joy, pleasure, perspective and enjoyment eventually leading to anxiety, depression, confrontation, dissatisfction and the inability to cope (with anything). The skill of stress management will set you free. The ability to compartmentalize stress will open spaces for creativity and performance. Putting life, work, community and family stresses aside when you need to race or train is a valuable mindset tool that requires awareness and practice. I find this to be a much bigger challenge for athletes that work and training at home. Compartmentalization of stress triggers is a mindset.

Self Care. How you take of yourself, as an athlete, after training session is paramount to performance. Training to allow for junk food throughout the day or hanging around in a sweaty gear or sitting at your desk for 3 hours after a long run are simply recipes for stagnation, deterioration in performance and long-term burnout. Paying attention to how you go about your day-to-day activities speaks volumes to how you will show up in training and definitely in racing. Looking after the obvious basics does not mean you are placing overarching self-importance on athletic performance and micro managing every single step, bite or sip you take. Simply reflect on areas in your life that clearly do not support self-care (mid afternoon cola, evening screen time, not addressing tightness or niggles, dehydration). Results or performance gains are not within reach if you are not treating your body with appropriate self-care. Self-care is a mindset.

If you are training for and toeing the line of an upcoming event or simply enjoy the athletic lifestyle and you have the physical side sorted out, start to integrate the mindset tools. An athlete’s mindset will maximize the effectiveness of your training time. Guaranteed.  

I’ll finish with a great (and old) blog post by Gordo Byrn. Gordo is from the old days of triathlon and a true experiment of one. I appreciate his humility and willingness to share raw emotion and honest self reflection. Over my career as an athlete and coach, I have learned alot by following his journey as many others have too. This write is a humorous look into a Dave Scott Training Camp and fatigue. https://coachgordo.wordpress.com/2017/07/07/iron-school/  



Execution

Athletes:


Already we are into the thick of race season and thus brings more specific training as each of you prepare for your big 2018 goals. Even though the ground work has been laid in the winter, now is the time to bring it together, translate the training to racing, maintain self discipline (more on this below), maintain a high level of ‘desire to train’, and define execution for your key events. As race reports flow in or coaches meet one on one with athletes about upcoming races, the narrative evolves towards execution and best efforts. 


Sometimes when I ask an athlete “what’s your execute a plan?” they glare back like a deer in headlights. I too delivered a first-class glare before understanding what a) a successful day meant to me b) what the term execution even meant. 


So let’s talk about execution. 


Let me just say this, if an athlete decides to execute the plan, I mean really follow through, a good day almost always presents itself. Optimum execution can be a complex concept to play out effectively because so many factors can influence a long race (some controllable, some not) and for some a long day can be 14, 16, 24 hours+.  I don’t need to tell you guys that the margin of error grows with every passing hour.  Nonetheless, the formula to success is the combination of a million good decisions with as many executable factors as possible. The sum of these two factors almost always net out a great result. 


Make a lot of good decisions + set and execute upon achievable targets = successful execution.  


What about all these decisions to be made? What about external forces? How does one remember everything they set out to do in the plan? The best execution plans stem from a somewhat simple outline. Too many complex details packed into one plan can derail your ability to execute simply because you have too many things to think about.  Athletes use all kinds of tricks to remind themselves when to eat, when to drink, how to feel, who to thank (pictures of their kids on top tube!), what pace to ride/run, where their bike is racked, what direction to go, etc. As we tire, the more reminders we may need. Optimum execution takes planning and lots of it. It starts early in the process, it takes practice, it takes time away from your day to sit down and write it out, visualize it, create the framework then make sure it is possible. Create techniques that work for you and watch what others do. Over the years I have observed and learned from so many athletes - I adopt and adjust their ideas to work for me. On the rare occasion, I make up my own trick. Brite Coach Britni Bakk has taught me more tricks of the trade then she will ever know! 


The other aspect of embracing and owning race execution is to practice it and simulate it in training sessions. Practicing your execution in training allows you to process decisions, visualize the sequence and plot fuelling or gear or hydration or pacing. Come race day, it’s just a matter of doing what you already know how to do with a few other people around to bring out the best in you.


Consider this “execution” mindset for your next event: 

Focus on OUT-EXECUTING your competitors or peers around you. If you are the one athlete that remains focused, holds attention on the task at hand and sets out to do what you planned to do, you will guarantee yourself a great outcome. If you focus on out-executing everyone around you, you will rise to the surface simply by committing to execution. The trick is to apply your plan in action. Anyone can write out a plan, create lists and set intentions but the magic happens when the plan is applied in the field when critical decisions need to be made. So few actually do this. It is all too easy to go off plan. It’s much harder to stay the course, persevere and carry through with your execution plan especially when unforeseen forces are driving you to give up and give in. Those who do execute always have a great race. 


++++


Where Does Discipline Comes From?


On the heels of execution, I wanted to also touch on discipline since this too is a reoccurring theme in recent discussions and observations in training logs and athlete feedback. 


On occasion, I notice athletes seeking external discipline to help carry their training especially at this time of year when training gets specific, longer and more interruptive of life. If you signed up for a race or event, you experienced a moment of commitment to a goal. The goal was in the future and the consequences of your commitment did not seep in quite yet. As days, weeks, and months rolled on, you started to notice how this commitment had consequences to your usual schedule. That volleyball game you play on Sundays is now bumping up against a planned ride. How’s this going to work? 


If you are one of those athletes that easily flips the switch, gets onboard and structures your life to accommodate new training time with work, kids, family and many one hobby then you likely understand where discipline comes from. If you are someone that is bumping up against a new training load or how to “get it all in” or creating a new normal for yourself, then maybe discipline is a trait yet to be developed. Either way, everyone, including myself, can use a reminder about where discipline comes from. 
Discipline comes from within. Discipline is an internal force.  Sure, you can have discipline imposed on you by another person, a coach or a self help guru but the reality is none of them will give you real discipline.External discipline is not strong. It will not survive. It will not stand on its own.  Self discipline, as the very term implies, comes from self…from within you. It comes from an internal decision to be better. If you don’t think you are disciplined it is because you haven’t yet decided to be. You haven’t created it yet. You haven’t become it yet. To become disciplined you have to make a decision and commitment. You must embrace it’s relentless power and become it. Discipline, in my experience, will make athletes better, stronger, faster, than anything else.  When an athletes doesn’t want to get up early on a weekend to ride, that’s discipline playing a hand. When an athlete would rather do other things but then later regret that decisions because they could have done it, that again is discipline playing them. 
And yes, if it were easy to have self discipline it wouldn’t be such a unique, practicable and improve-able trait. To get up early, to get it done and to get the training in is what you signed up for when you paid the money for that race. The process is not all unicorns and rainbows once you sign up for the event. Athletes don’t magically create themselves into the event: they have to do the work and put in the hours. No one, there is not one single except, is unique to this requirement.
The glory of finishing, completing and accomplishing something you signed up for is a direct result of the work you put in, the discipline you showed and the commitment towards that discipline. What’s not so shocking to anyone is that  discipline is a common thread through everything - if it shows up in our athletic life and training endeavours, it shows up in other aspects of our lives. We can use athletics and sport to practice a renewed commitment to being self disciplined. Every day we have a choice. Every day we get to renew our commitment. Every day we get to practice disciplined from within. 

Focus Constantly on Getting Better

FOCUS CONSTANTLY ON GETTING BETTER

When athletes or "performers" focus on constantly getting better - be it through global health, relationships, nutrition, training, mindfulness or engaging both the internal an external worlds, one common thread is the journey has no end. The journey is constant, the goal is the path and the path is the goal. Below is an adapted list of 15 practices offered by author and expert in health and human performance, Brad Stulberg, on the path towards growth and development. 

STRESS
Stress is a stimulus for growth. Without stress living organisms don't adapt, don't change. So you need stress. But stress is only beneficial in the right dose and when you have the capacity, resources, and support to absorb it. And stress is only valuable when it's followed by rest.

REST
The space during which growth occurs. Without rest, we stand no chance at absorbing and growing from challenges we face. If you want to develop your body, mind, or soul you've got to understand that rest - that simply "being" - is every bit as important as doing.

WELLNESS
Health is multidimensional. It is physical and mental and emotional and spiritual. It is also integral to lasting progress. It is true that you can burn "brite" for a while without a foundation of health, but keep existing in this way and eventually you'll burnout. Sacrificing health is myopic. The long-game requires it.

COMMUNITY
Research shows that the people with whom you surround yourself influence your performance and wellbeing by up to 30 percent. When things are going well community pushes you and celebrates you and keeps you grounded. When things aren't going well a tribe of support is everything.

COACHING
A coach is there to see what you don't see and to point you in the direction of growth. The best coaching relationships are rooted in shared humility and caring. A good coach doesn't just show or tell. They walk with with you on your path - sometimes leading and sometimes following.

CONSISTENCY
Show up, even when you don't want to. Doing so makes you better not only at your craft - via compounding gains - but also at the skill of exerting effort itself. The path of mastery isn't about being consistently great. It's about being great at being consistent.

PRESENCE
In many ways, presence is synonymous with peak performance. When you are fully there - completely immersed in your pursuit with concentrated attention - you are almost always at your best. Practicing presence leads to a better body of work and a richer, more textured life.

CARING
If you really care about what you do you'll put your all into it. If you really care about the people with whom you interact you'll put your all into them. Caring serves as the cutting edge of personal and social evolution. Caring is quality. Caring is love. You've got to care.

HUMILITY
Once you think you know you cease to keep knowing. Once you think you're good you cease to keep getting better. But there is always more to know. Always room to get better. Without humility there can be no growth.
 

CONFIDENCE
It's knowing, based on a body of evidence, what you can and can't do, and then moving forward accordingly. Confidence isn't something that you have or you don't. It's not something you're born with. Confidence is something you build.

DRIVE
Drive means relentless pursuit. Often born out of insecurity, at its best it's fuelled by love. Drive must be channelled. It can be productive and beautiful and enlarging when pointed toward growth and development. It can be destructive and diminishing when pointed at external validation. The best drive comes from the inside.

PATIENCE
Patience is letting things happen instead of making them happen. Not to be confused with passivity, patience is about persistence. Gentle persistence. It's about surrendering to a process and being present as it unfolds. Staying on the path of mastery in any endeavour requires patience.

TOUGHNESS
Toughness is about doing the hard thing because it's the right thing. Sometimes this means putting your head down and grinding it out. Other times this means backing off and asking for help. Toughness lives on the inside. The people who don't act tough are generally the toughest of all.

ACCEPTANCE
You've got to be honest - and okay - with yourself. Acceptance does not mean doing nothing but rather acknowledging and starting where you are. Not where you think you should be. Not where you want to be. Where you are. Because if you don't start where you are, you'll never really get anywhere.
 

VULNERABILITY
Vulnerability starts with being honest with yourself. Why are you doing what you're doing? What are you seeking? What could you be doing better? Are you open to receiving help? Answering these questions - being vulnerable - is uncomfortable. But being uncomfortable leads to growth.

Brad's offers 10 Commandments to Peak Performance as well as 57 pages of key quotes from the book

 

Part III - Gut Health for the Endurance Athlete

This is our final instalment of the 3-part series related to Nutrition, Hydration and Digestive Health in consideration of endurance athletes seeking peak performance. In Part I we discussed the role of Nutrition & Fuelling. In Part II we looked at Hydration Guidelines from Precision Hydration. We invite you to review and apply the guiding principles for this season's training and racing. 

Today, we take a shallow dive into the topic of Digestive Health.  Why a shallow dive? Well, because the topic of digestive health is deep, complex and rooted in one's unique micro-biome, cellular makeup and compounding life stressors.  While one athlete might experience bloating and gas, another athlete may experience irritable bowel syndrome and yet another athlete may experience overwhelming fatigue all of which we can trace back to some form of  gut dysbiosis.

What we hope to do here is underscore the importance of gut health and encourage athletes suffering from less than optimum digestion to seek solutions either through Brite Coaching's team of experts or your own network of specialists. 

The expression "I had a gut feeling" holds a lot of truth and worth tuning in to if you have an inkling that your inner garden needs some attention. 

PART III - HEALTHY DIGESTION & THE ENDURANCE ATHLETE

No matter how many kilometres you log as an endurance athlete, if you are passionate about going long and performing when it counts, you will do nearly anything to keep your streak going strong. Endurance athletes are often the ones that suffer from unidentified symptoms of gut distress be it seen in the lack of quality sleep, mental or emotional instability, unsettled tummy (aka: bloating or gas) in training and life, difficulty losing weight despite training load, suppressed immune system, re-occurring injuries and poor performance outcomes. 

Take a minute to think about a time (might be right now) when you felt a little off kilter, a little less "well" or a little out of sorts and what that felt like on global level. Chances are you can identify with some of the symptoms offered here or here. Healing from inner distress can be life changing as it relates to daily comfort and confidence and reaching new levels of athletic, personal, and professional performances. 

As a coach to the endurance community, the key markers I look for in declining global health likely related to digestion are chronic reports of poor sleep quality, frequent colds, constant stops during training runs due to loose stools, fluctuations in training consistency, irritability and moodiness, obsessive thoughts and behaviours, inability to hit targets in workouts, anxiety related to racing or performance, changes in appetite and most importantly, a dismal outlook on seeking optimal wellness. 

Our bodies and minds are very shifty. When they are not being served or nourished, they make a ruckus and throw everything off.  Recent research suggests that gut health and the connection between gut and brain is one of the most important aspects of wellness to address before anything else.  Ultra endurance athletes want to pay attention to this since their pursuit depends on assimilation and absorption of nutrients, fuel sources and hydration. If the digestive system is damaged, the body will be unable to support stress loads and thrive. Nutrients will go unabsorbed, the immune system will remain suppressed, the body will carry chronic inflammation in the gut lining and cognitive functions will be impaired. Current scientific interest in the athlete micro-biome  is discovering that many of our current ailments, from arthritis, psoriasis, Hashimoto's, depression, diabetes, asthma & even heart disease have some origins in the gut.

If you think you suffer from less than optimal digestion, experienced in a plethora of ways, we encourage you to look deeper into how to heal your gut. We love this resource for more in-depth information about healthy gut protocols, hormonal balancing, immunity support and gut-friendly recipes. Ultimately you want a diagnosis and protocol that addresses your specific issues as a result of testing and working with a team of specialists. 

Taking care of your digestive health and gut functions may be the single most important step you can take to support your endurance practice and help you live your happiest and healthiest days.