Monday, 13 July 2009


with so many factors that effect our ability to perform well on a day to day basis, it's easy to focus on those which are most obviously directly related to 'end result' and overlook the more subtle influences which may be just as important. the more obvious influences are generally the easiest to deal with. perhaps not the simplest to 'solve' - in fact there may be no absolute solution - but their straight-forward and tangeable nature allows us to identify, justify make steps to recify.

this can be applied across all types of work/pursuit but is probably a bit vague, so i'll be less general and speak specifically about my own situation, since i have found the balance is far more crucial since the start of life as a full time triathlete.

now, performance on a day to day basis equates to executing and enjoying good quality training - which, with consistency will improve my overall athletic performance and enable me to achieve my racing and, eventually, career goals.

the most obviously related external factors influencing my performance are energy intake, sleep/recovery, and available time/general stress levels. the first and second of these seem the most straight forward; an imbalance is easy to identify and adress, though it is complicated by the impact on sleep/recovery aspect that getting the third part right may have.

This third part is a far greater challenge, with secondary factors coming into play such as keeping on top of correspondence and various coaching/writing projects, keeping on top of bike/kit maintenance and domestic tasks, giving sufficient attention to steven to keep our relationship healthy, and staying in touch with the other important people in my life. All of which are important to me. They may also be sources of stress in themselves (and I am often criticized for taking too much on and not giving myself enough time to relax) - but necessary in order to create the balanced environment which in my opinion is the MAIN factor which influences my day-to-day performance.

i've learned that emotional discord is detrimental to my training - i find it too distracting, it removes my focus and motivation and it can actually feel physically exhausting. not to mention the impact on sleep, which of course contributes further to the problem. An example is anxiety about finance. Now, i don't consider myself to be especially materialistic, am comfortable living on a tight budget and also lucky enough to be well looked after by steven and my family. However without a regular income of my own i have a tendency to feel a little insecure on this front from time to time. so, whilst to those around me it may seem that i'm expending a disproportionate amount of time/effort on ventures which may (or may not!) provide income, besides the fact that they are things i'm interested in anyway, i feel that in the long-term these efforts are worthwhile for my own sense of security. its all about balance. too much time spent this way and training hours are compromised it becomes a source of stress.

another is harmony within a relationship. obviously i wont go into this too much, but whilst it may be more efficient, too much time head-down getting on with one's own training and working schedule allows insufficient attention to each other's daily life frequently leads to diary clashes, periods of barely crossed paths and feelings of neglect and tension within the home. hardly a relaxing environment, and another source of emotional discord and distraction - so it pays to invest more time to shared domestic details and living life as a couple.

getting the level of obsession/control in balance is another key. there are certain lifestyle factors which undoubtedly improve performance - getting enough sleep, eating healthily, avoiding alcohol, caffeine and other toxins, keeping the weight down, regular stretching & massage. and i found all of these things really easy to control whilst working a day job - it fitted with the highly structured and disciplined regime that was necessary to train 25hrs a week around a 35hour role as an engineer. As a lifestyle i doubt that i could have sustained it for another year - however, the 35-45 hours a week that i was NOT a triathlete gave me sufficient reprise from the obsession that i was able to keep my sanity and enjoyment of the sport despite these lifestyle sacrifices. these days though there is no paralell life as an engineer - i am a triathlete in training 24/7. of course this lends powerful potential for absolute control, the ultimate absorbtion of training - but could i handle it?? again, i'm finding that there is a balance which works for me. too much control and concern and life suddenly gets very dull indeed...not enough and i begin to feel chemically imbalanced, which effects my mood and motivation. so there are times when despite questionable need to with all of the training i'm getting in , i feel the need to draw in the reigns and cut the treats.

by the tone of this post you may detect that i am in a somewhat thoughtful mood. to be quite honest i've recently been feeling very depressed...and this post comes out of the process of figuring out the source of this low mood, and enabling me to correct the balance.


John Levison said...

Hi Jo, given the clarity with which you've posted this entry, I'd say you are well on the way back to balance. Pretty sure that if you re-read it, you'll see - intentional or not - you've actually written your own check-list and solutions.

I know you've spent time with Gordo in the past - for a highly driven, competitive, successful (in ALL areas) individual like yourself (I've never met you, yet I'm pretty certain I'm right), applying his top-10 list approach seems perfect: take the top-10 things that are the most important to you (relationship, health, etc), then when you find those "taking on too much" instances, ask yourself - does this contribute to my top 10? If not, bin it... or reconsider what your top-10 is.

(Oh, and I'm a paid up member of the "taking on too many things / not delegating enough club. In fact, I need to do exactly what I've just written...).

Good luck :-)

joannacarritt said...

nice one, john :o)

as it happens i do have my list of 'values' that i review/check activities against from time to time. though i'm clearly not as deep a Gordo - couldn't come up with 10!

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