Optimal Training Principle: One's performance is the result of one's attitude, one's effort, and one's training methods.
The thing about training that is hard for some people to realize is that it isn't as complicated as it seems. Every Optimal Training Principle is inherently simple, too. Most of us already know them to be true. Yet they are still effective, provided we think about them and act on them.
The Optimal Training Pyramid above consists of three parts: attitude, effort and training methods. Attitude forms the foundation of an individual's success. Our effort derives from our attitude, and our training methods polish that effort into its final product. Simple? Yes. Profound? Maybe not, but this pyramid applies to any area in which we perform, especially running.
I'm only going to look at Attitude today. We'll look at Effort and Training Methods next week.
Optimal Training Attitudes
Belief in Effort
Attitude is the foundation of Optimal Training. As we looked at in Part 1 and Part 2 of Ability is a Variable, Not a Constant, whether we have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset directly affects how we perceive effort in the first place. You simply must believe that it is possible to change through effort. I provide some tips in the linked posts, and I again recommend you to read Carol Dweck's book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
Those who are the best in the world believe in the power of hard work. They get there by working smarter, harder, and longer than everyone else. But that's taking us into next week...
We all think differently to some extent, but there are a few attitudes all excellent performers share, with a belief in effort perhaps being the most important. Optimal Trainers are also fully engaged in the training process, highly disciplined in their approach, and incredibly proud of their performances.
Motivation and passion are similar. But whereas motivation is closely tied to the goals we set, passion tends to be something more general, something that makes us feel what we are doing is right for us. Passion is why you find yourself reading books and blogs all night and eating up all the information you can get on whatever it is you're doing. For example:
- You can be motivated to get a grade, but passion is what makes you excited to talk about what you're learning.
- You can get motivated to write a paper, but passion is what keeps you up at night writing on a blog.
- And, in my case, I know I could get motivated enough to complete a triathlon, but I'm only really passionate about running.
Optimal Training requires that you be both motivated and passionate. When you put both together you get engagement. Engagement is what keeps us experimenting, asking questions, challenging our assumptions and ultimately, learning. The level of our engagement will affect the quality and quantity of our effort.
This is crucial. Our effort is the only aspect of our success that we have control over.
The ability to focus on what is important, and sacrifice what isn't, is another attitude that is shared by the best of the best. Note the word sacrifice. To paraphrase the bumper sticker, "Sacrifice Happens". And patience is not only a virtue, but a necessity. Worthwhile goals are rarely achieved in a day, and the ability to delay gratification to a later date, to exercise patience as you slowly get to where you want to be, is also necessary.
Discipline is the end product of focus and patience. To train optimally, you must exercise discipline, by which I mean the ability to focus on doing what you need to do right now to be your best at some time in the future. It requires that you push yourself to do as much as you should, and restrain yourself from doing too much. This applies equally to executing a race plan as it does to executing your yearly training program.
How do you know where that line is? You have to be engaged enough in your training to figure it out.
Last but not least, the drive to be the best requires people to want to be better than...something. This "something" is usually everyone else (or at least someone else). But it can also be your times last year, or your uncle's times from 25 years ago. If you don't have a competitive drive, it will eventually affect how much effort you put into your performances.
But if you don't have integrity, any success you do achieve will be hollow. Integrity is what separates those willing to cheat to win from those who pursue success honestly. True champions don't let winning become the only measure of their success. Their focus is as much on their execution and development as it is their outcome relative to the competition.
The product of competitiveness and integrity is pride. Pride sometimes has a negative connotation, but it is absolutely essential to excellence. You simply must take pride in your performance. That means you want to do it to the best of your ability, better than you have before and/or better than anyone else could do it.
Pride shouldn't come from winning (though I admit winning can help). It should come from how you prepare and perform. Even when the final result isn't what you wanted, you can still be proud of your performance.
I generally write about running. This is a running blog, after all. But I try to stress that many of the topics I'm covering are universal to success in any field. Well, attitude is the foundation of success in any field. I personally apply the above attitudes in the following areas:
- Running (of course)
- Grad school classes
- Studying Japanese
- Completing a consulting project
- Writing this blog
- Managing my personal finances
- Being a good husband
- Playing fantasy baseball
I'm not a big video gamer, nor am I a musician or an artist, but I have friends who apply the above attitudes in those areas as well.
Whether your goal is to be a World Champion runner, to get an A in a class, or to be the best you possible, your attitude will make or break that process.