Sunday, October 12, 2008

Task vs. Result

Here's something to try this week. Pick something that is fairly challenging to do in a workout. It could be a set or a particular skill such as a stroke correction you have been working on. Or it could be a particular dry land routine you have been trying to master. An example would be a new stretch to lengthen your hamstrings or a certain weight you have been attempting to bench for 6 or 8 repetitions. It could even be some particular cross training segment you have attempted before without much luck such as a spin class or a particular trail loop that is a tough one for you.

Whatever the task is, it has been a challenge and you would really like to master it. You want the result as it were. Following along from the examples above it might look like this.

1 -You have struggled with 8x100 repeats on the 1: 45 for a few weeks now.

2 -Try as you may, learning to breathe on both sides seems impossible.

3 -No matter how hard you try you cannot master the jump rope.

4 -Your hamstrings will not cooperate; you still are no closer to touching your toes than you were a month ago.

5 -You can get 4 (or 5 on a good day) repetitions of 90 pounds on the bench but 6 or 8 are out of reach.

6 -The spin class at the gym is so frustrating. Everyone else seems to do it with ease, at least compared to you.

7 -Whenever you get to that section on the trail where it heads up you run out of steam, no matter how hard you try.

Research into high level performance consistently shows that those who are at the top of their game know what they want in terms of a goal. Yet the achievement of that goal comes from an ability to stay present in the moment focusing on the task needed to deliver the goal. Some call it process orientation. The concept is still the same. Focus on the task and you will achieve the result. Focus on the result and often you get overwhelmed with enormity of the challenge before you get half way there. You end up judging yourself even as you attempt to do the task which will yield the result. It is important to evaluate. The question is "When". We believe the answer is "Later". Quite simply stated, if you want something, figure out what you need to do to get it. Once your plan is in place focus on the execution of the plan - the task - and you'll have much more success getting the result.

Following on our list of examples above, a task oriented approach might look like this.

1 - Instead of trying to do 8, just do one or two and then a third, taking each one separately. If you can do 2 or 3, 8 is simply a matter of really relaxing about it and simply doing the swimming.

2 - Swim one lap breathing on the non normal side. Follow that with a lap breathing on each side, every third arm stroke. Do that one more time. You will have swum a total of 4 laps. Put that aside for the day. Come back tomorrow and repeat the drill. The third day add two more laps really focusing on the exhale and head rotation. Take as much rest as you need. When learning a new skill be patient with yourself. Give yourself permission to be imperfect.

3 - Try jump roping without the rope at first until you can master the motion, rotating your hands and wrists as if you were holding a rope. Then add in the rope. Perhaps you can only do 5 or 10 seconds before you stumble. No problem. Just do what you can. It is amazing how quickly your body will adapt if you give it a chance. Or, instead of focusing on doing a certain amount of time count your repetitions instead. Jump for 5 then 10 then 12 etc.

4 - Measure your progress in terms of halfinches or in degrees of bend if you lie on your back with a stretch cord. Work toward 90 degrees and then progress from there. Practice patience and persistence.

5 - When lifting the weight imagine a set of pulleys attached to the ceiling that someone else is pulling on and you are simply guiding the bar up and down; or that the bar has helium balloons attached to it and their job is to assist you in lifting.

6 - In the spin class focus on what you are doing all the while giving yourself a pep talk. Positive self talk is such a key to getting what you want. If you compare yourself to others you will always be frustrated because there is nearly always someone who can out perform you. Also, a very wise Tai Chi instructor is famous for saying that if you compare yourself to the person next to you, you must assume all of their "stuff" - the unpaid bills, the car in the shop, the hassles at work, etc. You don't want to go "there"!

7 - Focus on the running motion, not the top of the hill. Keep your arms moving gently and strongly at the same time. Relax your face and keep breathing rhythmically. Think of your legs and arms as the pistons in an engine or perhaps the wheels of a locomotive as it chugs along the track. Pick an image and run "to" and or "with" that in mind. Forget about the top of the hill; you will be there soon enough.

You get the idea. Give it a whirl and let us know how it works for you!

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