Four Questions to Help Self-Coached Athletes Achieve Their Best Season Ever

Running to a podium finish at Ironman New Zealand

Each week I post my Training Review on Twitter.

My review is driven by four questions:

  1. What went right?
  2. Did I hit my minimums?
  3. Where can I trade stress?
  4. What can screw things up?

My questions track to actions:

  1. Keep
  2. Add
  3. Trade
  4. Remove and Address

Across the week, I take notes and when I take my back-to-back recovery days, I review the week.

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What Went Right?

You are going to be tempted to “progress the week.”

Unfortunately, in highly motivated populations, this leads to breakdown, and missed gains!

Better to repeat the week & keep what works

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Did I Hit My Minimums?

Last Thursday, I gave you a Training Intensity Allocation.

Let’s see what that implies for my last week: 15 hours total => 900 minutes

  1. Strength => 90 minutes
  2. Stamina => 720 minutes
  3. Intensity => 90 minutes
    1. Tempo => 54 Minutes
    2. Threshold => 27 minutes
    3. VO2 & VO2+ => 9 minutes

Is there a training segment that I’m avoiding?

Think outside the box, there are many interesting sessions that are hybrids of strength/intensity.

Use the small allocations wisely and have fun with them.

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What Trades Make Sense?

First Two Tips:

  1. Repeat don’t progress
  2. Hit the minimums

If I want to ADD then do a TRADE.

Example #1: I like to run in the hills. However, I don’t need to run up a mountain every week! Across a week, a fortnight, a month… I manage my “elevation load” between weeks.

Example #2: I’m relatively strong for my age and category. I trade Strength load to accommodate more Stamina within my week.

Example #3: Max HR test last week? Add more Zone 1 to start the following week. Balance the intensity mixes across more than just the week. Give yourself time to fully absorb your highest intensity sessions. Same thing applies for sessions that cause significant muscle damage (plyometrics, downhill run load).

Example #4: get to the source of your life stress:

  • Sleep
  • Alcohol
  • Energy deficits
  • Spontaneous tempo
  • Over-reaction
  • Excessive load
  • Too many goals

If I want to better absorb training then reduce the stress caused by choices outside my core goals.

Endurance training, done to the best of our ability, offers an incentive to straighten out our lives.

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Avoiding Ruin – What Might Screw Up Next Week?

In the acute sense… Avoid The Injury!

Take time to address the little niggles while they are still little!

Dial the program DOWN before the injury is created.

Trade low quality days for high quality weeks.

In the chronic sense… going down an unsustainable path feels great, ride up to the day before you fall apart!

Consider, then address, areas of instability:

  • Relationships
  • Sponsors
  • Finances
  • Emotions
  • Habits

How to make this happen?

Put it in your calendar!

Make an appointment with yourself, daily.

Example: 10 minutes every day on mobility and one positive action to reduce long term stress.

Little positive steps have big impacts when applied over long time horizons.


The ability to bring these habits into your athletic life gives you a skill set to improve all aspects of your life.

Sunday Summary 3 July 2022

Top Threads

  1. Dynamic Loading via Daily Readiness Assessments
  2. Four Step Return to Pain Fee Running
  3. How to write a book with Steve
  4. How to Endurance (Advanced)
  5. Low Back Pain and Open Water Swimming

Workouts & Working Out

High-Performance Habits

Sunday Summary 15 May 2022

Tweets of the Week (by engagement)

  1. Better to REMOVE one thing than chase the latest thing
  2. Our Pelotons read power -29% to +15% (nested threads)
  3. There is no hurry in Early Base (or anytime, really)
  4. What I did to get Ironman Marathon under 3-hrs
  5. Recap of my 2nd round of Swedish 5:2

Data comes from my Public Dashboard on BlackMagic.So

Family

Workouts & Working Out

High Performance Living

A public forum a lousy place for topics that require 1:1 trust

1,000 Day Pacing and New Habit Creation

Strength training is the ultimate long game.
Each session moves me further away from what I’d be without it.

I’m going to explain how I qualified for World Champs, won Ultraman Hawaii, found my wife and improved my parenting game.

Big wins – different domains.


Here’s my template…

  1. Create one new habit at a time
  2. Set the bar low (!)
  3. Hit that bar daily (30, 100, 500, 1000)
  4. Remove what causes me to miss the minimum
  5. Sort the specifics after the habit is on autopilot
  6. Access experienced mentors
  7. Surge effort when conditions are favorable

What would happen if you made a choice to…

  • Do a little bit of cardio
  • Do a little bit of strength
  • Help one stranger
  • Share a simple lesson you know well
  • Make one connection
  • Eat a salad at 3pm
  • Eat 2 apples at 11am
  • Write 100 words

…every single day for the next 1,000 days?

Build one small habit.

Repeat.


My 8:29 Ironman performance started when a fat finance guy (me) decided it might make sense to walk to the pub rather than drive.

I can remember that one choice.

I can remember a later choice to do something-every-day.

I’ve done my “1,000 days” many times => writing, investing, wife, kids, sport, connection, strength training

Knowing the power of compounding, I still underestimate the speed of improvement.


What are your deep wants and desires?

What one thing, if it happened, would change everything?

Why not move a little forward each day?

Why wait to be great

The Choices That Define Your Financial Life

  • Act as if personal finance is a game where you only get ten tickets to play.
  • Invest as if you are holding a checkbook with only a dozen checks inside.
  • Speak as if you’re holding a six-shooter, is it worth one of your bullets to make the point that’s on your mind.

I’ve been hearing versions of the above my entire life. It’s been great advice and encouraged me to:

  • Slow down
  • Resist the urge to interrupt compounding
  • Keep it simple
  • Focus on the big decisions
  • Treat small movements like noise

So, we started your kids with the allowance game.

Then, we moved onto discussing the family’s allocation of capital towards education.

With that, we considered the impact, across generations, of borrowing.

What next?

Teach your kids their financial lives will be about no more than a dozen choices.

Here are mine:

  • Study finance (class of 1990)
  • Save 50% of my take home (1990-2007)
  • Partners investment scheme (late 90s, all in then, equivalent of 1 yr spending now)
  • Work to build a startup (2000)
  • Sell into the frenzy (2005-2007)
  • Move into a low-cost Vanguard portfolio (2008 onwards)
  • Boulder real estate (2010 & 2012))
  • Downsize (2012-2013)
  • Borrow long at 3.25% (2013)
  • Debt free (2007 & 2020)
  • Have kids with a kind woman from a humble background (on going)

Every other choice turned out to be noise. What to do?

Focus on actions, not outcome.

What does that really mean?

Do what moves you forward and have faith. Sport, marriage, money, all things… daily action is the fundamental force moving you towards “better.”

Education matters => I was given a chance in Private Equity because I had high marks in a useful field. Between my high school graduation (1986) and my youngest’s (2031) the nature of “useful” will have changed. However, the need for skilled people to “do” will endure.

The most useful part of my degree wasn’t finance! It was financial accounting, programming and mathematics => I learned fundamental knowledge in college. I learned my profession on-the-job. You learn the valuable part by doing work, for the best people you can find.

This keeps popping up over and over again (professors, partners, coaches, mentors, twitter follows). At 53, I’m learning from people less than half my age! Do work to learn.

Avoid Ruin => studying, then working in, financial accounting helps you learn when a situation doesn’t feel right. Embezzlement is an old game and it’s useful to learn the patterns. Financial fraud happens, and will continue to happen. Take steps to reduce your family’s exposure to ruin.

With the accounting, I learned the most with 9 credits spread across three courses. Financial Accounting 1, 2 and 3. Small investment, huge return. Do it when you’re young. Being forced to rely on others to do your financial math is a disadvantage that will cost you.


Let’s pull it together for you…

Starting your working life (in a useful field, with your financial accounting courses done)…

You are at least a decade away from making the shift to lifestyle sustainable, so you focus on:

  1. Learning by doing with the best people who will hire you
  2. Savingget that first $100K banked, you will be grateful when you’re older
  3. Waiting for the fat pitch – once in a lifetime investment opportunities happen once a decade
  4. Turning yourself into the sort of person you’d like to marry, the friend you’d like to have, the parent you aspire to be => meaningful connection is true wealth

Your mind will try to trick you into thinking it’s the investment choices that matter.

It is not.

It is the four habits I outlined above, and avoiding substance abuse.

Dealing with Deception

I’ve been watching two of my teachers duke it out in public and it reminded me of something I want to teach my kids.


Fun weekend with the Fam

What do you want?

We are most easily deceived by our desires.

So start by asking, “what did I want?”

Then dig deeper.

My desires leave me open to deception.

Absent wanting, I can’t be fooled.

This knowledge is helpful to prevent the next person from using our desires against us AND so we can use self-awareness to guide effective action.


I was thinking back on races where I’d been impacted by cheating, and I remembered the fastest Half Marathon I ever ran was chasing down a guy who cut the bike course. I was so upset! That gave me a big smile, in a way, he did me a favor.

Other races, other outcomes.

When I looked deeper, I didn’t always like what I found.

Ego.

An insatiable desire to “prove” myself better than others.

Not being able to feed that desire with external victories nudged me to look for other ways to prove merit. Again, my competition may have done me a favor.


Teachers & Mentors

I have learned from teachers with different goals, lifestyles and values from me. Sometimes, our teachers become a source of energy to do better within our own lives, and with our closest relationships.

Related, the first time you really get to know one of your heroes… it can be disappointing. We’re all flawed in some way. My kids are starting to learn my flaws, and they forgive me.

After the disappointment can come liberation. Take the best ideas and execute. There never was any magic.

Still, when you notice a difference in values, be wary. It’s not about right/wrong, more about compatibility. More in Drucker’s famous article about Managing Oneself.

When seeking a mentor, your wants might fool you into seeking to emulate a person who doesn’t fit your values.

Looking deeply, again.

My values & wants… from the inside, it feels like I’m in total control. I’m not.

By crafting my closest relationships, my mentors, my attention… I guide my life.

In some cases, I am better learning from a distance.


Which brings us to the final point.

Don’t torch the joint on the way out!

History tells me that I am going feel different about things later.

Life is about living, not building a habit of argument.

1,000 Day Pacing for Big Guys Losing Weight

Growing up, I had a buddy.

James Brown, his real name!

James was a lot of fun, and very patient with my younger self.

James used to joke that his boat had two speeds: full and repair.

As a young man, much of my life was lived this way.

ON or OFF

The greatest achievement of my married life was finding another gear => SUSTAIN


EVERYONE knows what’s required to gain weight.

Where we struggle is sustaining weight.

The ability to sustain is the key that unlocks the ability to choose.

The capacity is choose is a foundational skill for success.


I’ve got two things that are going to help.

Let’s start with the most important.

What’s the trigger for eating more than 1,000 calories after 10pm?

For me, it was ALWAYS one of the following…

  1. Didn’t eat enough during the day
  2. Drinking

By the way, combine the two and I was going BIG.

So if you’re going to “go binary” on something… you get a much better bang for your buck by not getting wasted.

Slamming 700 calories, of anything, at 2pm is a winning strategy => break the habit of late-night binging. You don’t have the option of being binary with food – you gotta eat.

Anybody that tells you otherwise has already lost the weight and forgotten what’s going on.

Not eating, and thinking about eating all day… losing strategy, not sustainable.


Next tip

Do something before breakfast.

It doesn’t need to be a workout!

Do one positive thing that moves you towards where you want to take your life.

Every. Single. Day.

After you do it, you get to eat.


That’s it.

1,000 day pacing.

Keep small promises to yourself.

It works.

Facts and Feelings


I have a version of this post in my drafts, yesterday’s blog gave me a better example.


If you get my stuff via email then you may have noticed a type-o yesterday. I wrote I hadn’t been away from my house for a week since 2000.

I corrected the error on my site, after repeating it on Twitter.


Here’s the error…

In my head, “a couple years ago” is linked to the year 2000.

I have no idea why this linkage exists but it “feels like the truth”.

My wife has something similar. Often, she feels like she’s just finished high school.

We anchor on the salient, not the truth.


Anyhow, my point isn’t about the fleeting nature of time.

What’s more useful is catching myself when irrational opinions, and clearly false views, feel right.

I marvel at my capacity for self-deception!

It is unlikely I can eliminate my “false feelings” but I can build systems, and habits, so I don’t screw up my life by acting on them.


Write important stuff down is something I’ve been doing since 1990. The value of a “note to file” was drilled into me when I started working in Private Equity.

gMail archive, and searching What’s App, to uncover what was agreed… defuse many situations before they can spiral, and let me see the facts before getting emotionally engaged in arguing about truth.

Better to have my documentation-habit deemed strange than have to deal with unforced errors.


Know your path to ruin => this one is a bit more subtle.

When I’ve made large, unnecessary errors, I have followed a two step path…

  • I am absolutely certain
  • I am fed up and ready to do something extreme about it

Certainty, fed up, drastic measures being required… politicians love to tap into that pattern.

I have learned not to make ANY decisions when I’m feeling certain.

Stop all decisions, chill out and spend time on something else.

If I can’t trust my feelings to get the year right, then I’m really cautious when they’re telling me I should take rapid, drastic action.

2021 Habits


In the news this morning, the UK starts its public vaccination program and the safe harbor deadline for the Presidential Election.

Today is the beginning of the end game for 2020’s drama.

I’ve marked my calendar for February 1st, 2021 => a few days after the inauguration. I made a date with myself to consider…

How am I spending my time?

Specifically, what do I notice about my habits:

  • …of engagement
  • …of conflict
  • …of attention
  • …of seeking confirmation (bias)

I put the reminder into my calendar because when I’m paying attention to Trump, elections, COVID… it crowds out bandwidth for better ideas, for creativity, for the good life.

In business, one good idea can be worth a lot of money.

In life experience, my personal reality is created by where I focus my attention.

Am I taking myself where I want to go?

Way too much negative focus in 2020.

Positive Change

IMG_8697

My inkling for change starts with a feeling that I should take a break from doing something, or seeing someone.

The “someone” breaks happen because I notice that my inner life becomes unpleasant. I don’t like my thoughts when I’m around the person. So I take a break and pay attention.

The “something” breaks happen because I ask myself the question… “where is this choice, repeated, likely to take me?” Eating habits and a couple daily beers would be examples from my life.

Anger, self pity, inaction in the face of adversity, getting really upset about external reality… other areas where “I should take a break”.

Politics, ethical lapses of others, the drama in your media feed… do you need more? So nice to dial it down.

Unfortunately, by the time I notice something is damaging me it’s already become a negative habit.

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Do It Now => If take-a-break thoughts stick around then I don’t wait for lent, don’t wait for New Years, don’t wait until later.

I make a change for a month and pay attention.

A month will not create a habit but it is enough time to see if it might be worth the long-term effort that’s going to be required to change.

The sooner I start, the sooner it will get easier to live with the change.

After 500-days, my habits roll along, mostly on autopilot. My job (on the far side of change) is to not screw up the streak, and reduce life stress when old habits start to tempt me.

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The Drain of Self-Justification => resist the urge to justify yourself with others. You are going to need that mojo for something useful!

Don’t say goodbye, don’t give a huge explanation, don’t burn bridges… Because…

First, and most importantly, I need all my energy to sort my own life out.

Second, I’m going to feel differently about this situation (and every situation!) later and don’t want to go on-the-record in my mind.

Finally, do what you need to do and be low-key about it.

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Peers => pretty clear that you don’t want to hang around your dealer, anger-buddies or gluttony-appreciation crew. The “not do” is a whole lot easier to see.

As a guy who enjoys periodic isolation, it can be easy to think that the answer is walling myself off. Lasting change needs to happen in a way than enables me to live in the world, to connect with others.

What do I want more of?

More of the person who makes me want to improve => I married her.

More of the people who motivate me to set a better example => my kids.

More of the wisdom to see the difficulties I experience are coming from the pain of change NOT from anything to do with other people.

It is not about what we think it is about. All of my difficulties are arising inside of me.

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Stress => as an elite athlete, the spring and summer would be spent with a focus on “doing.” Training stress would be high as I prepared for a race. Fall was a time for racing, then assessing. Winter was when I dropped stress down and addressed issues that had arisen during the high-stress period of the summer (or tried to put my life back together after six-months of ignoring most non-sport items).

Unfortunately, the lifecycle of a family doesn’t work on an annual basis!

As a father, I couldn’t just hold on until November…

Being newlyweds was an amazing time and I had my life dialed.

As we added, babies and financial stress => 2008-2015 => my “bad” habits started to return. Financial stress and toddlers are a potent combination if you’re prone to escapism.

I’m not sure if I realized what was happening but I noticed moments when I said to myself “I should probably take a break from this.”

In times of high-stress, keep it together as best you can. It’s going to be tough, for a while. I had a buddy advise, “just don’t get fat.” He’d gotten fat.

Once our youngest started kindergarten, I had the capacity to start making progress (back towards where I was in 2004!).

  • 500 days to make a new habit.
  • Don’t mess with a streak.
  • Pay attention to your triggers => people, places, situations.

So if you are thinking about change… choose one thing, with a low bar and do it daily for 500 days.

Difficult games can be fun to play.

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PS – As my friend, Doc Hellemans, says… “exercise is medicine” – picture above is from my 51st birthday lunch.