The importance of tracking objective measurements in sports.
"It was just a bad day. The real me is way better."
I heard some version of the above from a client recently. I realize he was trying to stay positive after a race that did not go according to his expectations. The problem is not with him trying to stay positive, it's with the fact that his positive-affirmations are preventing him from seeing the reality of the situation: the reality being that results are often an excellent representation of the facts. From what I can from his training, he actually had a rather good day, but that was not how he chose to see it.
As athletes, race results are often the only objective measurements we have. Some people don't like to be measured with cold, hard, objective facts. It can be painfully revealing. Instead, some people prefer the more subjective and hard-to-measure 'soft skills' approach. We know soft skills from the business world: empathy, communication, and self-awareness. All of which are important skills to possess to varying degrees within the work place. But there is a reason a P&L statement does not have a line for empathy. Soft skills say nothing about the person's ability to perform their key role. For that, we need more objective measurements. In business, they're called KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). In athletics, KPIs are your key workouts.
An athlete can start by confirming their key workouts are specific to the demands of the race. I cringe every time an Ironman athlete tells me about his sprint-interval workouts. That's a soft skill workout for the Ironman athlete. A more specific KPI would be heart rate decoupling over a 100 mile ride. Or even more basic metrics like weekly swim, bike, and run mileage. It's easy to forget that often those who perform the best, simply show up the most.
Developing and obtaining objective measurements in training and racing is the first step to self-acceptance. Accepting where you're at, and taking the results as they come in, allows you to forge a realistic path forward. You can ask yourself "What will it take for me to improve, now that I know where I stand." And then the hard part happens: you have to have the courage to make a change.
- Antonio Gonzalez