Friday thoughts #3: Adaptable


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Being adaptable may stop you looking like this

How you react to an event, a setback or even a boost, will determine a lot about both immediate and longer term implications of said event. We are shaped by our experiences, but I would argue we also shape our experiences.

One of the least used words in racing, training and running is adaptability. Yet we all do it to an extent, but mainly sub-consciously. But what if it was at the forefront of your mind? What if it was a strength that you leaned on and actually improved?

Think of an every racing sob-story, or training session you have missed because of a reason that you latched onto as you simply weren’t up for it. Take the time to close your eyes and think of something like that which causes you a pang of regret.

Got one? Good!

Now, imagine if you had your time again. What would you do different?

I hear lots of stories – and I have been the author of as many as I have heard –  of people who can dip into a bucket of brilliant excuses for why something went awry in a race. It was the weather (see last week for more details), or it was the stone in my shoe, or the food I ate, or the… and so on.

The reality is in the sport I do, and many of you do as well, preparing for the inevitable setbacks which test us is a massive part of your readiness. I mean, who has ever run a 100 mile race and not felt like shit during it? I recounted a couple of said points in my recent Rocky Raccoon 100 race here. But, moreover, I switched the impact of these to be positives as the timing meant I got them out of the way early!

You can plan and plan and plan your nutrition, hydration and pacing all day long. My ask is that you don’t put these things in boxes marked “THE plan” etc. These things should be frameworks that you work within, not steadfast must-dos. By building more agile thought into your plans you will also find yourself much more relaxed about set-backs or when things don’t happen exactly as you expect. Here’s my top three tips for adaptability:

  1. Build contingency plans for things like nutrition, clothing and hydration. At mile 10 a bacon roll might be the best thing in the world but come mile 50 you ain’t likely to be able to process that. Have a back-up plan. In food terms mine is irn-bru, fruit and muller rices. What’s yours? Know it and have it handy. Better to bin it than trying to find a Co-op 30 miles from civilisation.
  1. Do some visualisation of how you will react when the fan gets brown with excrement. Lots of people will tell you to visualise the positive and rightly so. But also play out those potential bad moments in your mind and imagine how you will react. This will prepare you for when it does happen and you will go immediately past the “what will I do now?” phase and straight into solution mode.
  1. Relax and take control, it ain’t life and death. Unless you are on a mountain in shorts and t-shirt and a blizzard closes in of course. But, seriously, chill your pants if you are getting all emotional. That passion that you feel is what drives you and don’t burn that energy worrying about something that has happened but instead use it to fuel the way forward. The clarity of mind and thought processes you go through will ultimately determine the impact any obstacle has on you.

There are two kinds of setbacks; 1) those we can control and 2) those we can’t. It’s that simple. Either way, prepare and think about those we can control, and for those we can’t ride them out and focus on how you can get them back within your sphere of control as quickly as possible. Ultimately, your ability to be adaptable in any given moment could be a game changer. Think about it. Literally.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Robert O Donnell says:

    Jim Telfer great Scottish rugby coach always emphasised that you should only focus on the “controllable”. In the rugby World Cup quarter finals against Australia Scotland squandered 2 controllables in the last 4 minutes. Lost their own kick off and then gave away a line out on their own throw. When Australia then won with a dubious penalty everyone was slating the ref. Telfer said Scotland didn’t control the controllables

    1. He’s 100% right there, Robert. True in life and sport too.

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