Friday, June 6, 2014

"Staying Present" Skills and Tools to Help you on Your Journey

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to stay present in the moment, right here, right now?  In both my personal and professional life, I struggle with staying present.  In the age of social media, facts, tidbits of information (that may or may not be useful) are flying in front of our face incessantly.  They invade our stream of consciousness and make it virtually impossible to stay on the task at hand.  I'm pretty sure this environment has caused an epidemic of mild media-induced attention deficit disorder.  Even during one fun moment when I'm with friends or having a good time, I find myself thinking about the next one, the next thing, the place I have to be tomorrow or thinking back to what I did the day before.  It really seems to steal my joy of the reality going on around me.  Before I know it, that moment is lost forever, never to be seen again!
 Learning to focus as an athlete is an discipline, tool, asset and a necessity.  It's developed just like any other skill set over time.  You don't usually start the sport with laser-like focus.  It builds as you get better at honing in on what's required to do a job and do it well.  You gather feedback during workouts or games/races and you use that information to continue to improve.  It's difficult at first.  Y find your mind wonders and you spend plenty of time in other places and spaces in your brain that don't lend themselves to even remotely helping the task at hand (i.e. "Did I remember to turn off the lights in the basement, I can't wait to eat that burger after I'm done, why is my shoe SO dang tight!")

One of my athletes has been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work with one of the sports psychologists at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.  He has been sharing some of the areas they've been addressing and one of those main areas is this idea of "being present".  Our minds are comprised of 20% conscious thoughts and 80% subconscious thoughts. The take home point from one of the sessions was about how when we are in a state of extreme fatigue and stress (aka racing/competition) we pull from the subconscious because it's the easier of the two to access.  It requires less "RAM" speaking in computer terms.  However, the problem with this can be that we've stored other racing situations in our subconscious that HAVEN'T had the desired outcome or where we DIDN'T feel good, strong or fluid.  Those files exist in there just like corrupted files on a computer that can't be overwritten.  If you find yourself repeating the same mistakes or having the same negative thoughts during a race that can be your mind pulling this "corrupt" file instead of focusing the present and/or a time when you did feel strong and competitive.

How do you correct this?  You think of a time when you felt great during a race, you close your eyes and feel everything about that race, the smells, sights, the way your skin felt, you see yourself having that amazing race experience again.  You chose a number between 1-50.  That number becomes your association with that experience.  Make the number with your hands, feel it, believe it.  It's your new number, your symbol of success.  When the going gets tough you call on that number.  Physically hold out those fingers or you write that number on your arm where you can see it.  Now, your mind and body use THIS file to dictate your new laser focus on the present and on feeling the way you did in that previous awesome race file moment.  With time, it becomes easier and easier to use this file as your access point vs. the old "corrupt" file.  Give it a try! 

It's hard to notice these rare moments going by so quickly where we have the chance to really thankful and capitalize on the present.  There have been two or three distinct moments in the last two years where I've looked around and thought, "This is it, my life, it's stunning, emotional, gut-wrenching and awesome and I wouldn't have it any other way".  Really quickly, the first was last year when I was riding with my friend Beth on one of my longest rides before I did Ironman Mt. Tremblant in August.  It was the end of my overload training and my body was BEAT, but about 5.5  hours into a 6.5 hour ride I started to get a second wind.  It started to POUR and somehow my power numbers just kept going up and up.

NOTE: These are not pictures of that day, these are pictures to illustrate the length and depth of the things that Shutt has put me through, um.. I mean the adventures we have been on together! haha!  Good times! Good times!

She was really pushing hard up this hill and I could barely see her with the wall of rain passing in between us.  I knew in that moment that I was probably the fittest I'd been in my whole life and we were about to pass a new milestone wattage for me in that last hour if we could keep it up.  We were two badass athletes killing each other, putting it out there, working hard and it just felt so RIGHT.  I knew it was something special, that moment.  It was almost euphoric.  I think I even said to her "You know what Beth, there's something about knowing you are as fit and fast as you've ever been in your life and probably will never be this fit again".  Ha!

The next was at our training camp in Clermont, FL this spring.  It was a VERY tough day for me as I just wasn't feeling right and the fatigue was setting in big time.

Little did I know when we did our first workout that it was going to be our biggest day of camp.  It would start with a 13 mile run in the morning (in 1 mile increments), then a 5500 swim, a four hour hard strength bike and our final workout would be 13 miles in the evening on a paved trail in the woods (to complete the full marathon).  I was hurting all day and coming back for that last workout took everything I could just to get out of the car.

Somewhere as we ran into the hot, humid night, headlamps on, whipping past each other as we did our out and back, my body, as beat up as it was, started asking for more.  It allowed me to start dropping some wicked paces and pushing it beyond what I thought was in the tank.  We stood sweaty messes between miles and joked/laughed, but out there in the solitude of the black night I found another place deep in my soul to pull from and any time I want I can go back and feel that moment.
I knew while it was happening that this was a rare gift to run into the night with these folks.  Every time I hear certain songs I listened to that night it brings me right back to that moment.  In all my pain, I cherished it because it was something I may never get to do again.  I found a new place I would have never found otherwise.  You can't find it if you don't dig deep enough.  That's why we have to keep digging when we sometimes find ourselves just wanting to tap out.

Finally, the third was in Melbourne after the race.  It was an easy swim and Gavin, one half of my home stay, and I decided to go swim in the bay because it was unbelievably calm that day.
We put our wetsuits back on and just swam back and forth.  The sun was rising over the water and it was just a gorgeous morning.  We stood in the water laughing and joking as I looked around knowing my friends and family were on the other side of the world right at this moment.
It was very surreal.  Again, in that moment I thought, this is it, this is amazing, I love that Kyle and I can travel to these awesome places, meet these great people and get to do something I am totally in love with.  It won't be like this forever, cherish it!

So, whatever you're doing right now, whether it's getting ready for the first "A" race of the season or just watching your kids catch fireflies in the yard.  Do your best to be present in that moment knowing that we have so very few of them in this lifetime.  Try not to think too far ahead or worry about what was done or has yet to be done.  Put down the phone, look around and practice your FOCUS.  We have so few opportunities to take a moment and do that.  Enjoy those moments when you do!

Good luck to everyone racing this weekend! I'll be at Eagleman 70.3 on Sunday doing my best!  I'm really looking forward to getting back out there and competing!  No matter the outcome, it is a GIFT! 

1 comment:

The Ferreiras said...

That was a GREAT BLOG Kim. Again, great job at Eagleman, you had me running scared. See you soon in Placid :)