Monday, January 17, 2011

Dear Diary: I have a dream.

    I had every intention of writing a philosophical exploration into the nuanced components of commitment. The essay started out something like this:

“Commitment is a mythical beast with an enormous head and a long snake-like body with a thousand feet. The head is capable of devouring and conquering everything in its path. But, if the legs do not work in order, this enormous dragon rest futilely stagnant— all its legs pulling it in various direction, ceasing any and all forward movement.”

    I soon scratched this idea after writing a 45,852-word story for another project where I babble on unheeded for pages about all the whimsical thoughts of mine I believe to be ever so serious.
    Sooo, I decided to write (and/or show) a more practical guide to commitment by giving you a peak inside my training diary.
    Setting goals, as I have said before, is foundational for success. But, setting goals is not as simple as it may appear. There are short-term goals that lead to long-term goals, and all the other goals that fit snuggly in-between. All these goals can quickly become overwhelming to balance, often resulting in the ‘Big Picture’ crashing down with a depressing plop.
    It took me a few years to wrap my head around my athletic goals, and of how I must balance these goals with my progression as a human, a feeling being; I’m not a machine.
    The first crucial—and easiest step—is to write down your goals. Brainstorm. Don’t be shy. No one is looking. Write down whatever the ‘eff you want. Don’t hold back. Why limit yourself?
    The next step—which I will demonstrate by showing you my training journal—is to take these dreams and organize them into a linear fashion that eventually, over a given set time period, reaches fruition.
    The last step—and the hardest of them all—is committing to consistently following these goals.
    Note the key word: CONSISTENTLY. If I may opine, consistency is the backbone of commitment. Without consistency the idea of commitment is an impotent bag of daydreams and un-achieved fantasies. Consistent work is what takes your dreams out of the realm of fantasy and into the world of reality. You must follow your goals on a day-by-day basis (Though, a minute-by-minute obsession is preferred. Unfortunately sanity is not included)

    Before I continue I gotta stop to tell you about controlling the future. Believe it or not I’m capable of controlling the future. I know, its rad. You don’t believe me? Well, fine, I’ll show you!
    Alright. Watch this carefully. Right before your eyes I’m going to show you how I can control the future. You ready? Bamm. I did it! I reached over to the railing ledge of this here cabin deck where my steaming hot coffee mug was perched and I grabbed it, took a sip of coffee, took a good gander at the tall trees smiling at me, and then I sat my coffee mug right back on down.
    You must be asking, how in the hell did you do that? It’s quite simple really. Before I picked up my mug of dark coffee (I only drink it black) I visualized inside my head what it looked like to take a sip of coffee and reflect on the movement of trees and falling snow.
    Visualization of a task is in essence your ability to control the future. Sipping a cup of coffee may seem like a trivial task to visualize, but the lessons are clear. You can apply this method to even the most daunting tasks, tasks that seem absolutely impossible. And they will remain impossible unless you visualize them to be true and take the necessary steps to achieve them.
    One final memorandum on controlling the future: you MUST be flexible and dynamic. Yes, visualization does lead to controlling ones destiny, but let’s not get carried away with ourselves. Life cannot be controlled entirely. Visualization has a partner named, Resilience. 
    I think the main reason why people become frustrated with goals is because they believe the process of obtaining these goals is as concrete as the goals themselves.
    Visualization is a constantly evolving process of resiliently overcoming every obstacle that appears between you and your goal. Perhaps you did not see the boulder falling out of the sky in front of you, but now that it's there you damn well better sack-up and figure out a way to get around it. Kicking it or complaining about the boulder is not gunna help. What are you going to do?

This I how I do it:
    I took a fresh new leather journal and unsheathed my trusty fountain pen. After I brainstormed on scratch paper, I then in the front of my new journal concisely wrote down in one full page my ‘Big Picture Goal,’ the goal that will take at least a year to obtain (The size of the goal and the time spent achieving it are directly related). For me it is the Olympics.
    Specifically: For 2012 making the Olympic Team Pursuit Squad and bringing the USA back onto the map of track cycling. Then, in 2016, after four more years of hard work, it’s time to go for shiny hardware, a gold medal.
    There are numerous steps to even make the Olympic team.  Time standards I have to beat. World Cups I have to attend where good results have to be had to obtain points to attend World Championships. Then, there are the professional and political aspects of proving myself as an ambassador of the sport who has the integrity and drive to stay focused for 5 years.
    These endeavors can be overwhelming, so overwhelming I get anxious and worried. But, the only thing I can somewhat control is right now, so I focus on what I can do each day, each minute, that will give me the best chance possible of making the team.

Page-set One: Weekly Goals and Quote (You must conquer your Weakness).


Quotes and Weekly Goals:
    For me a month is too large of an amount of time to conceptualize. Life changes too much in a month to be able to follow a concrete plan. Months are all about the general rough direction.
    A week, on the other hand, is very tangible. So, in my journal I use four open book pages to plot out my goals for the week.
    The first page contains a quote I create to motivate me, to remind me of what my focus should be; it also sets the tone for the week, of how I feel inside.
    Sitting comfortably next to the quote on the other page are my weekly goals. Here I write down everything I want to achieve in the next seven days. I keep it realistic. As each week goes on I learn more about my limits and thus become more capable of setting realistic goals, resulting in a clearer sense of achievement.
    Beware: when you set unrealistic goals and don’t acknowledge they are unrealistic—because of inexperience or self-delusion—the possibility for a sense of failure can creep in unnoticed.

Page-set Two: Daily Goals.

Daily Goals:
    On the next set of pages I break down my weekly goals into days. Each morning I wake up and write down exactly what I want to accomplish before I even get out of bed. This includes my workout, my life responsibilities (bills, groceries, errands, call mom), my desired emotional states, and my other targets, such as publishing a new blog or writing X-amount of pages for the long list of stories in my head.
    Keep in mind, some days my goals are as perverse as: Rest. Do nothing. Sleep in as late as possible. Sit on your ass and be depressed about missing girl so and so. Of course these perverse goals are allotted very sparsely, on days where I need to take a moment to accept the flow of life. For the most part, daily goals are all about accomplishments, of hitting next level shit (see definition in prior blog). The point being: There’s a difference between quitting and taking a breather.
    Sometimes it’s actually in your best interest to give yourself a break. These necessary breaks are more digestible after having met many small goals. Breaks are not palatable if you’ve done jack-shit in the first place. Do you see the pattern?

 Page-set Three: Daily Workouts.

    This is the title of the third set of pages. This is a daily log of my workouts. Here I record the hours I rode, followed by a short description of the type of workout, i.e. track workout or TT workout or long road ride, and of the intervals done, i.e. 4x10min or 6x500m flying, etc.
    (Numbers a keen here, i.e. power or split times. This way you can track physiological progression over time. Just don’t get obsessed with numbers. At the end of the day instincts is what matters most, not a pile of data).
    I also jot down how I felt personally. Did I kill today? Was I focused or distracted? Did I set too high of a standard? What can I do to fix this?

Page-set Four: Log and Conclusion.

Log and Conclusion:
    In this fourth and last set of pages I record: Hours of sleep per night (sleep/recovery is EQUALLY important to training), quality of sleep (scale 1-10), hours worked on other projects/hobbies, average training totals, and any other achievements or notable events.
    The concrete nature of a Log is not only satisfying it is also pragmatic when looking at long-term fluctuations and correlations between workload, sleep, and overall health. In this conclusion section I look at my original weekly goals and see if my workouts/conclusion at the end of the week match up. If not, why? If so, how can I improve?

In short:
-Buy a journal (don’t use a computer)
-Solidify 'Big Picture' goals at the front of the journal
-Page-set 1: Write down your weekly goals and invent your own quote (don’t rely on the words of others. Write your own story)
-Page-set 2: Write down realistic daily goals.
-Page-set 3: Record daily workouts (do they match with goals?)
-Page-set 4: Sleep log, training averages and conclusion (were your weekly goals obtained? How do you feel? More rest? Can go harder? Weaknesses to improve?)

You WILL get better at this with time. Patience. Trust yourself.

dan harm

No comments:

Post a Comment