Finish what you’ve started

New Year New Me is becoming a cliche, people can even right off December because they have it in their minds come January it will all change as they miraculously get a kick up the arse. There will be plenty of articles going around about goal setting and ‘kicking off your new year right’, but i’m going to discuss a key principle you can use for your training to ensure you don’t fall off the bandwagon with everyone else. It all revolves around finishing what you’ve started… Why it can work? Completing tasks gives us a great sense of achievement, our day revolves around it. Completion can seem a daunting word saved only for tasks worthy of sharing, but it doesn’t need to be. We can ‘hack’ our minds into a favourable state just by completing lots of small (possibly meaningless) tasks. Once we get our minds on a completion roll, the remaining tasks become much more attainable and easier to do. ‘No-one ever regretted working out’ I’m not sure who originally said this but it’s true and scaleable. You never regret a workout, or all the workouts you managed to complete in your week, month or block into a race. This is because it is your goal to do those workouts and by doing them you are completing tasks to achieve that goal. Sounds very simple, you have a goal and the way to achieve it is to complete small tasks along the way, but then, along comes procrastination, distractions and excuses. Using the finish what you’ve started approach might help to keep you on track, focused, motivated and winning. How to make it work? Stop multi tasking… We are not good at it, we lose focus, forget and become very unproductive when we multi task. One of the reasons we start to multi task is because starting things kicks us off down the 'completion feel good’ road. Our minds actually get a hit of dopamine from starting tasks but this soon turns back on us when we fail to complete them. Our minds become overwhelmed from multi tasking and its likely you’ll end up half-arsing 3 things instead of fully completing even 1. Eliminate distractions when training…The more you learn the less you know. This is usually used in academic contexts when talking about research but what if we look at it from a social media standpoint. The more you use social media the more you open your mind up to information you (1) don’t need and (2) want to know more on. The important part there is point (1), you simply don’t need it. From a training stand point, people don’t have too much time to spare in their day and the amount of comments I read on athletes who ‘ran out of time’ is far too many. You didn't ‘run out of time’ you just didn’t allocate your time correctly. Social media is amazing for sharing, motivating and connecting people but use it wisely. Allocate time to it, don’t just scroll through it without a purpose. Set tasks prior to your training sessions that both eliminates distractions and gets your task approach mind rolling!
  • Close all social applications
  • Turn off notifications/turn on do not disturb mode
  • Ask yourself ‘do I know the structure and purpose of this training session’?
The more you think about social media the crazier it gets, ultimately it is a never ending task… so does this mean our minds will never feel accomplished with it? Break your workouts down…The end of a three hour run or five hour bike, even a 60min CrossFit class can seem a life time away. Twenty minutes of a long session though, seems like nothing. As a coach I like to test my athletes physically and mentally. Some athletes love to have session structure, ready made bite size blocks they can tick off over and over, these guys do great with the finish what you’ve started method. Typical ways of breaking long unstructured sessions or races down is by; feeding intervals, time intervals, distance intervals and landmark intervals. It is a key skill to develop, particularly for longer distance athletes. Nope your coach isn’t being lazy giving you a four hour ride on feel or a two hour run by choice, they’re helping you develop this skill as come race day, it’s all down to you. Once you can develop this block structure approach, you begin to ’trick’ the mind into a completion state and the big picture of the session will take care of its self. Define a start and end point…If we don’t feel the task is fully complete we don’t get the hit of completion we crave and will begin to start other tasks to fuel our dopamine release. Do what you are doing until you have done it and make sure your brain knows the training task for the day is complete. Training starts the night before, or when you wake up, or when you press go on your Garmin. It doesn’t actually matter when training starts, what matters is what stops. Remember, we are terrible at multi tasking. If you are training and on WhatsApp or training and looking at emails you are not doing both optimally. Do one, or the other. Endurance training can be monotonous and one dimensional at times which can lead the brain into boredom and to start other tasks (like checking notifications) which as we know is a distraction from your training goals. CrossFit is intensive and require extreme focus, if you’re checking your phone every 5 min then you’re not maximising your focus. Some things like music, podcasts, audio books and youtube/netflix can be of value during longer sessions but they are ‘background noise’ that don’t take too much concentration. Thinking of words and sentences to say to people on email or WhatsApp takes a lot of concentration, ever spoke to someone who has one eye on something else? It’s pointless. So thinking you can focus on a conversation while also focusing on your session goals is naive, you cant. Knowing what needs to switch off when training starts is the key. This also means your brain… Go into each session with a mindset of ‘leave your problems at the door’. Thoughts of work and life will creep back into your mind but overshadow them with thoughts on the current task you are completing. Defining an end point makes sure you complete everything needed to ensure the session was successful.
  • Write down a tick list of;
1.Before tasks (nutrition, equipment etc…), 2.Session goals/structure 3.Post tasks (feedback, cleaning bike, washing etc...) to help you layout a completion path. The finishing what you’ve started approach takes organisation, this is why it works, because you will become more organised. You may have a coach to help keep you accountable to it, you may have training partners, you may just have yourself. In all cases though, you need to be clear of your session expectations and pre and post session tasks. 2020 will be epic! So many goals are being set, lets make sure you finish what you start! By; Tom Walker, Endurance Coach