“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” – Maya Angelou
It’s so true. We can’t control everything. As much as we may want to control everything, and even develop mal-adaptive strategies to try to control everything, we just simply can’t. Whether it’s with family, life, or athletics, control tends to be the reason why failure comes so natural. Have you ever been running a marathon and it gets too hot? Or starts to rain? Automatically…failure sets in and a PR is not in the cards. We all know we can’t control the weather, but what can we control in those athletic situations? How can you become the best athlete you can be in even the worst situations?
After my recent FKT fail, I realized that it wasn’t me that caused the fail, but rather one of the elements I could not control. It still didn’t feel good of course, but I know, deep down, that I mastered all of the things I could control in that particular situation. When it comes to racing or adventuring, there are 4 controls to achieve success – fueling, recovering, training, and attitude. It took time – a lot of time – but I have worked hard to perfect these 4 things; shifting my attention to what I can control versus what I can’t and it has made all the difference. Focusing on the weather, trail/road conditions, or even annoying people – that’s when we feel failure. And I have felt that. This is not an easy skill. I want to tell the world what I know about how to be successful in a sport. Being vulnerable to the controls is okay because, I promise, that’s how you inch forward to your goals.
The 4 things I can control in a race or adventure…
- TRAINING. When you decide to sign up for a race, generally most people train for it. Proper training is key to success – we know that. Ensuring you don’t under or over train can actually be a big challenge for many people. Over-training typically is the main culprit. Now the simple solution is to work with a coach, but even then, I notice many times athletes will “feel really good” so run faster each mile or go just a little longer each day or spend the whole weekend doing “fun” long runs with friends…that adds up and all of a sudden, injury hits. More is not always better. Training needs to be specific and optimized for your body regardless of what others are doing. It sounds so simple, but in the moment, when endorphins are high, it can be really tough to train smarter versus longer or faster.
- FUELING. This generally is one of the hardest things for athletes to master. As a dietitian, I continue to work with so many people on their fueling needs for everyday training and racing. It takes so much time and the athletes that embrace what they need to do to fuel appropriately are the ones that master this control much sooner. Often times, people want to see change fast and do not believe me when I tell them they need more than what they think. Be vulnerable sometimes. There are dietitians that can make mastering this pretty simple! Also, with nutrition and hydration it takes a lot of time – experimenting is involved and really dialing in the specifics for all weather conditions is super important. Although weather is not something you can control, if you are a master of fueling, you can completely disregard weather as a reason to fail. Remember this about fueling the body as an athlete – dieting, eliminating, and manipulating are all actions that will never create success in the long run.
- RECOVERING. The best thing on the planet that you can do for your body – listen to it. It asks all the time for a break. Recovering day to day, week to week, and training period to training period is SO important to the success in your race or adventure. The recovering you do today will impact the race you have in September. Trust me when I say that! I have done everything wrong at some point in my running career and had to learn the hard way. I wish so badly to go back and recover when I didn’t long ago and, seriously, I missed out on reaching so many goals because of it. So what happens if you don’t recover?…Injury of course…as well as a diminishing metabolism, lack of energy, sore muscles and joints…you get my drift. Even if you feel SO GOOD, take a day off each week and a few weeks between periods. Day to day, be sure to sleep at night, roll and stretch, and just be – sit and enjoy a book or music or TV. Train hard, rest hard.
- ATTITUDE. Then there was attitude. Gosh I will be the first to admit this is still something I struggle with from time to time. Some races I can pull myself out of the deep end and others I simply can’t. Your attitude affects performance and success more than anything. This element isn’t about “wanting it badly.” This element is about being kind to yourself and smiling – showing gratitude for what you are doing. I know I talk about this often, but just try it. Show gratitude to your crew, your support, and your body for what you are doing no matter what the distance or effort. This is that moment when all things are going to hell and you are able to remind yourself “this is where I am right now and I’m going to embrace these challenges; I know I am controlling what I can control.” That is the attitude element at its best. Taking each step forward, forgetting about goals, and just getting through what you have to get through in that moment. Smiling through each step of suck. Like I said, it’s hard still for me, but I have mastered it and know how to use it if I so choose.
Take these 4 elements of control and see where you are with them. Do you need to first work on your training? Or maybe stopping to read a book? Or changing your outlook about racing? There is so much positivity that comes from knowing what you can control and what you can’t. Self-confidence, of course, but also a strengthened foundation – that you’ve succeeded regardless of the outcome. I fall into that mindset too at times (I am only human!)…that a fail means a fail and there is nothing successful about a fail. It’s so the opposite. The fail brings so much success in the long run, to both athletics and life.
So the next time you are worried about a race or goal coming up, remind yourself of what you can and can’t control. So what if the weather sucks….so what if there is reroute….you will be the best you focusing on what you can control – try it. 🙂
Blog author: Annie Weiss, MS RD; ultra-endurance athlete and dietitian living and training in Milwaukee, WI. She is a sponsored athlete/ambassador for lululemon, Swiftwick Socks, AltraRunning, The OrangeMud, and Fluid Nutrition. Follow her training/racing on Twitter & Instagram: ani_weiss and Facebook: Ani Weiss.