Showing posts from 2011

What's it all about?

It's about giving yourself permission to fail. Not wishing to fail, that would make you some sort of nonce. (Normally I would apologise if that offends you but I'm not going to - because you surrender the right to take offence when you sell your soul for a handful of praise, some empty words from hollow friends and a plastic medal)

You're giving yourself permission so that you can dare yourself to succeed. Cheesy? Maybe, but then you've been dared to do more stupid sounding things than that...and done them!

It's alright to come off second best if you've put your heart and soul into it. Actually, that's a half-truth. If you wanted it enough to put your heart and soul into it, coming off second best will hurt like gravel burn with a lemon juice poultice but you can learn and you can adapt to that. Besides, coming off second best even though you've safe-guarded your ego by only giving it a half-arsed effort will still hurt. But it will hurt in the deep dar…

Contemplating Fear - a conversation with my sister

Yes, feel the fear, embrace the fear, have a one night stand with the fear and then dump it for the thrill of the game!

And other moral lessons I shouldn't teach my sister or daughter!

But I've always treated people with respect, it's just fear that you should treat like a cheap skank...acknowledge that it is there, recognise that it might have some appeal on the surface (and heck, it probably makes some people happy) but once you let it in, you'll find it deeply dissatisfying! Not to mention the long-term effects you may find that it has left behind!

A little fear helps to keep us alive. But like anything, you can get too much of a good thing. You don't have to enjoy it, but mastering the whispering naysayer offers freedom and accomplishment.

Carb Loading <sigh> - A late night meander

I was asked recently about carbohydrate loading and my first reaction was "don't" but I reined that in and asked the sensible questions: what sport, what level of activity/duration, what standard of event/competition?

The response was amateur rugby, so I reverted to my first answer! However, this answer seems a little trite and unhelpful. So I got to thinking (not unusual) and what started life as a short answer rapidly escalated into a lengthier one. I'll explain not only my reasoning but go some way to tightening up the definition of the term itself. That last act in itself may go some way to leading to your own conclusion as it the term is frequently abused which I feel leads to much of the misapplication.

I have skipped some of the physiology in the interests of not extending the answer any more than I already have. I have tried to be faithful to the science but by skimping have probably done it a massive disservice. If more information/clarity would be useful fe…

Just a quick thought

Put your ego in harm's way. Be in a position where failure is possible but without accepting that as the final position. Be open to the suggestion that what you thought was your limit isn't - even though it does a more than passable impression of it!

The growth, the actual development occurs at those outer limits of comfort. Well, in the rest periods afterwards in truth. You take yourself to your limits and stay there for a while, occasionally darting out and returning quickly - like a child at the edge of a pool of darkness, nudging into the gloom and jumping back, heart pumping fast enough to burst out of your chest. Having established that you can make it that far, you go a little further the next time.

You take your body out into the dark, introducing it to what you require. Introductions over, you relax and your body, newly aware of expectations sets about readjusting itself, hypercompensating to accommodate new expectations.

Until you get comfortable with not being comforta…

Scratching the surface...or your head

When you think about it, apart from alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, sugar and ego-onanism, quitting is easy! Every day there are only 24 hours. Some are packed to the gunwales, some are padded out with fluff and filler. But every minute of every hour seems to compete for attention (or slip past under the radar, trying desperately not to be noticed!). Your best laid plans gang aglay with terrifying ease and the speed of a pyromaniac cheetah carrying a tank of nitrogen. There are a thousand and one reasons at any moment to not do something - whether it is deliver the difficult message or to avoid training or not order that pizza! Every reason appears to have merit. Each has a weight and force of its own which will make it seem insurmountable or incontrovertible. In truth though, you only need one reason to do it. One good "why" to set you straight. That's all it need but too often we are blinded by the sandstorm of negativity to pick it out. Maybe we have never rea…

What makes your world go round?

I went to a gig last week and thoroughly enjoyed myself! I found myself, both before and since, being a little coy about who I went to see. It's almost like it's a dirty little secret but I'm not ashamed of the fact that I really enjoy Iron Maiden, it's more that I wear an ill-fitting mask of moderate behaviour and attitude that saying the name "Iron Maiden" seems to jar with!

Anyway, over the last few days I have been boring people silly with the fact that I had a great time. One of my stock answers has been that whether you like their music or not, you must see them perform. Technical ability, energy, passion and intensity. Their age to one side, you have to admire the performance on it's own merits.

It occurred to me during one of the latest iterations that actually, these are my main causes for excitement in any field- technical execution, energy, passions and intensity. It's been a relatively consistent theme for me. Interview question to a younger…

Transit Lounge

I started thinking that the journey home is the worst part of any trip. You have left behind the purpose for the journey and all that brought and you are not yet back in your comfort zone.

Actually though, there are a worse things in life. Sure, it's not ideal. You're stuck with the morals of the vendors and how rapacious they are in their sale of refreshments but why should this bit be worse than any other?

But it has some parallels with life for many of us. We're too close to look back with fondness on the recent memories, more fixed on the fact that they've come to an end than with the simple joy of having had the experience. And we are too far away from home to feel wholly relaxed, even if that's where we want to be right now. Where are those Star Trek transporters? I have the phone which is capable of more than I ever dreamed possible and lasers are pretty common, so where are the transporters?

It is possible that I might feel entirely different if this was a…


What ever happened to personal identity?This is a strange post for me as the issue of identity appears to have been on the social agenda for most of my adult life. I meandered through some thoughts on group interaction in my last post and, to be honest, for an awful lot of people, the idea of identity appears to begin and end there.Who are you when nobody is looking?We all put on fronts. These are about surviving and thriving with others and can be as simple as acting cheery when you feel threaders, but can be a whole complex new persona. If I am to hope to communicate with others then I need to consider the limitations and adjust my process accordingly - in the same way that for Twitter or a telegram I need to pare my message down! The healthiest among us wear masks that are closest to natural appearance.Even with that in mind, we talk about individuality, about diversity, about variety while all the time plastering labels and constructing pigeon-holes. What does your gender, your na…

Whither hence

Perhaps it starts with a recognition that there may be some merit to not getting everything that you want. So you set out those atrophied self-control and self-discipline muscles.How it goes from here depends to a large extent on you. If you fight it you will make this much harder than it needs to be. The process becomes much more about what you are not getting and, sadly, as a focus that is always much stronger than what you are getting. It becomes a battle rather than a journey. It does not make it easy (no apology offered) but it does make it easier.Breaking away from the pack makes you vulnerable - to assault from the other members of your pack as much as anything else. If you start to deviate from the accepted "wisdom" you can expect people to haul you back in. We can see how this is a useful survival instinct, a way of guarding the continuation of the herd, but it has its downsides.The office is, for many of us at least, the modern savannah. Look around you, you spend …

Going without...just for a while...just to see if you can

It starts with recognising that it is sometimes a good thing to not get everything that you want. Periodically it is a good thing to go without, to work your willpower like any other muscle. I am not talking about consigning yourself to a hermitage or about donning the sackcloth and taking a scourge to yourself. Rather, have a look, what security blanket do you give yourself? What do you give in to without a murmur? Skipping a training session, the bag of crisps, the toast and butter to tide you over when you get in from work? Or go the whole hog with a paleo challenge. Now set yourself a time. Four weeks, 30 days, 40 days...your call. Now go to it.The ascetics might call it normal, the catholics will be reminded of Lent, the muslims of Ramadan, the military fetishists of Andy McNab's description of hard routine, others just describe it as character building. Whatever helps you get through it, don't label it if you don't need to. It's just something you do.Why? Well, …

Period Drama - Tis the (pre-)season

It seems that in the last few years the idea of periodization has fallen into the nerdier shadows of the training world. It's not so much that there are people criticising it per se but there are so many people entering fitness or returning to fitness training who either had no exposure to the concept previously or who are turned on to the idea of beating the piss out of themselves with every workout.
Cards on the table, the classic mode of teaching periodization is a turn-off for me. It's pretty turgid and a lot of it seemed to revolve around bodybuilding type models. And that's fine, if you're a bodybuilder but in my world mates do not let mates wear budgie-smugglers, so the idea of getting towards the point where you stand on stage looking like a condom packed to the gunwales with walnuts and pose in your briefs does not do much for me!
That and the idea of completely random training meant that I've had some fun along the way. But for sports performance we simply …

Brain Dump!

Last night I saw an old woman in her heavy cotton pyjamas and her belt of authorita giving a demonstration. She proved, beyond all expectations, that her self-defence art only works if the attacker obligingly holds himself in the right position.
It reminded me of my childhood and the various martial arts renaissances – most particularly karate. There seemed to be an army of black belts sprouting, like dragon’s teeth, all claiming that they were invincible. Most went on to point out that you were not attacking them in the right way when they were unable to fell you with a “deft monkey” or something like that.
All of this brought me on the handful of finishers’ medals that I have for various silliness. I put those in a similar league to the non-competitive sports-days and electoral reform…I know my mind is as cluttered (and as filthy) as a teenager’s bedroom!
The medals slice up two ways. Yes, they are a symbol of the achievement of finishing, and that separates those of who received one f…


There's a lot of macho imagery that swirls around the word courage. The word resonates with us on a primal level. Our receptors fire with screen reels of John Wayne; or frantically fluttering pages of Boy's Own or Commando; or the sight of a group staring down a wild beast.
But I'm not thinking about those this time. There's a much less dramatic demonstration of it that occurs every day, in a million ways, and it has no need for people to enter a burning building.
It's the courage to do the little things, to stand and live by your values. The courage to not surrender to disinclination because you could, or because you know that others would. Elite performance is the sum of the occasions when you exert your will in the face of boredom, or in refusing to sacrifice longer-term momentum for titillation or gratification.
You might be an absolute game-winner but if you are the sort of person who is absent for 90% of the match you need to know that your place, and by extensi…


While we have all been there, it is still desperately sad to see somebody wallowing in the pit of despair. 
(from "The Princess Bride" a must-watch film, the book is different but well worth a read too)
I get that it is difficult for you. I know that you want me or somebody to say or do something that will make it easy. Something that will make it all ok, that will make it go away.
I can't.
In truth, the admission still hurts me but it is the truth. 
What you want is a bottle labelled "drink me" that will take you to a different world. But all you seem to get is the world saying "eat me". I hate to be the one to stamp on your playset but the Star Trek transporter system doesn't yet actually exist. If you look up for a minute you will see that there is an open door for you. I know, there are stairs on the other side of the door and they will be harder and who knows, you may even run the risk of having to put in some effort. But what's your alternati…

Rocky and Bull...

It should not come as a surprise to me to find people forget the journey once they are safely ensconced at their destination. But it does come as a surprise. As a species we owe our survival to learning from experience and many of the psychotherapies for mental illness are about addressing the mental replay. So what about the disconnect here?
We know that success is an awful teacher and this amnesia is one of the reasons why that should be the case. There will be things to learn from and improve on but these fall away early in the euphoria of victory. Indeed, thinking about the psychotherapy, a good deal of that is about dealing with maldaptive beliefs and reactions, so much of which is coloured by experience. I was watching Rocky recently and something that illustrated the point stood out that I had not noticed/appreciated before.
It was the training montage ["everybody needs a montage"] that stood out. You know the bit, the sequence that has been copied and parodied a thousa…

Love hurts

You love a challenge.

Beware, for it comes with baggage.

You had better be prepared for discomfort. Not just prepared for the concept, you have got to be ready to embrace it, to welcome it into your home; into your life. It will be your companion. It will walk with you, always near at hand. It will hug you close and cradle you to sleep. It will shine a light into your soul. It will ask questions of you and hold a mirror up before you. Sometimes it will scream the questions in your face. Other times it will whisper them softly in your ear. You will turn, looking for somebody else to respond. But it is always you that is being asked. It is only ever you that can answer.

For all this, what lies therein for you? Growth. The questions you fear to be asked will help you know your own heart. You will become more than you are now - a more complete version of you. You will become aware of the potential that lies within and you will come to cherish the chances to fulfil it. You will fall flat o…

How's your attention?

The internet is a wonderful thing and it turns out that it is not just for porn! Every one of us can access research papers in medical sciences or strength and conditioning at the click of the mouse. We open our eyes and minds to more information than at any other time in histroy, Alexander's library contained less than a day's search history of the average primary school child. And yet, the cornucopia does not come with a user manual. We do not necessarily immediately have the requisite skill and training to separate the elixir from the snake oil. every trip to the ether puts us at risk from the next most vociferous programme.
It could just be a feature of our societal ADHD. Whether time management or prioritisation in the office; or the student who spends all of her time researching and none actually writing; or the person in training who flits from one programme to the next at two-weekly intervals, we see the hallmarks everywhere.
I think it may be a combination of lost prior…

Hang on...

There’s something I’ve noticed as I’ve grown older. It’s something that cuts across work, sports and social situations. There’s an almost universal demand for respect. Not really for anything, just because. There’s no indication or inclination toward reciprocity, just a demand that because I am here or, so that the older generation don’t feel left out, because I have done my time there should be some recognition. And when the world shrugs its collective shoulders there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.
I was brought up to have more compassion than to just shrug, so instead I ask the question “what of it?”
Too callous?
How about this – “so what have you done with your time?” Yes, there are marks for attendance in my book. That act puts you ahead of a good selection of the rest of society. But, as I have said before, just turning up is not enough. Whether you are early in your journey, or further along, it’s a start but not the end. What will you do? These are important things to ask of yo…

Choice and cost

I had started to write an open letter to my rugby lads, urging them on over the final furlong of the season. I had thought that it would included the line about their season titrating down to a series of moments like these, junctions along your timeline where you chose your heading.
And then it occurred that it might seem a bit over the top. Particularly when you consider that actually life is a succession of choices. Some are monumental, towering over your life like a skyscraper in a campsite. Others are colossal but take a little digging to find, most of their bulk lurks under the surface. Then there are the small, everyday, apparently run-of-the-mill choices which we make all of the time. Many of these barely cause a flicker of concern, so habitual are the decisions. Yet the sum total of all of these leads us to where we stand today. Granted, at some points the options may seem so heavily weighted to one side or the other as to give the appearance of no choice but, just because one …

The Melchett Method

I'm not sure if it's an unreasonable man or an enduring optimist who maintains his original heading in the teeth of a gale. Actually, while I'm on the topic of admitting to ignorance, I'm not entirely sure that there is any difference between the two.
We need to be responsive to feedback, we need to be open to it, to adjust it or disregard it as appropriate. It's the "as appropriate" qualifier which should be making you think. Please think!
Rugby players, fighters, police and military, in response to performance or potential situations think (rightly IMO) "I need to be stronger". Thanks to the work of the Gubernator, Joe Weider and the nutroceutical industry, big muscles are perceived as being the hallmark of strength. Bodybuilders have big muscles, therefore I need to train like them... Cut to game time and some hulk running out of gas early doors. What does this tell us?
"As private parts to the gods are we! They play with us for their sport…

Stupid reality

Life is so much easier when it is going well and to plan, running smoothly. It's only when you face defeat or you start to feel that burning itch of dis-satisfaction (as opposed to the other burning itch which requires cream and antibiotics... although I suppose that presents its own challenges to your world view!) that you need to start thinking about things. And for many of us, that's precisely when the trouble starts!
When we have been motoring along, satisfied or at least reasonably so, we will have been heading in what felt like the right direction. We will feel comfortable with the signs of progress or finding signs of progress in the absence of signs of retrogression!
And then it happens, that interruption, the intervention that drops the anchor on what we have been trying to achieve. There may have been one or two things which have slowed us down before but we have explained those away. And now here it is, the unavoidable thorn in the paw. We have a choice in our respons…

Training, life & music

For the first time in I don't know how long, I turned off the shuffle on my ipod this morning and enjoyed the simple pleasures of listening to a whole album. It's not all that noteworthy in so much as I will put an album on at home in the background when I'm creating some paleo monstrosity in the kitchen but it did spark a thought.
There are some parallels with life and training. We have more means of accessing variety than ever before. So much of our experience is like a butterfly. It probably does lead to a tornado in Azerbaijan but I was thinking more of the constant flitting. The briefest of touch-downs on and then off to something else. As a species I think we like choice and variety and there's plenty of it out there. But, like many other things, toxicity is dose specific.
We start a task and then something shiny "demands" our attention and we're off. In training we are appealed to by the latest gimmick or the new packaging on an old idea and we are …