As somebody who has coached for a few years, patterns among clients and athletes I have coached, helped out with or just observed over a long period of time become fairly evident. Nowhere is this more telling than in following female athletes who seem to excel towards their version of success; whether that’s incrementally improving in their chosen sport to become the top of their game, or just continuing to compete while improving other aspects of their lives. This topic specifically is something I’ve been thinking about and discussing with clients and other coaches for some period of time, but I’ve found it difficult to put into words without sounding clichéd or stale. The best way I can describe the approach of these women who find success is with an analogy. I love analogies, as what’s being said can create great context for individuals to apply their own interpretation and make the meaning relevant to their own lives.
#VALHALLAvalkyrie Alice was part of the inspiration for this piece.
Imagine this: you’re in a small wooden boat, paddling up a quiet river. As you start rowing upstream, you’re making good progress but slowly, the current against you starts to increase. Although you’re putting in as much effort to row, you can tell that you’re slowing down. Now, you have three options here:
- Keep rowing at the same pace, with the result that you’ll eventually slow down to the point where you can’t move any further as you’re rowing the same speed the water is coming against you.
- Stop rowing, with the result you’ll quickly go backwards and end up where you started (or past this).
- Row. Like. Hell.
The pattern I have noticed with athletes who always succeed (especially women) is that those who do the best ALWAYS choose option 3.
It’s not going to take a genius to figure out what I am trying to say here. Obviously, you on the boat is representative of the pathway towards success. At first, getting results is easy (think beginner gains, or the first few months of learning a new skill). However, after some time the difficulty will increase either by the virtue of diminishing returns, injuries, or even just life. Once this happens, if you continue at the same path you’ll grind to a halt and eventually all your efforts will be taking you nowhere. If you stop, you’ll find yourself going backwards. The only way to move forwards is to push harder, despite the oncoming flow. Even if you put twice as much effort into whatever you’re wanting to achieve, eventually you will slow down again. Then, it’s time get yourself better paddles or a more streamlined boat – focus on recovery including reducing external stressors as much as you can, seek external professional help to devise an optimal diet or training program, finding a coach who can create a program that suits your goals and lifestyle, etc.
Too often I see people come across setbacks, and miraculously think that if they keep doing what they’re doing or “just take it easy for a little while” then they will get over whatever is holding them back. If you have an injury, very rarely is time off the key to recovery; instead seek professionals who can help you devise a plan to get you back into training as normal as quickly as possible. If other priorities in life take over from training (which they will at times for the majority of people), continuing to do what you’re currently doing or stopping training together is rarely the answer; instead learn how to prioritise responsibilities first, and fit training in whenever you can.
There are many people out there who have a lot of oncoming current, and they will succeed not despite their setbacks, but because of them – nothing helps you increase your training IQ than being forced to adapt. Treat everything you encounter the same way, and you’ll be well on the way to the success you don’t just deserve, but have earned.