PUSHING Yourself During Exercise [Competition Technique]

Competition brings out the best performance in us.

Competition is a technique to PUSH YOURSELF to the ultimate level of fitness.

This is the last article in the series. This technique can be applied to any exercise, but in this series, I’ll talk about running and walking and running up steps. Those are the two exercises I do most frequently.
You might be thinking that I’m going to cover competition as in racing or joining friends for your exercise so you can push each other to greatness. That’s an amazing technique, but one that everyone already knows. In this series about pushing yourself past current levels of fitness, I wanted to give you some techniques you may not have heard of.

Pushing yourself through competition goes like this…

Usually, I use this technique when I’m feeling unmotivated or even a little down about the state of my run, step climbing, swim, bicycle ride or whatever I happen to be doing. I realize there’s no spunk in my effort and I need something to pick me up and get me up to at least a moderate pace.

In my mind, I assemble a group of my competition. My running competition? Nope. I blog in the motivational / life development area with Aim for Awesome so my competition (though really they are not directly competing with me) are people like Steve Pavlina; Yaro Starak; Albert Foong of Urbanmonk.net; Leo Babauta of ZenHabits.net; Donald Latumahina at LifeOptimizer.org and others. There are so many more. Usually, I name a group of twelve. I know what they look like and I picture their natural running style and abilities based on how well their blogs are doing. Choose competitors from whatever area you are striving to excel in. For me, it’s blogging.

I guess the people I named aren’t really direct competition, but they are my role-models and those that I’m striving to equal and eventually surpass online. They’ve got far more readers than I have and they have a high standard for their writing – one that I aspire to. My writing is obviously different and I’m not sure if it has mass appeal yet – but, I’ll find out in a year or so. Anyway, back to the mind-trick.

I picture each person close to me and running with me at first. We’re all in a group and none of us is feeling all that great. This makes me realize, I can beat all of them today because as bad as I feel, I’ve been running all my life. I can crank it up a notch and drop some of them right now.

I go just a little bit faster and see who starts to drop away. I see who picks it up to match me. There are some fighters in the group and I know I’m going to be kicking my own ass to get going as fast as I need to in order to beat them. After the first couple slow slightly I devise a plan. I say to myself, “Around that corner is the slight upgrade. Pretend to go slow right now and then crank it up just around that corner to a 75% effort and see who drops!”

And so I do. I drop a few people there. Steve Pavlina, Yaro Starak, Darren Rowse, Donald Latumahina and a couple others are still with me. Damn they won’t give up.

Depending how I feel I’ll either map out a long-term run strategy where I gradually pick up the pace dropping off everyone except Steve Pavlina or I’ll do some mini-bursts of speed usually up hills to drop people. Steve is great at the high speed, long distance, but I use hills to wear him down – the up and down wear him out. I love the hills so that’s where I destroy him.

Ha, it sounds funny as I write it but! I’m not joking at all. This is a very powerful technique that I love to use. I combine this mental competition with both positive self-talk and with self-coaching to bring out the best in me on bad days. Almost always it succeeds in motivating me to go faster.  Sometimes Steve wins and I vow to break him the next time we run. Sometimes Darren Rowse pulls away and beats both me and Steve. Sometimes Donald comes from behind in a surprise pass that leaves me dumbfounded until I regroup.

Though I haven’t read about any top runners at the international level using mind games to push themselves to greatness like those I’ve written about here, I KNOW they must exist. I guess if you had some really good techniques that you could call on during your deepest moments of suffering during hard exercise that would make you crank even harder you’d keep those a secret. Top secret.

I don’t have many secrets, so I shared the few techniques I use that came easily to mind. As I experience more or as I remember more I’ll post them here to help you take your exercise to a new level.

I use this Competition technique for pushing myself harder about once a week on average. One key to using these techniques is not using them every time you exercise. I use each of these techniques maybe once a week on average. But, sometimes I plan stage races where I race the same group of people over 3 days. I might even include Lance Armstrong as a runner in the pack. I visualize snapping his persistence like a dry twig as we push up a long hill…  haha.

Eat my dust Lance!

So then, try this technique as you need it. Be creative with your own ideas and let me know if you come up with anything cool that I can try while I run or bike.

Best of Life!

Vern

My Pushing Yourself Series Covers:

1. Getting Out the Door to Exercise!
2. Visual Imagery!
3. Shaming Yourself!
4. Positive Self Talk!
5. Delay of Gratification!
6. Coaching Yourself!
7. Competition!

PUSHING YOURSELF During Exercise [Coaching Yourself]

Running coach watch

Coaching Yourself is the sixth article in the PUSHING YOURSELF series which is all about helping you reach your ultimate fitness level by pushing yourself beyond your normal best effort.

 

This is a series on pushing yourself while exercising. It can be applied to any exercise, but in this series I’ll talk about running and walking / running up steps. Those are the two exercises that I do daily – one or the other.

I played soccer from the time I was six until I graduated high school. When I entered 8th grade I met my soccer coach, Mr. Richard Spolar at Springdale High, Pennsylvania. He was a physical education teacher at another nearby school and he’d been coaching soccer at my high school for six years already. Coach Spolar had an excellent history of creating great soccer teams. Our school, though small was renown for playing Quad-A soccer though we were only a Double-A school. Coach Spolar never smiled. Coach Spolar was my worst nightmare for four years.

We had a path that was 9/10th of a mile around our high school field. About four complete soccer fields could fit into this area. Coach would make us run around this loop not just on good days, but even if we were sick or had some injury that prohibited us from practicing but that jogging wouldn’t hurt. If someone had a stomach ache or headache coach would make them run around the field. If someone had a broken arm coach would make them run around the field.

He never looked up to see how many times they circled, he never gave it a second thought. After he told you to start running you ran until the end of practice. Sometimes that was two hours later. Sometimes three. One player ran around the loop 18 times over a three-hour practice. One dared not stop or the assistant coach would tell him and coach would blow the whistle and make the entire team run around the loop for the entire practice. Or worse, he’d make us line up for 100-yard sprints or suicides. The worst exercise in his repertoire was “hills” which is the topic of a whole new post if I ever want to relive them. One of coach’s primary beliefs was that the entire team got punished for any infraction of an individual. Of course, that individual later got the hell beat out of him so it didn’t pay to be the one causing coach grief.

Coach loved “three-a-days” in the Summer. You know how most kids have off for the summer to do as they wish? Coach made us practice three times every day during the peak of summer heat. We’d have two hours in the morning working on springs, suicides, hills and individual ball control skills. In the afternoon it was team skill building for two hours. In the evening we’d play small practice games offense on defense for three hours. Seven hours of practice each day rain or shine. We much preferred the rain.

Coach Spolar told us on numerous occasions:

“What you see here. Do here. Hear here.
Stays here when you leave here.”

Coach knew some of his tactics would cause outrage among parents, probably get him fired as a coach and teacher in the school system. So, nobody was ever to find out. None of us dared to tell.

When coach got in your face to gripe you out it was as if the blood in his head was boiling and he was going to explode. He would be one inch from one of your eyeballs and screaming and spitting as he did so. Spittle would cover your cheek, lips and even get into your eye. If you flinched he got angrier. He could fire that temper up in an instant and be jacking somebody up in no time if he saw them either

1.) Being lazy.
2.) Not doing what he told us to do.

One of his favorite tortures, he had many, was making a player hold a half-pushup position until, arms spasming they gave out. We had a couple guys that could hold that position almost indefinitely. He’d rest his foot on their shoulders as he talked to the team. When someone’s arms gave out before he thought they should he’d get in the player’s face and scream at them until they got back up and held it again. The second time he told them if they dropped again they were dropped from the team. Coach was going way beyond the level of being a bastard, but we did win the state championship in my senior year.

It was coach’s anger and seriousness in the back of my subconscious that created this form of pushing myself to exert more when I feel like I’m at the end of my resources. It seems to have just occurred naturally during my hard exercise one time. I realized I was yelling at myself in my mind to keep going, to push it harder. It wasn’t my voice though. Coach was STILL IN MY HEAD!

How this usually happens is just that, it happens on it’s own. It’s my self-talk that just pops up when I need it to push me a lot harder. Maybe I’ve already done a hellacious workout and I’m tired and don’t feel like pushing anymore. I start telling myself in a low growl like coach used to do.

“Get your ass up that hill and do it faster than anybody else or you’ll be sitting on the bench for the next two games. You understand me?”

“YES SIR.” I yelled. (Oh, I forgot to tell you – we had to address everything as YES SIR or we’d suffer for it.

“What did you say?” He’d ask menacingly.

“YES SIR!” I’d scream at the top of my lungs so anyone up at the school 300 yards away could hear it.

“That’s what I thought, now bust your ass up this hill and don’t let one person beat you. YOU GOT THAT?”

“YES SIR!” I yelped out, louder than before.

Reliving those episodes in my mind I’m able to push myself beyond what I ever thought once I start coaching myself just like coach Spolar used to do. I’m amazed that the old feeling comes back – the feeling that there is no chance to get out of what he just said. It must be done because the consequences are much worse than the effort to be expended.

This technique works magic on me. If there’s nobody around, I growl out orders to myself out loud and it works even better. This is the only technique that has the power to literally transform me and make me do something. It never failed. Not once.

I’m sure it can work for you too – even if you didn’t have an insane coach during your younger years. You could make it your dad’s voice. Or create a coach in your mind that is relentless and that will not accept failure to do exactly what he/she tells you. Start talking to yourself in a very forceful and unrelenting way.

“Pick up the pace now, you better be doing seven-minute miles over the next two miles!”

“If you walk now, you’re not coming back here to exercise for three days. You want to waste three days?”

“Reel that guy in that’s 150 yards away by the time you make another lap. DO IT NOW.”

“Don’t EVER say you can’t do something as simple as this. GET your A&& moving and don’t stop until I say you’re finished!”

Try those or be creative with your own. I get much more creative cursively but better not to have those here in the blog!

Try it!

Best of Life!

Vern

My PUSHING YOURSELF Series Covers:

1. Getting Out the Door to Exercise!
2. Visual Imagery!
3. Shaming Yourself!
4. Positive Self Talk!
5. Delay of Gratification!
6. Coaching Yourself!
7. Competition!