11 weeks to race day…Performance Profiling

RP half photoI missed a blog post. I’ll go back to the ACT stuff when I get some time but in the hope of catching up and getting back on track here is where I am at 11 weeks to go.

Running wise I’m on track. Three full weeks of complete Green in training peaks. I have a very surprised coach! I have a very surprised me too if I’m honest. I’ve actually liked not thinking about training – just doing whatever I’ve been told.

I also snuck in a race. I thought I was working all weekend but on Thursday realised I’d messed up my diary and would be free on Saturday. About 30 seconds later up popped a facebook advert for the Richmond Park Half Marathon. It was on Saturday morning and only a 20 minute bike ride from home. Bingo.

The race was lovely. Absolutely freezing to start with so I massively overdressed and then overheated. I do this a lot! It was tricky terrain. Really muddy, soggy slippery ground. And hilly. But I used the ‘I love hills’ mantra and overtook people which was a nice boost. I had lots of show tunes in my ears (I don’t normally listen to music in races but wanted to see if it helped) and grinned the whole way round. Ironically S Club 7s ‘Don’t stop moving’ started just as I sprinted for the line. But 13.1 miles was enough for me so I stopped!

Monday I started on a cool new project – but it involved spending seven hours outside at an outward bound type place standing in very thick, deep wet mud – I really don’t do mud! I think it tipped me over the edge into illness as I woke up this morning with no voice and a very high resting heart rate so maybe I need an easy week to fight off whatever is unhappy with me. So Training Peaks might get a bit red this week but I’m ok with that. If we are pushing hard we can usually expect a week of marathon training to get written off with illness – an the expectation makes it much less stressful if it happens.

One of the techniques that has got me to the start of week 4 going all Green so far is doing a Performance Profile.

Performance profiling helps us really understand the barriers and obstacles holding us back. It helps us take our goal and turn it into actionable, focused plans – entirely tailored to us as an athlete – and highlights what will make the biggest difference to our performance.

There are various ways to do performance profiling but my favourite starts with thinking about the characteristics of a person who has already achieved our goal. So for me that is someone who can run a 3:40 marathon. What would they be doing in terms of:

  • Lifestyle and support
  • Technical and tactical skills
  • Physical preparation and fitness
  • Logistical planning
  • Psychological behaviours and tactics.

I then rate the importance (I) of each characteristic on a scale of zero (not at all important) to 10 (extremely important) to help me prioritise the elements which will make the biggest difference.

Next, I consider where I am right now (R). This is where you have to be honest if it is to be effective. Again we score out of 10.

Finally, we work on our discrepancy score; I x (10 – R). We put the highest scoring areas (up to about 10) into our goal setting – often as specific process goals so we can be focused on improving them. Here is my profile:

Performance profile photo

The elements in red went into my goal setting. I’ll explain about my goal setting next week. Which will give me  a great prompt to check in with each goal and make sure I’m on top of them all.

 

 

 

 

13 weeks till race day… motivational philosophy

Richmond 10k medal

So the first proper week of training for Paris Marathon. It went well. I really love having a goal, especially one I’m genuinely excited by. I know why I am excited. My favourite psychological theory (yes – I realise how sad that makes me) is Self-Determination Theory. It says that in order to feel fully motivated for anything we need three pillars in place:

  • Community – we need to feel part of what we are doing, have friends in our sport, have experts we can call upon. We need to feel like part of the gang.
  • Competence – we need to feel like we know what we are doing in our sport and we have the skills to carry it out.
  • Autonomy – we need to be able to choose our own goal and choose how we get there. We really need to feel like we control our own destiny.

To stay fully motivated then I need to make sure I have the three pillars in place and I do:

  • Community – I have got this through being a member of a club (I’m a member of Serpentine Running Club which as one of the biggest clubs in England has lots of people to inspire me), using social media (I follow loads of amazing runners of all speeds and sizes and distances) and have built up some brilliant friends who run so I feel comfortable talking about running with them. I’m also married to a runner so very little negotiation is required to get a Saturday morning Parkrun in or to have a weekend taken up with races. And two of my closest friends have said they’ll come over to Paris to watch me run which will be awesome (and a good incentive not to be pathetic!)
  • Competence – If I was attempting something like fell or mountain running I’d be completely out of my depth. But running a flat road marathon on a course I’ve done twice before is fine. I know I have the physical skills to do that. My journey will see if I have the psychological skills to do it in the time I want though. I’m keeping a training diary so I can give myself evidence of my competence as a runner.
  • Autonomy – I picked this goal myself. I love the race; the atmosphere, the course, the weather at that time of year and I promised my daughter she could go up the Eiffel Tower after she missed out due to fog last time we went to Paris. I’ve also picked my own time goal. One which isn’t too unrealistic (I hope) but fast enough it will scare me into working hard.

With these in place my motivation is as high as it could be. And that is probably why (alongside having this blog for some accountability) I achieved my first ever fully Green Week on Training Peaks. Never been done before.

Green training peaks

I also got to finish the week with a race. It was a 10k in Richmond Park. I ‘warmed up’ with a 5k jog to make it count as my long run and then went harder for the 10k. Chatted to a lovely guy for the last 2k who told me he was coming back from ACL surgery and so instead of taking it so seriously like he used to now he was grateful for every mile he was able to run. A wonderful reminder of how lucky we are to be able to be active and to savour the moments (even when hot and sweaty and your lungs and legs hurt and you’ve just run through a massive pile of deer poo). And it really helped that I had both my mum and my daughter cheering me on the end – it pushed me towards a sprint finish! As a bonus my husband came third in the men’s race and won some wine which I’ll kindly help him drink tonight. 

Next week I’ll explore the start of my goal setting for this race in the shape of an approach to therapy that I love (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) and the matrix we use within it to help us overcome what holds us back.

Tips from the top: The Sleep Expert

Dr David Lee is the Clinical Director of Sleep Unlimited (www.sleepunlimited.co.uk). Most of his work is helping people with insomnia get some decent sleep but actually lots of what he teaches is brilliant for athletes – helping us understand ourselves, our sleep preferences and our circadian rhythm so we can perform at our best.

Here Dr Lee answers four questions – adopt his advice and you may be able to improve your performance.

  1. How can athletes understand whether they are an owl or a lark?

Most people can identify their preferred time of day just by asking them and there are three ‘chronotypes’: larks, owls and ambivalents.  If you prefer being up early and in bed early then you’re ‘larky’, if you like to get up late and go to bed late then you’re ‘owly’ and if you don’t mind then you’re ambivalent.

2. As most races are in the morning how can owls prepare well so they do not feel tired?

If athletes are well rested on the days (and nights) preceding a race then they should do well whichever chronotype they are.  It is possible to shift your routine for a while, so in the week before a race you can stay up late for a couple of nights and get up early (in synch with the race start time), this will build some ‘sleep pressure’ that will enable you to go to bed earlier and shift your routine backwards for 4 – 5 days before the race.  If it’s a really big event you could try to shift your sleep back a few weeks before so that you are properly entrained to your new routine before race day.  Remember though, that if you are an owl you’ll always have the propensity and innate desire to shift back to later get up times and bedtimes after the racing is done!

3. Why is it important athletes understand how their personal circadian rhythm works?

We peak and dip every 90 minutes as part of our natural body rhythms and it can be very useful to recognise this for a number of reasons:

  • It can help explain reduced performance so we don’t ‘beat ourselves up’ about not performing maximally (it’s just a dip);
  • We can change our gameplay if we know we’re dipping – consolidate – pace – go easy, then 45 minutes later when we’re peaking we can adjust our approach – burst – attack – go hard.
  • We can be more vulnerable in a dip, more likely to make rash decisions, eat the wrong foods, gamble, drink, smoke etc… so if you know about the circadian rhythm and the impact of dipping we can ‘wait 15 minutes’ if we’re feeling vulnerable, this will allow the dip to pass and then we’re less likely to be tempted into self-destructive behaviours as we’ll be more resilient as we go towards and then through a peak.

4. How can athletes identity their circadian rhythm timings so they can train when they will be in a peak?

Easy.  Look out for a naturalistic yawn.  We all do these multiple times a day (often after lunch, and especially in the evening when we’re tired).  Clock the yawn.  Then add 90 minutes onto that time to predict your next dip and so on around the 24 hour clock.  Ninety minutes, or an hour and a half, goes into the 12 hour clock eight times, and if you’re not jetlagged or shift working, or the clocks haven’t just changed in October and March (all things that disrupt the circadian rhythm), then your dips will be consistent around the 24 hour clock – e.g. a dip at 11am will correspond with a dip at 11 pm.  Once you know when your dips are you can:

  • Plan rest in your exercise routines;
  • Plan ‘go easy’ in races;
  • Add 45 minutes onto your dip times to predict peaks when you can go for it in training.and on race day!