Monday, 7 March 2016

The London Marathon

The inaugural London marathon was in 1981 and 7,747 people were fortunate enough to take part in what has become a global, iconic event. Last year in 2015, there were 37,800 participants and they included hundreds of people in various weird and wacky fancy dress costumes, teams of people pushing large objects and the oldest runner was the grand old age of 90. And he was over a decade younger than the oldest ever runner, Fauja Singh who was 101 when he completed the full distance.
So it begs the questions….what does it take to run a marathon and more specifically what has changed in the last 30 years to make it so accessible to everyone?
Notwithstanding, we have clearly had advances in nutrition and physical training but I’m not convinced everyone is eating avocados’, drinking coconut water and tracking their heart rate zones with a smart watch.
First of all let’s cover off the basics. If you speak to any elite athlete, in any sport and there will be common themes they will talk about in the context of performance. Determination, effort, commitment and consistency to name a few – and these are great characteristics needed to achieve anything in life. However as a performance coach who has worked with a wide range of successful individuals from all walks of life I come across one element that is critical to this success. You have to 100% believe it is possible.
Let me give you an example.
Before the 6th May 1954, most of the planet thought that a sub 4 minute mile was nigh on impossible. Many athletes had come so close for such a long time it was genuinely believed to be out of reach of the human body. But one person had a different mindset and just after 6pm at a windy racetrack in Oxford, Roger Bannister recorded a 3m59.4s in front of 3000 spellbound spectators - and changed the world.
Within days this record had been broken again and again by other athletes. Why? Because now they knew it was possible and they believed they could do it. Before it was unreachable, intangible and a lingering element of doubt hung in the air. Now they had seen it with their own eyes and the impossible had become possible in the blink of an eye.
Too often in our own lives we hold on to self-limiting beliefs that weigh us down and before we know it we have accepted our fate. We make elaborate excuses that are linked to our environment, our background and our circumstance to reinforce this negative behavior.
Henry Ford famously said, “If you think you can, or you think you can’t you are probably right” and you can choose what to think, at any time, in any place and take responsibility for your future.

So learn from your past, embrace your present and look forward. Change your thinking, change your life.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Failure - The Secret to Success

The road to success is not easy. And never has been. Despite what our current X Factor, quick fix society may think this road is littered with failure. And these failures are always a key determining factor in shaping and defining the character of the person who ultimately succeeds in whatever endeavor they are focused on. And one other thing they all have in common? They never, ever give up.

Although I have witnessed this first hand in many diverse individuals you don't need to take my word for it. Below I have listed a few famous examples who embraced their failures and went onto to bigger successes:

Henry Ford is the undisputed godfather of the motoring industry. He actually failed twice and despite the whole industry losing faith in him he eventually succeeded. In spectacular fashion.

Walt Disney was fired in his early career for not being creative enough and his first cartoon and film company went bankrupt within a year. Undeterred he went on to build a global empire.

Thomas Edison had a unique take on failure. He famously said "I have not failed a 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways NOT to make a light bulb"

Richard Branson dropped out of school and started a student magazine that didn't really take off. Everyone knows how successful Virgin has been but do you remember the failures? Virgin Cola, Virgin Vodka, Virgin Clothes, Virgin Vie, Virgin cards? They havent stopped Richard forging ahead in his successful ventures.

Oprah Winfrey has been ranked No 1 in the Forbes celebrity list and is recognised as the queen of entertainment based on an amazing career. She is an iconic talk show host, media proprietor, actress and producer. However in her earlier career she had numerous set-backs, including being fired as a reporter because she was 'unfit for television'.........

J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame has sold over 400 million books and created one of the most successful and lucrative book and film series ever. But what we don't see is the endless rejections from publishers for reasons such as 'it was far too long for a children's book' or 'childrens books never make any money'. and she kept on going whilst being a divorced single mum surviving on benefits.

Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard and his first company ran up debts before failing miserably. The next venture called Microsoft however was a different story.

So next time your next venture doesn't work or you fail in a difficult task - remember you are in great company and every set back is an opportunity to learn. Just pick yourself up, dust yourself down and go onto bigger and better things.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Ironman UK 2015 - A different perspective

I have been to see Ironman UK twice before - but this time I was lucky enough to see a different side of this amazing event.

The previous occasions had been focused on an athlete I was supporting who was capable of posting a good time and when his race was done it was time go. (or go to the hospital but that's a different story.....) And I didn't know what I was missing. Don't get me wrong - I had been fortunate enough to watch the pros and top age groupers race at the sharp end but there was a more humbling and emotional experience waiting for me as the hours ticked by.

What you need to understand about Ironman is that its a true feat of human endurance and arguably the hardest one day event on the planet. No disrespect to people who do long bike sportives or run a marathon - this is different gravy and takes long term dedication and sacrifice to train to a level to have even a chance of finishing within the time limit. And without cast iron will to pull you through when the inevitable dark times arrive then you in for a whole world of mental and physical pain and the heartache of your dream being shattered.

So I was here again, in familiar territory but I had 2 focal points for the day. Firstly I was again following my good friend and aspiring Ironman athlete, John Mcavoy, who was geared up to post a blistering time and challenge the front runners. But I also had another good friend, Darren Davis, competing in his first Ironman race and he was an unknown quantity with regards to his potential performance.

Anyway, the reason for this post is actually nothing to do with them as I was confident that John would be in the game and I knew Darren would finish - so in this respect I could enjoy the moment, give them encouragement and wait to see them succeed. However as Darrens race extended in to the early hours of the evening I witnessed scenes that will live with me forever.

During the day it is not unusual to see people vomiting at the side of the road, struggling to even jog and suffering more than us mere mortals can imagine. But they are still moving forwards and are in control. But as the sun goes down and the crowds thin out things start to change. The smiles disappear, the pace subsides and people cast long, lonely shadows as they realise they could be close to failure. A year or more of training, untold hours pushing yourself to the edge of human endurance and all for a DNF (Did Not Finish).

I wasn't prepared for this harrowing spectacle and I actually felt helpless and isolated behind the cold, metal barriers. You could see the super human effort being expended to get to the finish line but for some there was no happy ending, no rapturous applause and no shiny medal to hang around their weary necks.

But that's not the point.

I watched in awe of these ordinary people attempting an extraordinary thing. They had stepped way outside their comfort zone and were willing to lay themselves bare and challenge themselves in a way that most of us won't even dare to think about. For that one day they learn more about themselves and their limits than most people learn in a lifetime. For that they deserve utter respect.

So I suppose the final question is what are you doing to learn about yourself, push your own limits and be the best you can be? I think its a question most of us leave unanswered.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

We've heard them all before. Either as thoughts in our own head or verbally expressed. Or they could be written down, set in stone, as a more permanent reminder of what I call evasive thinking.

At best they are a distraction, at worst they destroy progress.

Real improvement is only seen when people take responsibility for their results. Good, bad or indifferent. And when they give an honest appreciation of their performance - every, single time.

This takes real guts. Because the human condition doesn't like criticism, especially not your own. It can be like open heart surgery and can be an emotionally painful process however the rewards can be spectacular.

Once our ego is out of the way and we stop worrying about what people think or what it means to others we are free to logically inspect the reality - and act.

So next time you are about to blame an outside influence for that failed attempt, slow time or missed opportunity try something different. Take a cold, hard look at yourself and embrace the power of true self reflection.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Win at all costs

I have been fortunate to work and interact with some top class athletes and business teams over the years and I am also involved in coaching young children in a sporting environment. And I have some serious concerns about what I see as a "Win at all costs" mentality which is filtering down to our younger generation.

Over the last few years we have seen the fall from grace of Lance Armstrong and witnessed drug doping issues appear in a multitude of sports. We also see every week the lack of respect for football referees and the simulated diving and play acting to gain an advantage. But what is more concerning is the justification of the above activities due to the pressures to win.

What are we teaching our children? What happened to enjoyment of sport and life?

This is not a new issue and at grassroots there has always been the over enthusiastic adult wanting to live their life through their children. But what I see now in our modern society is an absolute need to win at all levels irrespective of the human cost.

Its a cost to honour, innocence, integrity, trust, happiness. And the list goes on. Is it any wonder that levels of depression and anxiety are exponentially increasing in our society?

I don't know what the answer is but what I do know is it needs to change.

Don't measure your success by what you lost by winning, measure your success by what you retained by winning.

Lance Armstrong divides opinion like no other. But there is no disputing he lost trust, honour and integrity in his incredible 7 tour wins. Is this really "winning"?

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Can anyone do an Ironman?

The answer is yes. But it's the wrong question to ask and I will explain why at the end of this blog.

An Ironman is one of the worlds most gruelling endurance events and involves swimming in open water for 2.4 miles, cycling for 112 miles and then running a full 26.2 mile marathon.  All three parts of an Ironman are considered tough challenges in their own right however when you combine them together you are facing a task that many can not even finish. And when you consider that the cycling part is as long as some single Tour De France stages, but you are not allowed to slipstream otherwise you face disqualification, then you have some idea what you are up against.

I have just had the privilege of watching the Ironman UK 2013 and seen many people putting themselves through this incredible ordeal.  It was a strangely emotional day watching ordinary people do extraordinary things and the sheer magnitude of what they were doing was hard to comprehend.  What surprised me the most was that there were obviously some visibly honed athletes competing for a place at the World Championships at Kona Beach.  However there were also many others of various shapes and sizes, with no real chance of winning, who through sheer will, drove themselves mentally to the finish line. They were a picture of pain and suffering. Some were smiling through agony and engaging the crowd. Others inwardly focused and oblivious to the outside world.

I'm not going to profess to know what it takes to be an Ironman. Only the great ladies and gentlemen who crossed the finish line can answer that with any authority. But I do think that if you ask yourself the right questions then anything is possible. 

So the question should be - Do you really BELIEVE you can do an Ironman? Because if you believe you can or you believe you can't, you're probably right. On that rainy day in Bolton many people really did believe in themselves and they fulfilled their ambition of becoming an Ironman

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Mastering the Masters

Who will win this years Augusta Masters?

They can all hit the ball pretty straight and fairly long at times.

They can all pitch and chip from around the greens and out of bunkers at times.

And they can all sink putts from varying distances at times.

But they all cannot do this when it counts. When it's for a grand prize and the world is watching many will falter as many have done before. Some will learn from their failure and go on to greatness. Some will survive the experience and soldier on. However some will never recover.

Those special few who can control their inner voice and deal with the situation will give themselves an advantage. Because when it comes to the crunch, swing mechanics and physical conditioning won't be the deciding factor. Neither will luck. Mastering the mind will ultimately master the Masters and it will be fascinating to see who responds or reacts to the pressure.