Bad news I am afraid.
Your mind is faulty…
This is a problem for motivation because we are motivated by seeing real progress, and without accurate information, it is very difficult to track progress.
The mind actually creates part of your reality it doesn’t just perceive and interpret it. It takes information from the past and assumes this situation will be similar and just fills in the blanks.
Life is simpler this way.
Your brain doesn’t need to come up with a completely new plan every time it takes in some information. It recognises a situation as something similar to what it has seen before and puts it in the same box.
It has 3 tools it uses to be able to do this
To stop our minds from becoming overloaded we delete the majority of information and pay selective attention to certain aspects. During a conversation, we ignore the hum of the air conditioning, the background noise, the TV screen flashing up images, the air temperature, people moving around, etc.
If you have seen the movie Man of Steel, a young Superman experiences a classroom scene where his senses are on overload as he hears, sees, feels, and senses everything in his environment!
Overwhelmed the young Clark Kent retreats to a broom cupboard covering his eyes and ears in a bid to hide from all the exterior noise and maintain his sanity.
Luckily our human brains have this built-in deletion system to eliminate what it sees as unnecessary information.
Distortion comes about from the meaning we attach to information coming in. Our brains are hard-wired to keep us safe, so every human experiences hundreds if not thousands of NAT’s (Negative Automatic Thoughts). It behooves our primitive brain to react negatively to any given situation as a safety mechanism as part of our evolution.
Distortion of information is expertly explained in Daniel Kahneman’s book, “Thinking: Fast & Slow”, where the author explains our 2 modes of thinking. The primitive, intuitive part of our brain that jumps to conclusions for our safety and the analytical “thinking” part of our conscious brain that logically thinks things through.
The book explains that our decisions are affected by information that we have recently received – known as priming.
People presented with the word SO_P are more likely to complete it as SOUP if they have been primed with the word EAT previously and SOAP if they have been primed with the word BATH.
Surprisingly, people in an interview that were primed with words associated with old age actually left the interview and walked down the corridor more slowly than when they were not primed with the words in the interview. The words were issued carefully, as part of a larger conversation, so as not to arouse conscious awareness from the participants.
Because we think old age MEANS moving more slowly – we actually start to move more slowly!!
The information is distorted by our brains and affects our behaviour.
Generalisation is our ability to draw on assumptions based on our own limited experience. Rather than creating an entirely new program to deal with every single new situation the brain generalises and assumes this situation is very similar to something else it has seen and uses the same operating program.
So your brain isn’t trying to trick you, it is just trying to cope with the mass of information that comes at you on a daily basis and keep you safe. What happens in your brain is relative to you and your deletions, distortions and generalisations depend on your own unique filters.
The information keeps you safe, so as far as the brain is concerned, overreacting is fine, so long as it keeps you alive.
Overreacting, however, means that the information you end up with is just that, an overreaction of the brain rather than accurate information.
Learn from Team Sky
Professional cyclist Bradley Wiggins, the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France, Olympic Time Trial winner, Track cycling Gold medallist and Hour record holder in his book “My Time”, explains how, to win, he was forced to tear up the traditional ways of training. Instead, he took on a more scientific approach that didn’t rely on what cyclists had always done based on what they thought and felt about their training.
In his book, Wiggins explains that the conventional idea in cycling is to do long steady rides in December, add more sprints to training in January and February, then get to your fittest levels as you compete in races March onwards.
This is the way it had always been done in cycling and the assumption was that it was right. Don’t mess with tradition!
The assumption upon further investigation by Team Sky Exercise Scientist Tim Kerrison at however found this assumption to be faulty.
Through measuring heart rate, power output, speed and other ride data the scientist found that during races the athletes actually became LESS fit.
They actually detrained, which means instead of getting fitter they actually lost fitness during certain stages of the race.
Now I know this sounds odd considering these cyclists ride every day for 3 straight weeks in a Grand Tour Race (just 2 rest days over the 3 weeks) and cycle around 100 miles every day. How can it be that some days they get less fit?
The answer is a simple one, the training they put themselves through is actually often harder than some stages of the race or even entire 100-mile stages, or days of riding.
In cycling, during a race, there are plenty of people to ride your bike behind, and sitting behind another cyclist means reduced air resistance, therefore you don’t need to push the legs as hard to go the same speed as the rider in front of you.
What the scientists at Team Sky found was that the first few days of a big 3-week race the cyclist like Wiggins sit behind their teammates which means less effort, and less effort means losing fitness over the first week.
This was not desirable when in the second week they need to be in peak condition to enter the harder stages in the Pyrenees and the Alps.
To combat this Team Sky started to implement very hard training rides just days before the hardest 3-week bike race of the year, The Tour de France. This came as a shock to other teams and riders who followed conventional wisdom! People thought they were crazy.
With this philosophy Team, Sky (now Team Ineos) and British Cycling have become dominant. Team Sky has won the Tour de France 5 times in the last 8 years. Before 2009 not one British rider had ever won the Tour.
They win and they win a lot.
What can we learn from the approach at Team Sky?
Trusting conventional wisdom, how we feel or what we think about how our training, weight loss or nutrition is going, is not a good way of getting our goals. It can lead to confusion and a lack of motivation as to why all our efforts are going unrewarded.
How does this apply to your training?
Well, you need to write things down and track them or you too will fall victim to the tricks of the human brain.
2 things specifically – 1) training progress and 2) if you are trying to change body composition your daily food intake
- The weights you lift
- The number of reps you complete
- The speed you went at
- The heart rates of your workouts
Daily Food intake
- Amount of food
- Timings of food intake
- Nutrients vs calories
Without an accurate record, you are subject to what you “think” and “feel” and although these functions are absolutely vital to a healthy human, they simply aren’t accurate.
What you think…just isn’t so!!
Get your pen, pad phone app or spreadsheet out.
Here are the Thrive Top 3 Applications for tracking your training & nutrition progress
- My Fitness Pal – Great for tracking your nutrition
- My Zone – Great for tracking heart rate of all your workouts in and out of the gym
- Map My Ride & Map my Run – great if you love training for cycling and running outdoors.
What you measure, you can manage.
And what you manage will motivate you to do more.
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