Training is not a responsibility it's a privilege.
A tribute to all fallen athletes: For the next several weeks, body helix will focus on helping the ‘fallen athletes’, those wounded in body and/or spirit. I am going to tackle several topics along the way with straightforward (sometimes tough) answers. I’ll show you how to reveal your inclination and motivation for setting fitness goals (physical and mental) and how to achieve them. Knowledge is power, my friend!
The categories we’ll be working through over the coming weeks are:
Course corrections – It’s all in the spacing.
Hedonic Set-Point – Why does this matter?
Psychological Homeostasis -- This can work for you and against you.
Refocusing the lens – Training is not a responsibility. It’s a privilege.
Let’s start with giving serious thought to our ability to make course corrections. Are we motivated by catastrophes to make changes out of desperation? Or, are we motivated by the challenge of precision to continually make small yet conscientious course corrections?
The following tragic true story epitomizes the importance of being on the right course and how being off by a little bit can carry serious consequences.
In 1979 a passenger jet carrying 257 people left New Zealand for a sightseeing flight to Antarctica and back. Unknown to the pilots, however, there was a minor error in the flight coordinates. The coordinates were off by 2 degrees. The slight miscalculation placed the aircraft 28 miles to the east of where the pilots thought they were. As they approached Antarctica, the pilots descended to a lower altitude to give the passengers a better look at the landscape.
Although both were experienced pilots, neither had made this particular flight before. The incorrect coordinates had placed them directly in the path of Mount Erebus, an active volcano that rises from the frozen landscape to a height of more than 12,000 feet. A layer of clouds blended with the white snow-covered volcano, forming a sector whiteout, thus no contrast between ground and sky was visible to the pilots. Tragically, the plane crashed into the side of the volcano. There were no survivors. This is the deadliest accident in the history of Air New Zealand.
Experts in air navigation have a rule of thumb known as the 1 in 60 rule. It states that for every 1 degree a plane veers off course, it misses its target destination by 1 mile for every 60 miles flown. This means the farther you travel along a slightly wrong course, the farther away you are from your destination.
If you’re off course by just one degree, after one foot, you’ll miss your target by 0.2 inches. Trivial, right? But…
- after 100 yards, you’ll be off by 5.2 feet – a noticeable difference.
- after 1 mile, you’ll be off by 92.2 feet. One degree is starting to make a difference.
- If you veer off course by 1 degree flying around the equator, you’ll land almost 500 miles off target.
Small actions (corrections), accumulated over time, can make a huge difference and increase your chances for success. Without those corrections, even a slight defect can hinder your progress or put you on the wrong course. Correcting years (or decades) of health neglect is much harder than maintaining fitness all along using continual refocus. Regular interval corrections along your lifespan will keep you on course. It’s all in the spacing.
Interestingly, in sports psychology, emotions are found to be predictive of performance. A hedonic set-point is the general baseline of happiness over our lifetime, despite any temporary changes in the level from positive or negative life events. This set-point theory of happiness and well-being assumes we each have a fixed 'average' level of happiness around which our day-to-day and moment-to-moment happiness varies. Usually, no matter what life throws at us, over time, our happiness bounces back to the same set-point.Think of it as your aggregate lifetime happiness score.
Athletes and coaches who use hedonic regulation in sports are motivated to increase the pleasant (hedonic) emotions and reduce the intensity of unpleasant (negative) emotions. Your hedonic set point will usually remain the same unless you make a concerted effort to change it. We each have the power to re-program our happiness set-point to a higher level of peace and well-being –if we are willing to do the hard work it takes to change habitual thoughts, feelings, words and actions.
The idea of homeostasis has a long history in physiology, describing a process that maintains important biological variables within a narrow range of values. Core body temperature is a well-known example, where a variation of just a few degrees higher or lower than normal can be a warning signal that something is wrong. Psychological homeostasis or equilibrium is a balanced mental level of behavior optimal for functioning.
Psychological homeostasis occurs in response to the infinite variety of circumstances that can affect our well-being. In synchrony with all of the body’s other homeostatic mechanisms, psychological homeostasis operates throughout life during both waking and sleep. All of our behaviors, thoughts, and feelings are ultimately controlled by it.
In sports, psychological equilibrium can be astounding or abysmal. As athletes, if we inherently expect to be in the winner's circle and believe we belong there, then we have a very good chance of doing so. (Read my blog “A Champion’s Self-Talk”). Conversely, if we have poor self-esteem and negative beliefs about our abilities (regardless of whether these beliefs are true or not), then becoming a winner is improbable.
For a person whose identity is built around negative beliefs, challenging those would upset their psychological homeostasis because it suggests that these beliefs—on which they have based their identity – could be wrong. The solution to this problem may be difficult. Changing this negative homeostasis can initially cause stress and anxiety, but this change in the long term will bring a balance of safety and stability.
Refocus the lens
Take a moment and consider your gratitude level for being able to train and work out. Training is not simply a responsibility. It’s a privilege. I am not talking about privilege as entitlement or advantage. I’m talking about the honor it is to be able to physically move, work out and exercise. Appreciating this benefit can boost our awareness of the many opportunities that surround us. For many of us, we don’t realize this until this privilege is stripped away due to injury or illness.
Are you the person who sees the running shoes by the door and immediately recites the mental laundry list of excuses you can’t go for a run? If your exercise is drudgery, then I suggest trying a hedonic re-set. If your homeostasis consists of plopping down on the couch for hours of TV, I suggest you break out of that cycle. Hard stop.
Refocus the lens through which you experience life. Literally say, “I am grateful to be able to put on these running shoes and go out for a run/walk. My body allows me to experience this, and it is something I must never take for granted.” Start on the path to a new hedonic set-point. There are millions of people who do not have this opportunity due to disease, injury, or other circumstances. What amazing and privileged lives we lead! Exercise and movement are gifts. Don’t squander this privilege.
Athletes who experience gratitude are likely to experience more positive emotions. This lowers stress, promotes problem-solving, and greater self-regulation. Expressing gratitude to those who have contributed to your athletic journey acknowledges that other people matter. No one became successful alone. Grateful athletes tend to take better care of their bodies, and they tolerate aches and pains easier. They sleep 10% more and feel more alert and focused. All that translates into better performance in competition.
Beware of cozy
The reality is that many Americans are so fortunate compared to the rest of the world that most of us will never comprehend what real struggle is. The temperature of our home is regulated to be comfy. Our foods are abundant and convenient (yes, even healthy foods). We can have goods delivered right to our front door from all over the world. We are steeped in cozy, ease and indulgence. Our hedonic set-point tells us this is normal. Our psychological homeostasis is almost out of commission because there is little course correction going on.
Beware of too much “cozy”. Cozy can lead to a flabby, lethargic, complacent state of being. Cozy can waste the most precious thing you own – your healthy human body. We all need a little bit of cozy in our lives, but too much cozy and no effort (struggle) is detrimental. Pay attention to those cozy times when you may need small, more frequent precise adaptations to course correct. Smaller steps require less willpower.
Stay tuned for more healthy options to add to your regimen. Future topics include, but are not limited to:
- Attitude fitness
- Higher energy mental training
- Embracing “struggle” and why
- Training styles
- High energy exercises
- High energy foods
- Qualified sports physicians, trainers, coaches
As we continue the body helix training series, next week we will begin to rethink our training. Step one: Become a precision thinker. Things that get measured get managed.
It is my greatest hope that you will implement some tips from our Bio-Cultivating and Neural-Cultivating blogs. Further, it is my hope you will be inspired to pass these learnings along to family and friends. We all have people in our lives who have the desire but lack the accurate information to improve their health. It is frustrating to sift through the bombardment of data and the misinformation in today’s world. It’s no wonder some give up in frustration. I believe that we deserve the healthiest choices that honest modern science can offer. It is my mission to help as many of us as possible get and stay healthy.
As a tennis coach myself, I found the compression industry to be unacceptable for our needs. I set out on a journey to help you and your students. I know we all get beat up. The harder we compete, the more we get injured. All compression is not created equal! At Body Helix, we start with an unapologetic obsession for exceptional quality. Our design philosophy is to create modern, innovative gear that surpasses that which is offered in the global marketplace. As a privately held, Veteran-owned, North Carolina company we challenge global leaders to elevate their compression game or step aside. It’s compression gear, designed by tennis players, for tennis players.
Be well and stay focused on cultivating your health, your mind, your solitude. If I can help you further never hesitate to reach out to me.
Move Through It.