I’m going to make a few assumptions for the sake of this post. Hopefully they aren’t too far-fetched.
- Let’s assume we all want our athletes to improve. Still with me?
- Let’s assume that you’re willing to do what it takes to make that happen. (Within legal and moral limits obviously.)
With that set, what if we made one more assumption?
- Let’s assume the only thing that mattered for your athlete to improve is if your athlete believed their training was appropriate?
What if nothing else mattered. It didn’t matter if you ran 8x50m or 10x1k. If the only thing that mattered was that the athlete had faith in what they were doing and it was going to make them better….what would you do differently?
Not what workouts would you run, but how would you structure your entire coaching process. Team meetings, practices, every interaction. If the goal became to absolutely ensure that the athlete believed in their training. Because I think it’s time that we start talking about this more. The research is pushing us in this direction and shows us that this is more truth than you may think.
Sure, there’s likely to be a “good enough” bar that needs to be reached for workouts/technique, but there isn’t likely to be a “better” or “perfect” workout out there. We know this about parenting…we know that there is a “good-enough” bar where more parenting or different parenting isn’t necessarily better.
When that level of good-enough is met, then all children can survive and become independent, capable adults. But parenting isn’t some endless linear staircase that you can always improve upon. And neither are your workouts.
- Let’s also assume that your workouts and training are “good enough” already. Give yourself some credit because I’m inclined to believe that this bar is much lower than people think it is.
Where his he going with this? Here’s the kicker…two people can have physiologically different reactions to the exact same stimulus based on whether they believe the stimulus is right or wrong, good or bad, a threat or challenge, etc.
Athlete A runs your workout and believes it’s a great, appropriate workout that will make him stronger…his body will then respond in kind to make him stronger and more capable. Athlete B runs right alongside Athlete A, stride for stride, but Athlete B believes that your workout is all wrong. It’s not right for him and is going to make him worse. His body will follow the lead of his mind and prepare for the imminent attack.
“First off, there are important physiological differences between the two responses that can affect your immediate performance and long-term consequences of stress. One of the biggest differences has to do with how stress affects your cardiovascular system. Both a threat response and a challenge response prepare you for action – something you can feel when your heart starts pounding faster. But during a threat response, the body is anticipating physical harm. To minimize the blood loss that might follow a nasty fight, your blood vessels constrict. The body also ramps up inflammation and mobilizes immune cells to prepare you to heal quickly.
In contrast, during a challenge response…you aren’t anticipating harm, the body feels safe maximizing blood flow to give you the most possible energy. Unlike in a threat response, your blood vessels stay relaxed. Your heart also has a stronger beat – not just faster, but with greater force. Each time your heart contracts it pumps out more blood. So, a challenge response gives you even more energy than a threat response.
…Your stress response also affects how well you perform under pressure. During a threat response, your emotions will likely include fear, anger, self-doubt, or shame. Because your primary goal is to protect yourself, you become more vigilant to signs that things are going poorly. This can create a vicious cycle in which your heightened attention to what’s going wrong makes you even more fearful and self-doubting. In contrast, during a challenge response, you may feel a little anxious but you also feel excited, energized, enthusiastic and confident. Your primary goal is not to avoid harm, but rather to go after what you want. Your attention is more open and ready to engage with your environment, and you’re prepared to put your resources to work.”
~ Kelly McGonigal, The Upside of Stress
Challenge Response = Increased cardiac efficiency, vasodilation, favorable emotions, better accuracy, coordination
Threat response = Decreased cardiac efficiency, vasoconstriction, unfavorable emotions, impaired decisions, cognitive decline
And it’s iterative…
Believe it’s good »»» Physiological response to challenge »»» Get stronger »»» Want more challenges »»» Rinse and Repeat
Believe it’s bad »»» Physiological response to threat »»» Stay neutral or decline »»» Want fewer threats »»» Rinse and Repeat
It’s a self fulfilling prophecy that begins with BELIEF. It begins with a choice, a mindset.
So, I ask again…
If the only thing that matters is if your athletes BELIEVE the training is right for them, what would you do differently?