Right now, we are living in a world that has never been as connected, linked up and networked as we are today.
It is pretty awesome, especially when we can talk with, coach, and advise athletes from all over the world, from wherever we choose to be. But being super connected isn’t always a great thing. Especially as an athlete.
As the popularity and desire to be connected to everything has increased, so to has the market for devices, units, apps and anything else that keeps us in touch. The distractions have increased.
20 years ago, when I ran Cross Country, I ran with my heart, lungs and legs. No HR monitor, no GPS; no feedback other than stinging eyes and lungs of fire. Yeah, it was much simpler than.
Times have changed and there is much to gain from the amount of information we can obtain. But it really only serves a purpose if you know how to use it, why you are using it and what it really means. To be honest that is the stuff for smart coaches and intuitive athletes to know and understand.
For the rest, the amount of tech and how connected you can be to data is killing the ability to be intuitive.
I like tech – don’t get me wrong. I do geek out whenever something new comes out because I want to know how it works, why (or if) it is needed and how can I use it to my advantage. If I can’t answer those questions in full, then that gadget doesn’t get purchased.
If I think that a particular device or unit will inhibit my ability to be intuitive, then I do not use it.
At the end of the day, all I really need to rely on is the feedback that my body provides. My body tells me when I am swimming easy or when I am swimming at race pace. My body gives feedback if I am feeling fatigued from a long weekend of training or if I need to increase my nutrition to facilitate better recovery.
Of course, I can get apps and devices that will probably do most of that for me, but then what do I lose as a result?
I lose 33.5 years of intuition.
The moment I was born, I had to become intuitive. I was not given any instruction on how to breathe or why.
I just did.
As I developed and grew I continued to use my intuition to learn new things and each time that I did I forged strong pathways in my brain and was provided with feedback about different environments.
We weren’t so connected then. I simply learned to follow my instincts.
Fast forward to the here and now, and this is the world we live in: athletes are becoming more reliant on data-driven devices and less able to respond to their own intuitive process’s. For some, the intuition might be just ‘muted’ or turned down a little, but for others it’s almost completely ignored.
Why is that? We can’t place all the blame on technology and marketing.
Athletes ignore their intuition because they don’t understand the importance of it. And how easy and effective listening to your body can be. They ignore intuition because they are listening to the wrong voice in their heads.
I have spent the past 12, 279 days developing my intuition. That is 294, 705 hours of my body providing me with vital feedback, and me listening closely (ironically I found an app that calculated this for me) and responding accordingly.
If we work on the ‘10,000 hour’ theory, then I have truly developed my intuition. I should be an absolute master at it.
Like you, I make mistakes. I ignore my intuition. Every time I have, things have not worked out the way I planned. That’s not an exaggeration.
Again, I can’t blame devices or tech here. I am not always glued to those things – not like this guy.
But I can blame my obsessive desire to succeed. I can become so consumed with the end result, that I forget to pay attention to the signs along the way. Those signs tell me exactly where I am at, how I am doing.
By ignoring that feedback, I push myself further away from where I am trying to get to. Not only that, but that bloodlust creates a mindset that switches off my ability to perceive things for what they really are versus how I want them to be.
“Hey I can run 3:30/km today because I think I feel good – and I think I feel good, then I should prove it to myself that I can”.
Never mind the fact that that I have not yet run a 2:28 marathon, or even a 1:14 half marathon. That thirst to prove something, immediately switched off the ability to perceive, and accept reality. I don’t actually feel that good, but I want to be able to run that fast.
It is actually easier to be an intuitive athlete than it is to not be one. All it takes is for you to listen.
Listening is the easy part. Ignoring all the other ‘noise’ is the hard bit. Especially if you are inundated by noise from all directions. And especially of that noise is coming from your own head.
We can be our own worst enemy when we do this.
My historical account of intuitive development is probably similar to your own. We all came out and found that breath somehow.
What happened between now and then is fixable. Intuition is trainable. And if it is trainable then it can become a valuable tool for performance.
At first, learning to train on feel is hard. Mostly because you have to shut out the distractions and really listen to your body. It takes time, and it takes patience because your body is constantly absorbing and processing information.
It gets even harder if you aren’t prepared to listen to that feedback.
When you make the effort to truly listen to your body, you become more in-tune with what it does, and why. You start to understand those responses, and you learn about how your body is really going (instead of how you expect it to be going). You begin to understand your body better.
We have been saying this a lot recently, but to be intuitive you need to be more self-aware. You need to acknowledge what your body is saying to you. Ignoring it is serving your ego, not your intuitive self.
It might sound a bit whimsical but spending time each day – I like doing this first thing – assessing yourself, helps to develop your intuition.
How do you feel? Tired? Alert? Run-down? Fatigued? Energised? Refreshed?
I spend 5 minutes or so – before I have even move from bed, asking myself as many questions as possible. I then shape my day from there.
If my body tells me I am not rested, I don’t get up and cram as much caffeine into my body as possible, I get into the cold shower first. If I am training that day then I spend more time on the Trigger Point gear and going thorough mobility drills, before pushing into any sort of intensity.
Even though my head is telling me I need to get out and start smashing training to pieces, my body is telling me something quite different. If I ignore it, I will be in a hole later on.
But if I listen and respond – I pay attention – then I can strategise on how to shake the fatigue, ease myself back in to sessions and then be at full tilt by the end of the day, unless of course my body says otherwise.
When you listen to your intuitions, you can turn things around very quickly.
Being an intuitive athlete is an hourly, weekly, monthly strategy. It is a constant. Sometimes distractions will lead you away from your intuitive thoughts, and this is where you need to listen harder. Focus more.
You can do this in any training session, in any race at any time. It takes you away from the distraction and it connects you to your reality; what is really going on.
If you find yourself avoiding or ignoring your intuitions, you need to make an effort to bring the focus back on. Dial it in.
If those distractions are technology based, then have a break from them. Ride on feel, listen to your legs when you run. If the distractions are coming from your own head, then make an effort to shift your mental framework. Figure out what that voice is telling you and why, then recreate the mindset that you want.
Anyone can be intuitive. Every athlete should be.