I have always said that we are a product of our environment.
Meaning that the environment and situations (good, bad or otherwise) that we live in, or experience, are direct influences on how we behave daily; what choices we make and what habits we form.
If I place myself in a negative environment – bad training habits tend to pop up and eventually I find myself on a spiral, heading down towards a rut. It’s not via choice – nobody really wants to end up in a rut, but the fact that you do end up there, is largely influenced by the environment that you surround yourself with.
Conversely, if I place myself in a positive and encouraging environment, my training thrives and I will inevitably make the right choices and the smart decisions about my training. This is one of the main reasons I moved across the country to be in Noosa: not just for the training but because my positive work environment here means working directly with Kristian and this allows for increase creativity, productivity and this helps TriSpecific become even more awesome.
The cool thing about your environment is that you have control over it. It’s not always obvious but every athlete has the ability to firstly recognise that their situation might not be helping their long-term progress, and secondly that they need to remove themselves from that space or work to change the environment.
I am not going to lie. That first part can be tricky.
Sometimes as athletes we get so blinded by our drive towards the GOAL that we confuse the PROCESS and allows ourselves to develop those bad habits that prevent us from developing progress. Bad habits are the handbrakes of momentum.
Recognising your bad habits is generally pretty easy. You know when you are neglecting the fundamentals of the sport. You know when you are making the wrong nutritional choices. And you know when you are pushing the body too far with lack of sleep and elevated stress levels.
If you are intuitive you know this. Eventually your body (and performance) will scream loud enough to get your attention.
Obviously if you are under the guidance of a coach or mentor then your scope to anticipate and identify bad habits is broadened and you can prevents those habits from slowing your momentum. Prevention is better than cure.
But you can’t simply ‘flip’ all of those bad habits and make them into good ones. It’s not that you might lack the understanding of the habits; you know that they are there. It isn’t that habits that cause the habits, it is the environment that permits the habits to exist that does.
If you eat bad the night before a training session it is because the bad food was available to you – it was part of your environment. And if you put it there – made it accessible – then you can remove it. You can change the environment.
If you set up your environment so that your ‘default’ choices are the right ones. Then there is no way that bad habit can develop – it is impossible. By removing all possibilities of bad choices you only allow for good choices to be made.
This makes being a triathlete who works full time whilst balancing family life so much easier. Why? Because the structure is in place to prevent those poor choices being made.
So how do you create that structure?
With whoever you need to to ensure that your structure scan be maintained.
Everyone needs to be on the same page for this to work (for you and them). This isn’t about dictating how the daily routines should flow, it is simply about effectively communicating your intentions so that the people who need to know, can understand.
This means talking to your coach about your work and life balances to make sure you have time with your family as well as time to train and manage body maintenance.
This means talking to your family and strategising with them so that you can align your needs around their needs. You can’t push your own ‘wants’ above the ‘needs’ for a cohesive family environment – it just won’t work (and you become a bit of a douché).
This means talking to family, friends, colleagues, (etc etc) about what you do (the sport), why you do it (your goals) and how you intend to get there. Sharing this information means that when you pass on the boozy long lunch ‘meeting’ you will not be met with confusion and criticism.
It means when you ask your wife to NOT buy the chocolate (or at the very least hide it very very well) she will not look at you in ‘that’ way. And YES, we do need that pink, slightly more expensive salt.
If you have kids, include them in what you do. You can make triathlon a part of your family life (without being too full-on). As an example Kristian’s Saturday brick sessions incorporate a skate park session with his son Mack. This way he gets the training doe, and Mack gets time with his Dad.
This way, with everyone on the same page you can set up that structure so it consists only of good habits (or at the very least as many as you can control).
Controlling your environment isn’t necessarily that hard. Once you have identified the things in your life that are preventing your momentum, then you can begin to re-structure your space so that it mimics a balanced and sustainable outcome.
Make your environment one that fuels your progress.