I was listening to an interview recently with Michael Phelps - one of the greatest swimmers in human history. He shared something that stuck with me. When you need to perform at such a high level - among the best of the best, you can’t let a single rep go to waste. That doesn’t mean every day will be a good day. Far from it. Michael talks openly about his personal battles with depression. But what it does mean, is not throwing your hands up when you’re having a bad training day, packing it in and coming back tomorrow.
Everyone - even the most elite performers - has bad days, bad weeks, and bad years. No matter how ready you feel when you first turn up, sometimes you get in the pool and just can’t find your rhythm. The difference-maker is that even on their worst-performing day they will push themselves to get another 30-50% out of their body. It still won’t have been 100%, but 60% is better than nothing.
I know that finding an extra 30% may already sound strenuous but it was a comforting reminder that we’re all human and that world-beating Olympians are not robots. What often characterizes them is the time they take getting to know and intimately understand their bodies. Performance athletes understand the importance of sleep and rest. They know how crucial it is to have low-load days, and of stretching before exertion. They journal regularly, regulate their internal voice and moderate their psyche to push themselves beyond what they might otherwise have expected.
So we’re near the end of January, and you might not be exactly where you want to be. But it’s never too late to take a positive step towards being the person you want to become.
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