Thursday, May 8, 2008

Beers and Dim Sum and Willpower

While walking home from preschool, Payton asked if we could stop to get some dim sum. Reluctantly, I said no. He says "how come?" I say "cause daddy needs to slim down and get back in shape again." I thought of just stopping and picking up a few orders of shrimp dumpling, pork shu mai, sesame balls, steamed bbq. pork bun. (just writing this entry makes me hungry). But I realize that if I did buy it for Payton then it would be hard to pass it up. Actually, I know I wouldn't be able to say no. So it's best to avoid it altogether.

According to a NY times article, "the brain has a limited capacity for self-regulation, so exerting willpower in one area often leads to backsliding in others." In other words, I shouldn't use up my limited will power by resisting food and drink temptations like dim sum, and Belgian ales while I get my self back into shape. Because, right now, I need all my will power just to get up at 6AM to ride some intervals in the cold foggy San Francisco morning. But, the nice thing is that when my wife, (not me), brings home a bag of Trade Joes chocolate covered pretzels, I just don't fight the urge anymore. I simply devour the whole bag knowing that tom. I at least will have the willpower to get up early and ride again.

This article brings up an interesting point on the impact of a stressful day at work and how it sometimes can lead to our inability to suffer altogether. This neurological reasoning, explains why good coaches make sure that you are mentally fresh before a key competition because you will need the willpower to suffer. A year ago I was asking Larry Nolan what he recommends as a good tapering schedule. He responded in terms of asking about my mental state. After reading this article, his response makes absolute sense.


Brian Peterson said...

Good article Steve. Many people talk about "burning matches" during a race, and they usually mean physical matches. Burn too many and you are done.

While I certainly have a limited number of physical matches, I've got a limited number of mental matches. Knowing when to burn them throughout the season is important.

Some people have a greater capacity for handling the willpower. It just goes to show how we are each individual. The key is to understand yourself, and know your bounds and how you can respond to all the stimuli.

WarrenG said...

I done lots of reading and had some good professional help in the area of mental preparation. There are mental preparation things you can, and should do every day, and during especially important training sessions. Mental imagery of the successful race outcomes is one, reminders of your goals is another.

Brian knows this one, but when I'm doing my hardest sessions, getting close to blacking out from the efforts, I look at the stars and stripes on my sleeves for a reminder of why I'm doing this. That intensity can't be survived except in limited doses.

The CNS system has absolute, finite limits. It's more for some people than others, but the limits still apply, and must be managed carefully. Eddy Merckx once said that "burnout" isn't physical, it's mental. More correctly, it's the CNS.

The mental build in the last days before the main event of the season gets intense, and the final mental preparations saved for the day of the event and the last few minutes prior are so intense and focused laser-sharp, that they have to be saved for when it matters most, or they won't be as effective, and your brain would burn up.

Steve Pelaez said...

At the Sydney World Cup, I asked Magnus if he was flying the year he won Paris Rubaix. His response "Fxxx no, I was dying, but I told myself who's going to win, your body or your mind?" That's the kind of mental tenacity (willpower) it takes to win. Some days I have it, but it comes and goes. It's a mental state that takes practice. Obviously, it's hard to have that kind of razor sharp focus when we have so many other things on your plates (work, family, etc.). One of the things I really enjoyed when I was training fulltime was taking my daily afternoon naps. That definitely helped recharge me mentally and physically. Wish I could still take some sietas. Ultimately, given the limits of willpower (mental energy), cycling has to be a lifestyle. It's too hard any other way. It's hard to live like a rockstar off the bike and then turn around and train like madman. Burnout!

Jenny Oh said...

I've always believed that it's the mental game that separates the contenders from the champions. Competing in various individual sports growing up made me realize that more often that not, when pitted against an opponent of equal or lesser skill, it was my own mental unraveling that led to defeat.

As for self-discipline, it definitely takes willpower to maintain willpower...!