Well the time is drawing near with our national 6km ergo test coming at the end of the week. It’s not that it is a huge deal, but I have used it to assist with focusing my energies toward a clear goal. Back before Christmas I had made a decision to test myself at the end of January by doing a 6km test on the machine by my self. Well a couple of weeks ago my coach informed me that our head coaches had decided to put another 6km test on. Maybe it was always the plan and that I hadn’t paid attention, but it works out pretty well with what I wanted to do any way. The significance is that for along time I have wanted to have a crack at the 19min mark and last year was the closest I had gone with 19min 9sec. That was a personal best by 7sec and very satisfying to know that I can continue to make improvements on the machine. I love setting challenges and this became a good focus to have over the holiday period. So then this Friday I will have the opportunity to see if I can improve again.
The preparation for getting my score down has been simply exploration on the ergo combined with cycling on the road and some sculling with a power band on for resistance. It’s been a great learning period where at times I have found new ways to maintain efforts and more optimal output, plus a reinforcing sense of the need to create the rhythm that best suits my physical, mental, emotional range. To explain this I probably have to say that what I am about to type is in somewhat opposition to a thought and philosophy that I have carried with me for some time.
We have no limits, the only things stopping us from being better, fast, stronger, smarter are the boundaries we and others impose and they are often a matter of perception and mind limiting assumptions. These occur on an individual level and collectively and are elastic and sticky in nature and in part hold us back, but I guess also support us. They are the very fabric that stops a world’s best from being passed by an incomprehensible amount. We stop it from happening which I think makes us feel safe, but for a long time I have held the concept that the possibilities are limitless and that performances have no limits. So when I mention physical, mental, emotional range I notice the contradiction to my philosophy. In the background I sense that the possibilities are infinite and much of my training for this ergo and rowing is to ensure I can let go of the finite assumptions and fear that inhibit performance. This type of practice is one that looks to release, enable and free the performance. If that is the endless, limitless, infinite background, then the foreground is like the scope and range that at any moment I find myself operating with. It is my view of the experience that has been filtered by my perception. The range I have experienced in the last 6 weeks has been interesting and quiet an eye opener. Even yesterday while out cycling I found that the depth of the experience that I enjoyed was beyond what I even noticed at the beginning of this 6-week training period. After some 100km I was feeling lost, not by way of location, but I sensed that I had stumbled into a place that I had never been before. I cross referenced it with other times that I have been out riding and found that with each take I could not compare the experience that I was engaged in. I was not exhausted or fresh, staved or replenished. I was in limbo and the funny thing was I was trying to work out if I was about to hit the wall or if I was a bit flat. I calculated the distance I thought I had to go and figured it would be some 30-40km. It had been a ride from Torquay back to Melbourne, which took me to the You Yang’s, Werribee and now into Altona. The destination would be Kew, but still I felt lost. The only thing that I could put it down to was that the range and scope of my filter had been cast open and nothing I had experience could compare. A new dawn was upon me and after the initial uncertainty I accepted the strangeness of the feeling I was having and so the exploration began. It was a self-discovery, with the adventurer inside of me yelling and screaming in an excited voice, ‘you little beauty’.
What did I discover?
Breathing is essential, which is not to say that this was not apparent to me before, but rather it’s something that is easily forgotten. While on the bike I found myself going back to, how well I could breath. It was a reasonably long time out on the road, with how dry winds that were energy zapping and so it was interesting to be confronted by the sense of being in a new world. The most vivid and available sensation left was deep strong breathing that offered a connection to the enabling quality of relaxation and flow that is a foundation of optimal performance. It was an endless source that had a profound effect on me and the extraordinary translation of oxygen flow was rhythmical energising and related directly to each pedal stroke with a pulsating consistency. A consistency that I would not normally associate with my natural style of riding or rowing for that matter, but once I let go of some of the assumptions around the way I perform, I began to see and feel this new way of operating. So it was through the breath that I found my rhythm and more importantly consistent drive that resulted in speeds that surprised.
The reason why this is like a new world is because during all the years of training and competing, consistency has probably been my weakness. It has been an obvious one when considered in relation to an athlete like James Tomkins. The contrast in our styles has been clear to me over the years. When I think of why we worked as a pair a great deal of our complimentary unity was in how our weakness’s were improved when we combined. From James I always enjoyed a wonderful sensation of consistent rhythm and flow and this enabled me to trust in our process that could have been less even and more erratic than what we found together. I think this is why I am enjoying training by myself currently and working with other athletes, because it is challenging me to learn and find the rhythm, flow and consistency that I have experienced when working with James.
It is pure satisfaction to make discoveries and that’s not to say that sustaining and maintaining performance is not enjoyable, it’s just that the stimulation from finding and identifying new ways to maximise effort, movement and the peak experience is a great focus to have. It is not that I haven’t experienced quality breathing and the many benefits or rhythm and the wonderful ease that can be created for finding the groove before either, but during this ride the feeling of being lost enhanced the discovery and I am intent on living and enjoying more experiences that will enable me to access this dynamic space. On this day the connection between breathing, rhythm and consistency became more clear and the experience has reinforced the links in a way that will now serve as a strong foundation for performance not only for the 6km ergo, but also this season. I will use it as a reminder and explore the way harnessing its triangular stability can improve and expanding performance capacity. It was a stable platform by which I could spring board into a new world and with what I found I know that I have vast gains to be made and learning to realise. The funny thing is it all came from putting myself in a situation that challenged me to search within. It’s a wonderful thing to consider why I would row and compete. Well my response now is I have so much to learn and I love learning.