After a funny weekend in the mountains in Victoria with family and friends I now sit here on a plane head north to Queensland again. This is the question that just popped into my head; well I guess a book titled, ‘Four Hour Working Week’, influenced it. That I picked up from the bookstore. Anyway I figure you can always learning something new or get some ideas. I thought that it would be interesting to relate it to training and competing.
Over the last couple of months I had noticed that the drive to reach our peak was extremely strong but I had gone on a little roller coast of a ride. The rise and fall of motivation was curious and as last week rolled around and my family and I head off for a weekend away I felt guilty about the amount of training I had been doing. Due to that I packed up the rowing machine and bike and loaded it all on top of the car. What a sight we were, two kids, two dogs, my wife and I, and all our bags plus the ergo and bike, all strapped in and on for our weekend away.
Let me dig in to the question. Can I do more? Yes is the response as I have noticed over the last two years I have broken new ground. I have squared up to some of my assumptions about volume. The amount of training we have challenged ourselves to do over the last few season has been a rewarding surprise. The benefits have been obvious and make more sense of some of the other styles of programs around the World. We have been conscious of what other are doing and have attempted to learn from the approaches. So we can do more and I am sure that the further down the quantity pathway the returns reduce but so far we have seen positive benefits.
As for less I think it needs to be explained. Is it less effort, less focus, less time, less ability, less energy, less motivation, less interest, less passion, less support? I don’t know about them all but certainly some can be dropped but other seem to need more. To contextualise it I know for us we have had less time in the boat, in the pair then previous preparations. We have had less structure in our program particularly within Australia. We have had less competition, actually it has probably been maintained, that’s the number of races we have had. As for competition it is strange I remember the feeling in 2002-2003 that I really felt that with the British pair of Cracknel and Pincent that anything could happen. This sense of potential is different now. The New Zealanders I know they will fight and they really have had quiet amazing consistency. That I feel is more certain which if I flip it, it feels like there is less unknown. I hope that makes sense, as I really don’t want to waste my time rereading what I have just written.
As for the question as it stands, can I do more with less? I tend to think yes, but I have a strange feeling that it’s no. I now need to explain because I am sure that doesn’t make sense. At a cognitive level I can think through the question and it appears reasonable that I can do more with less. I can be more effective. More direct and less inefficient? Yes. I think that is the case, but there is also I sense I have that it all equals out in the end. The on some random scale that I can’t explain it is a much of a muchness. What ever that means. What I am trying to say is that even as I write I find that I am in effective. This relates to how I train. Not every moment of training to I feel like I am getting the most out of myself. I sense that it is more like a clock where a certain amount of the time between the hours of 12 and 3 I am in the groove and things come more easily as the arm swings down that long arc. Let me give an example here. Two days ago I was on the ergo while up at the mountains and I had set up out next to the house on the grass. Off in the distance we a wonderful back drop of Australian bush. The stillness and silence only interrupted but that particular rowing machine sound. The buzz of the fan and the chain rattle combining with the rolling seat seemed so out of place. To me I was motived and as such I surged along, driving with every stroke feeling a strong sense of purpose. The clock was counting up and I was clear in my mind that I would do two 30min pieces. All the while my family and friends sat around the other side of the house and enjoyed the fire they had made. The temperature was dropping as the afternoon was drawing to its end. I was motivated and the clock was in the right phase. Toward the end of the 30min I was starting to feel the effects of sitting on the machine. My ass was beginning to ache and my mind had already wondered off. The clock had moved from 12-3 to 3-6 and the arm was dropping towards its lowest point. Even though I was still physically travelling pretty well I could feel the creep. The creep is the accumulation of fatigue and resistance. Towards the end I really started to think could I be bothered in doing a second piece? Is one 30min enough? I then tried to isolate myself from all that was around me to real feel how tired I was. Surprise, surprise I wasn’t that bad. At the 30min mark I put the handle down and thought well that’s half way and my heart rate as been pretty much 155-165 for most of the second half and although starting again seemed like a fair bit I and what was making it hard was the constant battle with the feeling of resistance. The clock had rounded and past 6 and I made it clear that I would see it through and that I wasn’t going to go into survival mode in this next phase. Ergo training is challenging and doing it by your self with know one watching, monitoring or even interested makes it almost questionable. It strange but I was questioning it. After a short break I started again and was very much with the mind set of create momentum and life my energy to get the arm of the clock to turn up wards and rise past 9. The sensation of winding up toward the end was interesting and the scores improved towards low 1.40’s. My heart rate had maintained around 160. The resistance was still there both inside and out. That is the reality I guess if it were comfortable and easy maybe it would not be enough. Shit, hold on, did I just say enough. Did I question if it would be enough? Stuff me I think I did and with that I have caught myself in the paradox of what it is to be an elite athlete training for an event like the Olympic Games.
Maybe the question itself is paradoxical. Maybe I just can’t be sure. Where is the line between less and more? When does less change into more? What about when does more become less? Now I have gone an done it I have completely bamboozled myself and I am with out a clue.
The ergo session passed 9 on the clock and the effort side of the circle had almost been complete. The arm now only had to pass through 12, which it would not do until the next session when it starts again. For as the second 30min came to into its own I was pretty well fatigued and really happy to be getting off the machine. The little hand had almost reached its final point and all the work had been done. Was it enough? Who knows? I am certain of one thing though for each and every turn of the wheel I am one cycle closer to getting the chance to show how we have prepared. To see how we compare.
As for the silly old question of ‘can I do more with less?’ Well I could but if we found ourselves coming up short in that final hour or dieing seconds would I look back in time and kick myself? Yes I would for I would then know that it was not enough. Or that if it was all I could do then I would live with that, but it is a fine line between what is possible and impossible, what is real and unreal. Who knows? I am not sure so for now more may be less, but stuff it I am not prepared to flirt with the line that stands between making it count or not. The line between more or less is one that I will not err upon, but rather I will push against the resistance and find new ways to go faster, go further, and jump higher. Whoops not my event but it cool to imagine.
There may well be a way of describing some of what we do as more with less, but to me we probably choose not to limit our self and so if it appears we do less and other believe it then fine. Oh that’s not to say we aren’t going to work to be smarter about what we do, more smart that is….
While I am wrapping up here as I see I have gone on a little journey once again which, is more than I intended, but alas I can see clearly now the rain has gone…And just like when I am on the ergo or bike and even times in the boat a song or stuff just pops into mind. So if you look at it that way there is a lot more and even the odd post can come nowhere near capturing it, just as the one race we are measured by can not show what all the training has been about and for.
Oops I have to insert another thought here, what if in reality it is the opposite. What if I should really be asking the question about can I do less with more? If we aim to go faster then is this not in fact less time taken to row 2000m and from a certain vantage point you may say that it requires more capacity to do that less. Wow now I have really stuffed myself here, but maybe I haven’t and as a little quote comes to mind, well actually I read it in that book, about that four hour working week thing.
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. – Albert Einstein
Then if old Albert was right and I apply another little quote which I have no idea where it came from, but goes something like this, ‘persistence beats resistance’. I heard it as a concept about parenting and I think it related to what kids do to us as parents. Then it turns the whole things again like that clock and I would say makes a little sense, I think, maybe…
More persistence equals less resistance, and although not completely happy I feel content that I have exhausted myself and all because of a nagging little question. Can I do more with less? My answer is Yes & No, and that is not to sit on the fence because that annoys me. It depends on the time of day, and the situation, the session I am doing, and the race that I am in. And that I am more or less sure is what it is all about. Asking questions of oneself and then being willing to explore the answer. That is training, that is practice and that my friends is what racing is all about.