Friday
Nov082013

Hating yourself, a good strategy for success? 

A while ago I was facilitating a three day training course for new fitness instructors, these courses are designed to challenge people in an environment which will support them in their growth. It’s a rewarding experience to be a part of as you get to see people who are stretched to their limits in many different areas and then you witness the rewards they gain within themselves when they make breakthroughs.

On this particular course I had one lady who made it clear to me right from the start that she was always hard on herself, it was as if she wore this trait like a badge of honour. She said this statement to me four times within the first couple hours. As the day progressed I saw first hand how she was hard on herself, from my perspective this person was one of the better people in the group and as long as she didn’t have something extremely bad go wrong she was going to be fine in passing the course. But every time she had to do something which showed her ability she would beat herself up for not being good enough. When she was given one on one feedback she’d list all the things that she had done wrong before I even got to open my mouth. 

Over the next two days I could see her starting to lose the emotional battle with herself, she was being so hard on herself, to the point where it was actually holding her back. My role as facilitator and instructor meant that it was my job to support her and to help her see that she was a lot better than how she saw herself, but her shield was impenetrable. 

On the morning of the last day the time had come to start our session and she hadn’t arrived. I waited ten minutes and then tried to give her a call, which went to voicemail, she didn’t turn up. Later on in the day I got a text from her telling me that she didn’t think she was good enough, so she had decided not to come.  

This experience got me thinking about this question: Is being extremely hard on yourself a good strategy when working towards success?

A while ago I read an interesting study, the purpose of the study was to see if you were better off being easy or hard on yourself after you had done a bad behaviour. They figured out a method where they would see what happened when people had eaten too many chocolate biscuits, more than what you would consider a healthy amount. I am sure many of us are familiar with this situation, you sit down and think you’ll have one chocolate biscuit but end up having eight. The researchers were curious to see what would happen after that moment, that moment when you have finished the eighth biscuit, how would being either hard or easy on yourself affect your behaviors from that moment forward?

What they discovered was that those who were easy on themselves would stop at eight biscuits, they’d tell themselves to sharpen up and move on, while the people who were hard on themselves ended up eating way more than eight biscuits. Their conclusion was that being hard on yourself leads to worse decision-making and being easier allows us to see our mistake and move on from it. 

I imagine some people reading this will be thinking that they are very successful and they have gained this success by being hard on themselves, but there are differences on what being hard on yourself can mean.  Sure you can have high standards and expectations for yourself. You work hard to uphold these standards and when you slip the disappointment you experience can be a motivator which leads to better actions, but what I’m talking about here is when you are almost insulting to yourself. 

I once worked with a lady who would tell herself that she was a fat slob every time she ate too much, this internal dialogue didn’t lead to good behaviours, in fact it took her further down a path which emotionally reinforced those horrible words that she self identified with. The interesting thing is, this lady thought those awful words would help her change, but they never did. 

We need to be kind to ourselves, of course there are moments in life where we have slipped and we need to sharpen up but the best strategy to use at those times is to see what really caused the problem and create a plan to deal with it better the next time. Insulting yourself can lead to keeping you in a place you don’t like, treat yourself how you would treat others who need support in tough times, with rationality, love and kindness.  

 

 

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Friday
Oct112013

The problem with Madonna

While I was training at the gym the other day there were big screen TV’s playing music videos in the background. Music video’s nowadays seem to be a copy and paste experience which have one underlying theme and marketing plan - sex sells. It’s hard to tell the videos apart as they all seem to merge into the same visual experience, obviously it works because everyone is doing it. 

While I was working through my training one of the latest videos from Madonna hit the screen, now if anyone has ever understood the value of selling sex - Madonna has. From the early 80’s through to the mid 2000’s Madonna was one of the most successful musicians on the planet, she seemed to have an amazing ability to push the boundaries of what was accepted in mainstream music media and had a massive influence on millions of people around the world. She has been admired for her ability to continually reinvent herself throughout her career. 

Madonna built a career on video’s that were different, risqué and shocking to some. As I watched her latest clip I noticed that it stood out from the carbon copy video’s that are so common today. The thing was, it was standing out for reasons that Madonna may have not have been aiming for. Once again Madonna was selling sex, wearing a suggestive outfit surrounded by young, fit, cool looking men and while the message that was trying to be portrayed was clear, in my head I was thinking, I’m not sure if the older Madonna can pull off these videos anymore. Madonna is an example of someone who has worked hard to keep fit and in shape over the years but there’s something about a 55 year old who is using sex appeal to target a youth market that takes the shine off the message. 

To me, Madonna represents one of the biggest battles of the modern age. How do we deal with aging in a time when there is a disproportionate amount of attention on the importance of youth? Accepting age is one of the biggest internal battles that a lot of us face. While I’m sure this has been true throughout the history of humanity, in these modern times it seems that it is a lot harder to do as there are so many messages out there enforcing that we should be trying our best to stay youthful. 

When I think about Madonna I wonder to myself, who is she trying to appeal to? I’m not sure if my 16 year old daughter is ever going to see Madonna as an influence like she was in the 80’s and 90’s. I’m sure that most of Madonna’s market nowadays is in the 30+ range, so why keep trying to sell yourself to appeal to the youth market? 

One battle that we are guaranteed to lose in life is the loss of our youthful image, it’s impossible to win this one. Sure with some cosmetic techniques we can hold on for a longer period of time but eventually we are going to look older, its inevitable. If all of our energy goes into trying to stay looking young and that’s the main way we feel good about ourselves, we are heading down a dangerous path. 

While the days pass by and we move further away from our youthful years we have an amazing opportunity to gain something that youth doesn’t provide, wisdom. We have learnt about life and we can develop our minds to a greater understanding of what this world has to offer. It’s not that we shouldn’t look after ourselves and care about our image but it’s important that we spend just as much time, if not more, developing our mind, developing our wisdom. 

We want to develop ourself to appeal to intellect, experience, and exploration of self. When the wrinkles start to take over and gravity starts to win it’s battle this development will pay off because you feel good about the wisdom you have gained and you’ll see that you can gain so much more. 

One of the most powerful music videos of all time is Johnny Cash’s ‘Hurt’. Check out any ‘greatest video’s of all time’  list and this will be up the top. In  the video you see an old man not far from death, revealing all of himself. It’s spine tingling and it makes me think. When I watch Madonna’s latest video I have no connection with it yet when I watch Johnny Cash’s video I reflect, I question myself, I’m spellbound by his honesty, I feel the wisdom from someone who is old and has so much to offer. The wisdom that youth can never offer. 

 

You can see the Johnny Cash Hurt video here: 


 

Friday
Sep202013

What is an Action Trigger? 

You are driving home from work one night and you notice that you are running low on petrol. You pull into your local petrol station to fill up before you get home, after filling up you go into the store to pay and as you are waiting in line you notice your favourite chocolate bar is on special. You wouldn’t normally buy it but since it’s on special you decide to go ahead and treat yourself to this tasty treat. 

A week later you are driving home again and it’s that time again to put petrol in your car. You go through the same process and as you are walking towards the door of the store a thought pops up in your head ‘I might get my favourite chocolate bar again’. Low and behold as you get to the checkout you have that chocolate bar in hand ready to pay for it. From this moment forward every time you think about going to the petrol station the tempting chocolate treat will pop into your head. The action of going to the petrol station triggers the thought of buying your favourite chocolate bar. 

What I have described above is called an Action Trigger, let me describe it in more detail. Often when we make a decision we trigger off the next decision that will be made, decision A will trigger off decision B and so on. In the example above, going to your local petrol station triggers the thought of buying a chocolate bar. Think about yourself for a second, can you think of some examples of Action Triggers that are activated when you make certain decisions in your life? Those times when once you make one decision the next action pops into your head. You may have never noticed this before but as you think about it now you may find that you experience Action Triggers quite a lot in your life. 

Action Triggers can be both good and bad, sometimes they will lead to bad behaviors, like creating that habit of buying a chocolate bar at the petrol station, and other times they will lead to good behaviors, for example when you get to the last part of your training session you always give it 100% until the end. When we start to become aware of our own Action Triggers the key thing we are looking for are which ones are good for us and which ones lead us to behaviours that we don’t like or want to change. 

The great news about Action Triggers is that you can change them. You can shift, or re-programme what the next thought in your decision pattern will be. The first step is to become aware of what your Action Triggers are, you can look to the different situations in your life and identify the line of thinking that you experience when you are in those situations.  ‘When I go to the petrol station I think about having a chocolate bar’, once you have created that awareness the next step is to programme what the next thought or action will be, for example ‘When I go to the petrol station I will pay my bill and walk straight out the door’. 

The key here is that you have placed that thought in your mind before you have the experience of going to the petrol station. You may have practiced it a few times, you might have even visualized yourself in the situation following through the changed decision-making pattern. If you do this well you will find that when you are presented with that moment your mind will have a new direction to take which will lead to you walking out the door without a chocolate bar in hand. 

When it comes to the good behaviours you have, with Action Triggers you can look to advance the thinking process you currently have. Scan over that line of thinking and see if you can discover more evolved thoughts to put in place and then practice actually putting those in place. 

There are a lot of great mind tools that we can use to help us stay in our best place. By understanding what Action Triggers are and reflecting on when they are good and not so good in our life we can choose to practice and evolve our own thinking process which will lead to better outcomes for ourselves. 


Wednesday
Aug212013

It's hard work being a mum

I’m going to admit something that will put me in a bad light, when I was young I thought that mums were lazy.  In my mind I thought mums sat around watching Oprah all day, having coffee with friends, and living the easy life. Before all you mums get mad at me I need to tell you that when I became a dad, when I was only 19, I realized how wrong I had been. Mums have the hardest job in the world! 

I’m sure just about anyone who has children or who has spent time around a mother with children will totally agree with my last statement. Children, especially young children, take up a massive amount of energy. They are 100% dependent. They need someone to be there 24/7, to change nappies, wake up in the middle of the night to feed them, keep them safe, and give them that loving, caring attention that children need. When we think about the practical work that most mothers have to do it is easy to see that it is far more than a full time job, it’s a life consuming role. While this work is so hard to maintain there is one aspect of being a mother that is one of the hardest things to face. It’s the loss of self.  

During the first period of a child’s life the mother’s life will often take a back seat to the child’s, she will sacrifice everything that is important to her because she has to. Although a mother will get a lot of rewards from the time and energy they put into their child they can struggle with the feeling that they are losing themselves. Before they had their child they may have had hobbies, a job, a social life, an exercise routine. These activities helped mold their identity. Often as soon as the child is born most of these activities have to stop as the child will be taking up every waking moment of a mother’s life. Suddenly overnight there is a change in identity, no wonder a lot of mothers feel that loss of self. Can you imagine having to stop all of the activities that create your sense of identity and step in to a role that is extremely hard work? 

If we can start to understand that mums need some time to keep their sense of identity alive we can look for ways to support them through this. During the early stages of a child’s life a mother is never going to have a huge amount of time to commit to ‘stuff for herself’ but there is real benefit in having just a little bit of that time. I often see it with our runners who are mums, being able to get away from their role as a mother for a few hours a week and being able to go into an environment where they can do something for themselves, where they can talk about things that don’t involve kids, seems to do them a world of good. It gives them something for themselves. 

I suppose the message I would like to get out there for those of us who aren’t mothers is: What are the ways you can support those mothers around you to allow them a little bit of time for themselves? While your support may not take up much of your time it will probably be valued beyond measure by those you support. For the dads out there the question I have is: Are you helping your partner have time for herself. This is a tough time for both parents but if you can both work together you can create a routine that allows both of you to have a bit of your own time which can help keep your relationship healthy.

Being a mum is a special thing, a role that is so important in this world. The more loved children we can create for this world the better, a mother is a big part of this. When a mother has a little bit of time for herself I imagine she is able to do a better job with her children. So for those of us who are around mums, let’s try to help them have this balance. 


Friday
Jun212013

Tony's amazing story of overcoming adversity

Imagine this, you are slowly drifting in and out of consciousness, everything is black, you feel like you are locked in a cage and you can’t move your body. As you slowly come around you are trying to figure out where you are and what has happened to you but you just don’t know. It’s frightening. You pry your eyes open and see a white roof above you but you can’t seem to move your head.  

This experience is what Tony Herring went through just over 2 years ago. In an unfortunate accident he broke his neck, at that point his entire life changed in a second.

After finally regaining consciousness he was made aware of how serious his condition was, he had a big journey in front of him and it wasn’t clear what the outcome would be. For three months he was bed bound and his head was in a cage-like device that kept his neck still.  During his recovery he had a lot of time to contemplate and to think about his life, what did this accident mean? Would it restrict his life or would he use it as an experience to grow as a person. The seesaw of emotions was hard to manage. Can you imagine not being able to use your physical body for three months, your thoughts as your only day to day constant companion, and to be in a place where there is so much uncertainty about your future.

Fortunately for Tony he had an amazing team of medical professionals around him who did a phenomenal job of getting him back on his feet, literally, and he recovered well. It is around this time that I got a call from Tony. 

‘Hi Bevan, I’d love to catch up to have a talk about doing an Ironman’ was his first sentence. I knew of his accident so my gut feeling was ‘is this guy crazy?’. When we met for a coffee to have a chat Tony started telling me about the last few months, how he decided that his accident had to have some greater meaning, how he had to use it as a trigger to grow as a person. 

Tony is a very driven man, he’s a successful lawyer who sets high standards for himself. He prides himself on maintaining a high level of commitment to his goals so as we were talking there was no doubt in my mind that Tony would one day be doing an Ironman. The challenge for me was how I was going to manage his body through some of the hardest training that any sport can present to someone. For someone who not long ago was bed bound and unable to walk. I signed up as his coach and the journey began.  

Over the next 20 months Tony continued to impress me with his commitment to achieving his goal. He developed skills in the disciplines of this sport, his physical ability grew, and his mental ability strengthened as he faced some very tough days of training. But what impressed me most about Tony was his ability to get back up when he had been knocked down. 

The journey to the finish line in an Ironman is one of the hardest physical challenges a human can face. As we progressed through Tony’s training it was like there was an external force that was trying to make it harder for him. In his 20 months of training there were rough patches. He didn’t finish his first triathlon as when he was in the water being beaten around by lots of people he had a panic attack and he pulled out. Then not long after that he had a bike accident and broke his collar bone. It was like something didn’t want Tony to finish his journey.  

Come race day Tony had the swim of his life, he got out of the water in a time that he was very proud of and once on his bike he experienced a blow to his chances of getting to the finish line - his bike seat broke! This setback would have mentally broken a lot of people, they would have thrown in the towel or it would have ruined their day. But not Tony, although it did mean that he lost valuable time it didn’t distract him from his end goal. After finally getting the seat fixed Tony pushed on to finish the bike section and he then ran the full marathon which ended in him crossing the finish line in his first Ironman. 

Tony is an amazing example of overcoming adversity. From waking up in that hospital bed, to not finishing his first triathlon, to his broken collar bone, and lastly his bike seat breaking. Tony had many reasons to not continue on but he did, I’m sure that as he crossed the finish line on his amazing journey the adversity he had overcame made the sense of achievement even sweeter. It made it all worth it. If you ask me that’s a good reason to keep getting up when you get knocked down. 


Friday
Jun072013

Avoidance is not failure

Sometimes in life we get to a point within certain areas where we feel it’s time for a change. After these areas and the changes are identified we start to develop a plan to achieve this. As we go through this planning stage we think of all of the different strategies that we can use to help us achieve our desired outcome. This is an important moment in our success because if we can implement a good clear plan there is a good chance that we will succeed in creating the change. 

Last week I had a conversation with someone who was trying to lose weight, I was interested in learning what her strategy was, so I asked her that very question. She started listing all the ways she was approaching this goal and it seemed that she had put a lot of thought into it and had a good plan in place. After she had explained her plan to me I asked her how she was going and if she was on track? She told me that she’s generally on top of it except when she jumps on the scales. If she doesn’t see a number on the scales that is heading in the downward direction she gets emotional and is hard on herself, this makes her lose focus and she then starts eating unhealthily for a period of time. She told me how this is a recurring theme and is the only thing that is putting her off her plan. 

You are probably thinking the same thing I was when I was talking to her, why doesn’t she get rid of the scales? I asked her this ‘so if you know that there’s a threat to your plan when you jump on the scales why don’t you get rid of them?’. Her answer was interesting ‘I feel I need to be a stronger person, that I should be able to get on the scales and not let them dictate how I feel about myself. If I was stronger this wouldn’t be a problem’. Just to confirm that I understood what she was saying I asked her ‘So you think that if you avoid the scales you are a failure?’, ‘yeah, that’s right’ she said ‘I should be able to control that emotion, not let it beat me’.

What’s interesting about this situation is that this person’s unsuccessful moments are based around her not allowing herself to use a really good strategy. In her mind she is a failure if she uses avoidance. The problem in her situation is that jumping on the scales is a high risk action so avoiding the scales is a great way for her to keep to her plan. 

I understand this completely. I remember when I first started triathlon, I felt that I had to make my training sessions as hard as possible. I would never even allow myself to listen to music as I saw this as contributing to having an easier session and I wanted to be mentally stronger. The problem with my strategy is that it wasn’t working, I wasn’t training that well. So one day I let go of my no music rule and allowed myself to listen to some of my favorite songs. It was the best ride I had in a long time and it made me realise that hitting the objective is the most important thing, in my case that objective was quality training rides. 

The key with strategies is to be able to recognise if they are taking you closer to your objective or moving you away from it. Ideally over time you are learning to use more of the strategies that take you closer to your desired outcome.

My question to you is: Do you have strategies which you have put criteria around that make you feel that you are bad or a failure if you use them? What if they could help you achieve your goal, that they could help you hit your outcome? For the person I mentioned above, avoidance wasn’t failure it was potentially a key strategy in her achieving her goal. 

It’s a good idea to spend time learning which strategies move you closer to what you want to achieve and then use them to your advantage. By doing this there’s a much higher chance of succeeding in your important areas. 


Friday
May172013

'What are they thinking about me?'

Do you worry about what people think of you? How much time do you spend in your day worrying about others judgement? Does the energy that you put into this thinking help you progress forward? 

Today I’m going to share an experience that taught me a good lesson and got me thinking about these tough questions. 

A few years ago I was participating in a training camp for elite triathletes. The training was madness, each day started at 5.30am and consisted of 3-6k swims, 150-250k bike rides and 10-15k runs - the days were long and hard. The camp was designed to push each of us to the edge of our limit and at times it felt like we had gone well over that edge. 

One of the key factors to my success on this camp was a guy called Brandon. Our athletic ability was similar and we seemed to hit it off like old school buddies. Over the 13 day camp we would spend nearly 80% of our time together. If I was having one of those ‘I want to give up’ moments, Brandon would encourage me to push on through and I would do the same for him. We both bought something to each others experience which made both of us better athletes both physically and mentally. 

Once the camp was over I discovered that Brandon had been writing a daily blog, every day he had written about that day’s training. When I discovered that this had been published online my ego was looking forward to reading it, as I assumed I would get quite a few complimentary mentions. Well my ego got deflated, in all the writing Brandon had done over the entire camp, I only got two quick mentions. I have to admit at first I was surprised by this as we had spent so much time together. Then I started thinking about how I had been communicating my experience to others, I hardly ever mentioned Brandon. 

This experience taught me a very valuable lesson: most people spend most of their time thinking about their own life. I’m going to repeat that as it is an important point: most people spend most of their time thinking about their own life. 

Think about yourself. In your day how often are you thinking about what is happening in your own day to day life in comparison to thinking about other people’s lives? Once you discover that most people are thinking about themselves most of the time you can allow yourself to lessen your concern about what they think of you. That’s because the chances are they aren’t thinking of you.

Time worrying about judgement from others is a lost opportunity for you to be spending this time creating the life where you get to be what you want to be and do what you want to do.  Imagine if you were to spend all that accumulated ‘worry time’ on things that contributed to your own growth in areas that are important to you. Where would that lead you? 

Next time you are worrying about what someone may be thinking of you, say to yourself ‘they probably aren’t even thinking of me at all’ and put your focus back into how you can progress forward. 


Friday
Feb222013

Kids Exercise: Competition vs Participation? 

There are some topics that will always get emotions firing from all different directions;  Should marijuana be legal?, What should the minimum drinking age be?, Who should be our political leaders? Well today I’m going to talk about one of the hot topics in the area that I know best in life, exercise. Here it is: 

Should kids sport/exercise be about participation or should competition be encouraged?  

I’m sure as you read this you have come up with an instant response, the one that is already pre-determined in your mind. There’s a concept called confirmation bias that I would like to introduce before I go any further. The best way to describe confirmation bias is that if you already have a view on a certain topic, when you are presented with new content or differing views you are constantly looking for reasons to justify your thinking and opinion. I experienced this when I watched the political debates before the last election. My lovely partner and I had differing views on who we would vote for and after the debate we both thought that our leader had done the best job. Confirmation bias also makes us tend to read magazines, watch TV shows and listen to radio shows that back up and confirm the thinking we already have. So all I ask is that you be aware of your bias as you read on. 

So what is better, competition or participation? I thought I would put an argument forward for each side. Let me put my competitive hat on first:


Competition

There's a scene in the film Dead Poets Society where the teacher character that Robin Williams plays talks about how competition gives us the ability to find higher levels in ourselves. It is one of the magical things about competition; it takes most of us to a place that we could not get to by ourselves.

When you are racing in a running or cycling event, playing sport against another team or lifting weights with a training partner who is of similar ability, competition has the ability to show you the next level in yourself.

Proving to ourselves we are better than others can drive us to set goals that get us out of bed earlier, push us a little harder in training and improve our character traits, such as discipline and hard work, creating the belief that we can apply these to other areas of our lives.

Let us not forget we love a winner. We hold winners up in society; they get presented as our role models, what we should aspire to. You can see it in New Zealand sport: the only time sports outside of the top three of rugby, netball and cricket get any exposure is when they are winning.

We should help our kids to aspire to be the best. Life rewards the people who are top of their fields. It is often found that the "best people" get an unfair slice of the rewards pie in life.

For example: All Black Dan Carter is arguably the world's best player in his position. But how much better is he than the next best first five-eighth in New Zealand? When you look at the stats, is he 95 per cent, 50 per cent or 25 per cent better, based on measurable qualities?

While I do not have the statistics in front of me, I think you would find that he is more likely to be somewhere around 5 to 10 per cent better than the next best player. So does that player only get 5 to 10 per cent less of the rewards than Carter? No, Carter definitely gets a much bigger piece of the pie.

You will find this in just about all areas of life, the best (winner) is only a little bit better than many others but they get a lot more of the rewards.

However, competition in sport can also prepare us for life. As kids grow into adults, they are entering a competitive world.

Their grades may present them with different career opportunities. If they move into business, they will need to keep a close eye on their competitors and make sure they keep improving their product or service to stay ahead of the game. The lessons they learn from sport at a young age will have value as they move into the big adult world.


Participation

And yet, I often wonder how you define what a great life is? While there could be many descriptions that could be considered, one that works for me is: a life well lived is one full of amazing experiences.

The more we expose ourselves to different types of experiences in life, the more we get opportunities to learn lessons about ourselves. Sport is one of the greatest ways to have these life experiences.

Here are some examples:

1. Through sport, kids can be put in situations where they experience many different types of emotions. This can be the joy of success, the fear of failure, the nervousness before a game and the high of moving your body fast.

2. They get to develop healthy relationships with people they would not normally be exposed to. These can be adults, such as coaches, who can mentor their growth, or the club director.

3. They can learn great social habits around teamwork and working within rules - lessons that are important for so many reasons.

4. Sport can instil good habits around everyday life such as commitment, discipline and respect.

5. The friendships you can make through sport are often lifelong. The bond that sport creates can be a great platform for relationships that can be a valuable part of all your life.

For these reasons and more, it is important that we try to get as many kids as possible taking part in some type of sport.

However, you also have to look at what barriers stop kids from participation. These would include parents who do not encourage their kids towards sport, the expense of some sports, and schools that do not try to include as many kids playing. These examples are all external of the child, but one of the biggest barriers to taking part is the child feeling they are not good enough.

Think about yourself. Is there an area of your life where you do not feel you are any good - music, running, maths, dancing?

When the opportunity presents itself in your insecure area, what do you do? Most of us try to avoid it. So if our kids feel they are not good at sport, what are they going to do?

But what makes kids feel that they are not good at sport? One of the biggest things are the expectations put on them by others and, when the all the of the positive attention goes towards winners, it can move the non-winning participant to feel that they are not good enough.

If we identify that a big part of sport is the development of skills, we can recognise that all kids will have different skill-set levels. While the winning kids obviously have more natural ability, they probably have spent more time developing their skills.

This does not mean the non-winning kids cannot use sport as a great way to develop themselves. The problem can be that, by creating environments which put all the energy into the successful kids and make the others feel bad about themselves, we can be closing the door to many of the great benefits that sports can offer all kids.

So which side of the argument should win? Should we encourage more competition or greater participation? For me, the answer does not have to be black and white - it is more about what questions we are asking ourselves around the problem. We want to get as many kids playing sport, but we also want to encourage competition in a way that does not create insecurities. So how do we do that?

I do not have all the answers. But here is an example of a coaching session I took a few weeks back. I had a run-training session for about 20 9-to-12-year-old kids. Obviously, a few were the elite of the group and they loved to show that they were the best, running circles around the others. While they were doing this, I could tell the slower kids were starting to lose focus, get despondent and give up. I picked up on this and decided to change the way I was doing the session.

I picked the teams myself based on the different abilities, trying to make them evenly matched, then I created games which were inclusive, made everyone work together for their team and encouraged everyone to do their best.

The fastest kids were still going as fast as they could but they were then encouraging their team-mates along. All of a sudden, every kid was giving it their best. After the session, I got feedback from all the parents telling me that their kids really enjoyed it, including the slower ones.

Despite that success, I have far from nailed this stuff. However, I believe that there needs to be a shift from the conversation being about competition versus participation towards how do parents, school teachers, sport coaches and fitness professionals create sporting environments that get as many kids loving sport?

How can we help kids of all abilities identify where their skills are and what the next steps forward for them are? How do we create games where the competition works for all levels (this could be handicapped games or time-trial point games where the kid has to beat their own score which goes towards the team score). Lastly, how do we put more emphasis on so many of the other benefits of sport?

Sadly, I suspect the competition versus participation argument will continue and I worry that the longer it goes on the more kids will grow up not learning how important it is to have sport in your life.

But instead of having this same old tired argument, why don't we think about changing the discussion towards shifting how we can create sporting environments so we can have as many kids as possible feel good about themselves because of sport.

This way, the next generation will have a higher chance of growing into healthy kids, both physically and mentally, because they have a love of sport and exercise.


Wednesday
Mar162011

The day I cried

I once had a girlfriend who told me that I don’t experience life because I rarely show my sad emotions. I did feel that was a little unfair, I like to think it’s because I’m not sad very often. But it is true to say that I’m not the type to cry. In the last 10 years of my life I can only remember one or two times when this has happened. But the last time I cried I will remember to the day I die. 

I was running down a beautiful tree lined street with the sun beaming down on me, giving me the all the heat I needed. I had my ipod on and suddenly a really cool upbeat song hit my ears. I was running well that day but this song helped me find a faster rhythm, I was feeling awesome! A thought started moving forward in my mind about something I had done recently, something that was big to me, and the emotions started to take over. All of a sudden my legs were powering over like Road Runner, the beat of the music pounding in my ears transported me somewhere else and this powerful deep inner emotion took over and the tears covered my face like I had just released a plug from a bath. If my old girlfriend had seen me in this moment she may have changed her opinion. 

Before I go on I have to let you know that I give away 5% of my gross income and have been doing it for years. The only reason I started doing it was because a while ago I read somewhere that if you give something away you’ll get a lot more back. At that time I figured that wealth was important to me so this new giving strategy was to help me along. It was totally selfish. Over the years I haven’t got that rich in monetary terms but I’m still glad I started this habit, it has given me ten times more value than money ever could. I’ve always tried to give my money away in cool ways that help people in need; this is what lead to me crying. 

The story goes like this: I picked up the phone and it was my mum with her daily phone call, if I’m going to be honest I tend to get three to four daily calls from my mum (gotta love her), and she started telling me that a girl she worked with had just found out that her house had burnt down and they had lost everything. Mum was asking if I had any old house stuff that they could have. After telling her they could have some old draws my mum said ‘the sad thing is that all the kids Christmas presents got lost and they can’t afford anymore’. In that moment I decided that I would play secret Santa for this family in this horrible time. So Tyla, my daughter, and I went to the mall and spent over $600 on this family for Christmas. We made sure we got everyone in the family something they would love. It was a cool experience picking out all the presents with my daughter.  

A couple days later Adam, a friend of mine, knocked on the door of the family who had lost everything. He said ‘Hi my name is Adam, you don’t know me but this is for your family’. Adam just turned around and walked away to let them enjoy this small moment of pleasure together. When Adam rang me after he had delivered the gifts, he told me how the family were overwhelmed with what was happening and just burst with emotion.  

So as the sun was heating my body and my feet were moving like Road Runner’s to the cool beat in my head - that was the moment I was thinking about. The moment I created something good in someone else’s life. It was one of the most emotionally powerful moments I have ever experienced.  

So why am I telling you this? I live in Christchurch where we have just had a terrible earthquake and while for me the next period of time presents some uncertainty, due to me not having a job, I still feel I can help others. I’ve just given $500 to the people in Japan, people who need all the help that the world can give right now. I’m not giving this money or writing this to make you think I’m a better person; I could have quite easily left these things to myself. I’m doing this to make you think about what you will get from helping others.

We live in a time where our value can be measured by stuff we have and actions that put the priority on ourselves. But the day I cried I learnt one of the most important lessons of my life, by helping others I help myself. 

I know so many of you have supported Christchurch in our tough time, thank you for that. I hope that you can find a little bit more to help those in Japan. Even if you give a little bit it can make a big difference.  

 

 http://www.redcross.org.nz/donate

Monday
Jul072008

My Last Ironman Race Report

I often get asked what led me to choose Ironman as a sport? My normal response involves how I’d tried a few sporting events which eventually led me to this event and how my first experience left me feeling like there was so much more that I wanted to achieve. But I can pinpoint the moment when the seed was planted in my mind. I was 24, keen, energetic, open to possibilities, always looking for a challenge and a little injured. One of the downfalls of a life in lycra, for those who don’t know by day I’m an Aerobics instructor (we like to call ourselves group fitness instructors in this modern time, aerobics is so 80’s), is the occasional ankle injury. So after one high kick too many I was back on the bed at my local physio, my home away from home. Grant, a guy whose lines on his face showed the hours he worked but whose eyes maintained his deep caring of those around him, was working on me and like always he started talking about some amazing feat he had recently heard about. Grant loved true, epic stories and it was like he was a school teacher reading with enthusiasm when he told me about them. This day he started telling me about a guy he knew who was competing in an Ironman, ‘It’s crazy when you think about it, they run a Marathon after a 3.8 km swim and a 180 km ride!’  There was a magic in his words that sparked a fire in my stomach, in that moment I knew I wanted to be an Ironman. So my journey began. 


Over the next six months I amassed a huge number of ‘firsts’ in my athletic career. The first time I ever swam more than two lengths at the pool, rode more than 100 km, my first 10 hour training day (a little silly two weeks before the race!) and many, many more. The end of the period was wrapped up with me collapsing over the line at Ironman New Zealand in a time of 10:59!  Never in my life had I experience something that was so hard, to the point where the body couldn’t go any further but the mind just kept it moving to the goal. The next night as slowly hobbled in old man steps, a common look at the after party, I meet a man called Greg Frame in the line for food. Greg, a charismatic man who has a smile glued on his face, was a former New Zealand cyclist and had managed to finish the day before in a time of 8:59. By the way, Greg was 40!  While Cam Brown had impressed me with the win there was something about Greg’s performance that wowed me. I remember thinking ‘Man, 9 hours is unbelievable, that is awesome!’ It seemed so far out of reach but the experience from the day before had left me wanting more. 

Over the next 5 years I kept on developing myself as a athlete. During this time I achieved some of the proudest moments of my life, my first sub 10 hour Ironman, qualifying and competing in Hawaii, winning my age group in Ironman New Zealand and getting myself to the level where I thought I could race as an entry level pro. There were also many amazing life experiences that come with the training an Ironman brings. When you think how for most people a three hour exercise session would be one of the biggest days in their lives, and how they feel when they have achieved this, you can start to understand the level of esteem that comes with training days that can last up to and over 6 hours, week in and week out. It’s a magic that few get to know. I’ve also experienced some disappointments -- once I turned pro I struggled to get my big goal of doing a sub 9 Ironman. 


Fast forward to the night before the race last weekend. After having lovely tomato pasta for dinner I jumped into bed and my mind went into the ‘I wonder’ phase. Ironman is a sport where you always live on the edge of blowing up and losing everything you had aimed for. There are so many examples of the top athletes crumbling 500 meters from the finish line, having to crawl to the end and watching their lifetime dream slip away as someone drifts pass them in slow motion with their arms in the air to win the race. This race can shatter the strongest of people. You can go into a race being 100% prepared but there will always be that ‘wonder’ about what will happen. So as I’m lying in bed I start to think about now, yea now, I wondered what my race report would say? While setting my goals for this race I deliberately kept away from a time and made it about learning about myself and growing the process that makes Bevan James Eyles better. But as I lay there I knew deep down that my race would be defined by my time, if I did a sub nine it was a total success and if not I will have to find reasons why it didn’t happen. I went to sleep hoping it would be about success. 

My day started on a high, after a comfortable but strong swim I came out of the water in a time of 53 mins. This was a personal best which I really wasn’t expecting. Once on the bike my focus was to ride strong but comfortable with good technique and to make sure I kept fueling myself. Mentally I had the best Ironman ride that I have ever had.  Other than a 5 km section while I struggled a little bit I found it well within myself. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed when I got off the bike and found that I’d only ridden 4:55, I was hoping to do 4:45 and I thought I was at that pace. Getting off the bike I knew two things, I had to do an Ironman Marathon PB to do a sub 9 and the body has fallen apart around the 25-30 km mark in my last two races. I decided to keep the pace in the first half of the run very comfortable.  At times I did think I should go faster but I respected the race and held off. At the halfway point I’d done 1:32, I knew I had to 1:36 to get in under nine. This would be tough but if I didn’t blow it could be done, would I do it? 

Then it hit me, the thing I’d been planning all to avoid all day, I started hitting the wall at the 26km mark! I couldn’t believe it! I’d raced a smart race where I’d made all the right decisions and it happened again. For the next 5 kms it was like I was running with lead shoes on that were filled concrete. Everything was slipping away and there was nothing that I seemed to be able to do about it.  It was like I was crawling while watching my dream drift away. At the 31 km mark I knew my sub 9 had gone and I was in a place where I could stumble home and come in around 9:19, my current PB, or I could fight and finish this sport with my best day out there. I remembered a saying by Martin Luther King that goes something like, ‘It’s not what a man does in a time of comfort and strength that measures him, it’s what he does when he is confronted with conflict and struggle that truly reveals who he is’ and decided that I was going to do my best until the end!  So with 10 km to go I started moving the concrete-filled lead shoes as fast as I could. I had to dig deeper than what I have ever done before. This was a place where the body and the mind are both telling you to ‘just take it easy and get home’ but I wouldn’t let it beat me. My friend Glen, a guy who was around 3 mins off his PB after bugger all training (maybe that’s what I should have done), told me the next day that he didn’t recognise me as he saw me running towards the finish. He said ‘your face was grimacing like you were in a world of hurt.’ And I was. I came into the finishing area, that is filled with thousands of people cheering you on, and looked up at the clock to see that I would do 9:05. I punched the sky and raised my arms as I crossed the finish line and fell into someone’s arms.  

Being honest I have to admit that over the last two days I’ve been living in ‘what if’ land. I have created so many of them that wikipedia could have a page on it. I’ve laid in bed at night thinking of what I could have done differently to get that last five minutes. I found myself fighting the temptation to use excuses when describing the race to others (yea I want to tell you about them right now) and I’ve find myself drifting back to the race so I can do something!  But now I’ve come to the conclusion that I know I made the best decisions I could make at all times during the race, if I did it again I think I would do it the same. At the end of the day I wasn’t a sub 9 Ironman. But I know these things: in last three months I have experienced one of the biggest growth periods of my life, and this isn’t just as an athlete.  I did a personal best time by 14 minutes.  I raced a smart race and I dug deep when all the walls were crumbling around me. I’m proud of what I did!

Mum asked me I would consider doing another one but my life wants to go in new directions. Without giving up other passions I feel I’ve reached close to all the growth that Ironman can bring me. But don’t worry I’ll still be challenging myself physically, I love it too much! 

Since this is kind of my goodbye to Ironman there are a few people I want to thank: Fred Harding, Graham Ewing, Neil Graham, Albert Boyce and Adrianne Shaw -- these guys gave in very special ways. 

My Sponsors over the years: Genius bikes, Scotty Browns, Blue Seventy, fifthelement, Coffees of Hawaii and Bolle sunglasses. 

Everybody who financially gave through supporting my fundraising to help me achieve my goals.  Your gifts small or large meant so much more than the dollar you gave. Plus the people who helped coordinate a lot of the fundraising, you gave your time and energy to help me achieve my goals! That still blows my mind. 

My Girlfriends over the time: Rae and Annelies. Ironman triathletes aren’t the easiest partners to be with but both of you were great at supporting a obsessed young man -- you both were amazing!

The Ironman Talk community; what started as a silly training idea has turned into such a valuable part of my life. I never get sick of the emails of support for my goals and the show. 

Members from the Christchurch gym, without knowing it you helped pull me through many tough days. Some of the loveliest people there are. 

My homestays: people who open up their home and let you make it yours! I will pay this forward and try to maintain the high standards you all set. 

The people who I have trained with over the years. There’s something about being around people who thrive on a challenge and know how to breath the air of life. 

‘Coach’ John Newsom, his passion for triathlon and willingness to share his knowledge is amazing. We’re shared some great experiences together, you are a real mate.

My friends. This sport has help me realise how important you are. Thanks for being there for me. A special mention must go to Dunk, Fraser, Geoff and Kate. These guys would come from all around New Zealand at a high cost just to yell at me on the side lines, plus do a little Ironman drinking ;-)

Mum, Dad and Shelley. I have to admit I’m getting a little emotional right now! I can honestly say that I have the best family in the world! Their love for me is unbelievable. I could achieve nothing without them.  Everything I have ever achieved is because I know those guys are there in my heart. I will never forget riding in the middle of nowhere in a race seeing a crazy bunch of people (often dressed up in the craziest gear) make the most noise of any supporters out there and thinking with pride ‘that’s my family!’

Tyla Jade Eyles.  If anyone has had to put up with someone being tired, it’s you. I love you more than you’ll ever know. I’ll never forget how you would go and get a blanket when you would see that I had crashed on the couch or how you knew ‘watching a movie’ together would mean I would fall asleep within 5 mins but you would cuddle up and enjoy being with your dad. You are very special!

Lastly, everybody who ever sent me an email, showed interest in or followed my progress. I truly believe that people are good and you always showed that side of yourself to me.

In our sport there’s a phrase that goes ‘one and done’ for the people who only compete in one Iron distance race. A wise triathlete once said ‘it’s a pity that those people don’t gain the true life lessons that competing in Ironman for a few years brings.’ I leave this passion of mine having learnt those lessons, what a journey!