We’ve spoken before about the internal dialogue we tell ourselves during training or when we are faced with hard things in life.
And by spoken I mean I’ve used this blog and email as a chance for me to vent my thoughts and hopefully they resonate with you, or at the worst you can choose to send it straight to the junk folder.
I want to dive a little deeper into that today and get into self fulfilling prophecy.
Now I love a vision board just as much as the next guy (as long as the next guy is a card carrying member of the national skeptics society) and the ability to manifest a burger whenever I feel like one (it truly is amazing, I just think about it and open Uber Eats and here it comes!), I don’t think there is anything magical about self fulfilling prophecy, aka when things occur that we have been thinking about or that we have told ourselves to be true.
I’m obsessed with data. The more I can get the better. I have a Whoop, a Garmin and I keep a journal of how I feel every morning when I wake up, what my wins were for the day before and what I learnt. (You win or you learn, always).
I like to see my resting heart rate, how high it gets when I train and for how long, my Heart Rate Variability, my sleep cycles, my oxygen uptake rate and my respiratory rate.
And what do I do with all this data that we have never before in the history of the human race had such access too?
I’m going to use the Whoop as an example because I know a lot of our clients have them and we like to check each others recovery and strain scores throughout the day. I’m on a Whoop detox..I am currently going through the process of not wearing it and…wait for it…trying to be more in tune with my body.
For those of us who have fitness trackers I am sure we have all experienced the following:
I wake up, I think I slept well, I’m feeling pretty good with no aches or pains.
I check my Whoop sleep and recovery score.
I see that I’m in the red. I’m only 31% recovered.
Immediately my joints start to hurt, I feel tired and I tell myself that my training is going to be garbage.
So what happened in between waking up feeling good, and feeling like I’ve been hit in the face with a sack of bricks?
The story I tell myself changed.
I stopped listening to my internal cuing and started focusing on the external…without looking at all the other factors that could affect my score.
Did my strap loosen and maybe my heart rate wasn’t as accurate overnight? Did it detect that I was awake for 2 hours in the middle of the night when in reality I was deep in a CBD induced lucid dream?
Did it maybe just get it wrong?
Now before you think I’m a whoop hater…I’m definitely not. I think their algorithm for detecting recovery is terrific, and the data they provide with a high amount of data touch points is incredible.
What I dislike is the ability I have to change my mindset based on external data rather than internal cuing. If you tell yourself that you feel like shit, you are going to feel like shit. The power that the mind has over the body is incredible and cannot be underestimated.
This may shock some of you but I didn’t really enjoy going to school. My older siblings used to call me Ferris Bueller for the amount of times that I would fake being sick just to get out of going. Before shifting schools in year 10, I was extremely close to failing year 9…just through sheer lack of attendance.
I would tell myself that I was sick and too unwell to go to school, and surprise…30 minutes later I had all the symptoms of tonsillitis (this worked a little too well, and my tonsils were removed due to my constant “tonsillitis”).
So it stands to reason (my massive study size of n=1) that seeing data in an app or spreadsheet form is more than enough to convince yourself that you feel unrecovered and your training is trash.
So what do I suggest you do about it?
There are 2 options-
The easy way:
You keep a physical journal of how you feel each day and write it down before you check your fitness trackers recovery, and then compare the 2 after thirty days time. If they are roughly on par then you know you can trust the data and it is accurate for you. Data is great for so many reasons, it just makes sense to validate the data with the feelings when we are dealing with something as complex as the human body.
The hard way:
I’m going to suggest something challenging here. And I know this is challenging because I coach people for a living and people just don’t like being told what to do..even if it is good for them.
I’m going to suggest that you LISTEN to the data.
We all think more is better. More training, a greater calorie deficit, more sleep, more work, more fun. But sometimes less is more.
Are you really getting the stimulus you want from a training session you have to force yourself to hit when you’re in the red? Do you feel like garbage but still persist with your 3 strength exercises, 4 accessories and a 30 minute conditioning piece?
How beneficial do you think that is for your goals?
If you’re unrecovered, just stretch, perform skill work and move. You will feel better afterwards and not bury yourself into a downward spiral that’s hard to recover from.
My challenge to myself is to use the power of self fulfilling prophecy in a positive manner over the next few months. I was watching a video of Jesse Itzler (if you don’t know who he is, all you need to know is that he was crazy enough to invite David Goggins to live with him for a few months) yesterday and he talked about the stories he tells himself.
He might yawn and say “that’s crazy, I don’t even feel tired”, or if anyone asks him how his body is feeling he responds with “Great!”.
He knows that the mind is the key to performance and what we tell ourselves makes all the difference.
So I’m going to ignore the data for a little while, and I’m going to tell myself how I feel.
And if you ask me, I’ll tell you too- “I feel great!”
How do you feel?