The Lowest Common Denominator

There is a common coaching expression which goes, “we do not rise to the level of our expectations; we fall to the level of our training.” The idea is obvious enough. If you slack off on your training, no amount of “desire” can get you to the finish line first if you simply are not prepared. But what about the inverse? What if your training level is superior that of your expectations? By expectations, I am referring to the more general concept of mental commitment or preparedness. What if you are ready (physically) to have a good race or training session, but not mentally? I think in this case, you then fall to the level of your expectation. Generally speaking, it seems that you will always fall to the lowest common denominator of your preparation. Poor nutrition, poor training, poor recovery, or poor mental attitude all have the same effect – poor performance. The weakest link in the performance chain will always break.

So what prompted me to address this issue? Well today, I had a swim that could have been good, and should have been at least okay, but was poor not because I wasn’t physically capable, but because I wasn’t mentally capable. If I wasn’t physically capable, I’d just chalk it up to being tired and it’d be just another day. But today, I had a lot of negativity going on in my brain, and I chose, somewhat actively, to succumb to it. I went to the pool for a hard workout. I prayed for one of those days when everything is easy, when you just have “it.” But it wasn’t to be. Last week, it wasn’t to be either, and I slugged through it and had a good workout. But today, I didn’t. So I’m feeling somewhat upset with myself, which is why I am writing about it.

I don’t think good comes out of doing a workout poorly. But I do think it is worth seeing what lessons can be learned, so at least it isn’t all bad. The really obvious lesson is, don’t let negative thoughts bring you down. Okay, but easier said than done. At the end of the day, I don’t think there is any magic bullet. There is no easy fix. We all get down somedays. It is okay to be reminded that we are human. I think the important thing is to say “yes, I guess I am. But what does that really mean?” And the answer is “nothing.” And I don’t mean nothing-nothing. I just mean that we all get down, we all have bad thoughts, we all have bad days. But that doesn’t mean the next workout, or, more simply, the next stroke is going to be bad. If it is, it is. But there are plenty more in most workouts.

I know, no great pearls of wisdom here. Just remember Plan B. What is “Plan B,” you might ask. Plan B, of course, is just to GIVE’R, and that is what I forgot today…

One thought on “The Lowest Common Denominator

  1. Well that was refreshing reading that… I’ve had trouble keeping with my tri training mentally over the last few days… physically I’m there most of the time but without the right frame of mind that doesn’t really matter. Comforting to see it happens to the rockin’ triathletes too. Good luck at Florida 70.3 and I’m looking forward to “racing” you at Harriman… and I use the term racing lightly.


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