McDermott: I am an idiot

How do we work with the tendency to procrastinate and put healthy choices off?

I am an idiot

I know, some of you either knew that, or have been waiting for me to say it! There is a guy in Florida who disagreed with one of my articles, so he probably thinks this is great! I’m still flattered that some guy in Florida reads articles written by a trainer in Sylvan Lake, but I digress.

So why would I say I am an idiot? Well, it’s based on evidence really, but if we look at the definition: ‘a person of low intelligence’, then I would defend myself. I’m not stupid but I do dumb things quite often. Let’s look at a couple of examples.

After my crash, I gained 20 lbs from not being able to exercise and eating too much on the ‘entertaining’ side of food. I know I need to lean down, I know my weight is a bit high. I set myself up, eat quite well, get back on track, and then someone offers me a cookie. ‘Sure!’ Idiot. Ok, maybe that’s a little harsh, but it wasn’t on my cheat day, it was just a regular old Monday. My Cheat Day was Saturday, and I did indulge. I was supposed to be back on track this week! Why did I just say “yes” to a cookie?

On August 27th I completed my 7th Ironman Triathlon – some would say I could stop there, the evidence of idiocy is clear! The real idiocy comes in when I entered a local 8km run in Red Deer just 2 weeks after that Ironman, where I was under prepared due to all sorts of injuries, surgeries etc. I got to the Harvest Run full knowing that I should just take it easy and run a casual, enjoyable Sunday run with friends. As a trainer and an endurance coach, I know that my body, just 2 weeks from a nearly 14 hour race, still needed some time to recover.

The horn went off and I started running gently, for about 5 seconds. Then I zipped ahead in the crowd to a more open spot, then ahead again to another one, and another one. Then I saw a friend and zipped up to say hello, then saw another friend further up, a much faster runner than I am. Off I went. We chatted for a bit in broken sentences and then he faded back as I pulled ahead to run with another friend. Now I am running ‘outside my pay grade’, that is to say, my training and current state of recovery do not support running this fast. But I am an idiot, so I kept going. I finished the 8km run alone, having run faster than all of my friends, and ended up in 4th place in my age group, 38th out of 200 runners, with a time of 38:45. And my knee hurt, because being an idiot can have consequences. Why did I push so hard?

In another example, I decided to do some strength training, now that Ironman is done and I can focus on dropping some weight instead of training specifically to handle an endurance race. Given that I have not done any strength training at all since around April, it would make sense to really take it easy. Nope. I did the full workout, to the highest level listed. I was so sore for the next 5 days that I had trouble sleeping! Of course, this was 3 days before that run I mentioned above. Why did I do that? I am a Trainer, I KNOW the consequences of too much too soon. I have studied Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.

Why do we do dumb things like this all the time? (assuming I am not the only one). Why do we set such great and wise intentions, with the best of our future interests at heart, only to totally blow it?

Simple. When we make the plan to do something that is for our own good, wise and intelligent, we do that in the calm, cool, level headed place of considering the future. When we blow our diet for a piece of chocolate cake or a bag of your favourite potato chips we are in the heat of the moment! Emotion is high and even the sights, smells and sounds are against us. We resolve to make an exception, and do the right thing next time. In the case of exercise for me, it is the thought that I will ‘take it easy’ later if I need to. Since I am quite competitive, there is no ‘later’.

So this all comes down to my old nemesis, procrastination. We are putting off what we know we want, for later, so that we can have this impulse item now. We do what we feel like, not concerning ourselves with the consequences we will have to deal with ‘later’.

Step one: is to realize what is going on. Realize that cake or chips is a way of putting something OFF, rather than seizing an opportunity. Step two: focus on WHY the goal you had was important. Remind yourself that the current temptation will delay the goal. Step three: phone a friend! My wife is great for this! She saves me many, many times if I just engage her in the moment. Step four: Reward your good behavior!

Finally, another strategy is try to control the environment so that you don’t put yourself in a situation where the temptations exist. If we get clear on WHY we are doing something, it is easier to conquer it!

Happy Training!


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