I’ve had yet another hectic week: bearing in mind that we tend to evaluate things based on the high point and the ending, this was a GREAT week. I had a series of interesting conversations: with students at UCL; with employees during a change management intervention; and with the engaging children of the client concerned. I also managed to save a client a steep fee through bootstrapped recruiting. The week then ended on a real high, teaching twenty extremely hard-working Terbell PostGrad students… thank you for leaving me with a really BIG smile on my face at the end of the day guys!
One of the concepts that I teach (and utilise) on my Team Dynamics module for Terbell is Matthew Syed’s Purposeful Practice. Syed’s concept, drawn from his experience of becoming a Commonwealth Table Tennis champion, involves constantly seeking to fail at what you’re doing during your practice sessions. His model asserts that by constantly pushing the limits of our mental and physical boundaries, we slowly increase the envelope of our abilities.
Two Sundays ago, whilst thinking about hypothermia and other stuff during my run, I was also pondering whether it would be possible for me to run four miles in 30 minutes… I had managed 3.77 miles, but I recognised that the gap was not insignificant.
My run in Brighton last week, where I maintained an average of 7 mph for 35 minutes, made me realise that my recent focus on speed over distance was actually paying off… even though it was time constraints (and laziness) rather than a training focus that had driven my choice of machine over muddy track!
So my goal, as I climbed onto the machine this morning, was to push the current limits in order to see whether this translates into an overall ability to run yet faster… Syed’s hypothesis is that it will.
I warmed up for half a mile at 7 mph before increasing the speed to 8.1 mph and settled into running at this increased tempo. I quickly realised that the fan was not blowing the air at me and that I had left my water bottle in the kitchen but, whilst not ideal, I did not let these irritations distract me from my task.
I consciously leveraged two insights: one from my childhood, where a Scoutmaster (who was a Police Diver) taught us to expel the lactic acid build-up in our lungs, by huffing out all the air between breaths, to prevent the stitch; the other from The Bok (Nick Broom’s appropriate pseudonym), who taught me to relax my hands, arms and upper body (and even my jaw) when running fast, in order to allow more energy to go to my legs.
I could see that I was adrift of my target after 3 miles so I started increasing the speed by 0.1 each minute to close the gap… I really started to feel the impact of the extra speed above 8.5 mph.
Still clearly adrift with a minute to go I ramped up to 10 mph, sprinting through the discomfort to hit my goal… but had I done enough?
I had! 4 miles in 30 minutes and an average of 8 mph… well done Foster!
Of course the irritating thing about Syed’s approach is that you can’t rest on your laurels, so I’m sure that next week will involve yet harder work! At least there’s a whole week to enjoy in the meantime!