‘Could I do better if I made more time for the goals I am pursuing?’
‘What is stopping me from making more time for something that I find meaningful?’
Headspace allows you recover from today, prepare for tomorrow and plan for next week.
An athlete who is in full-time work or study has finite resources of headspace. As I have written previously, depletion of these resources makes it more difficult to be disciplined in relation to what needs to be done. It can often lead to a runner just squeezing in their running and adapting very little whilst risking injury or illness. An athlete that pays attention to their headspace reserves will have time to wind-down, prepare a proper meal, get a good night’s sleep and prepare for tomorrow.
Sufficient headspace allows you to prepare adequately for tomorrow. For example, you’ll pack your gear bag the night before. This buys you some time in the morning. Your day doesn’t kick off in a frenzied hurry. Leaving the house calm with a sense of control over your day has a direct impact on the training you will do later on. Starting the day on the back-foot leaves you there for most of the day.
Anticipation breeds consistency. Headspace allows you to operate in an almost constant state of anticipation. You see the bottlenecks in life and work several weeks before they happen and make arrangements to counteract. This means that even on weeks when you have to concede some ground on training (which is often very sensible) you still get the most out yourself that week. If you’re always getting the most out of yourself, no matter how small, it adds up and best of all you feel consistent in your habits.
The Benefits of Planning. An Example: Today is Thursday. I am on a 6-hour train to Plymouth for a conference on Friday before doing the return trip on Saturday. I saw this coming weeks ago and therefore, planned according to priorities. I restructured this week to prioritise what was most important and would require facilities that I may not have in Plymouth. I focused on my pool-based sessions and rehab/conditioning sessions up until today. Why? Firstly, they need to be done and secondly, they require facilities. The result of this anticipation is that I only need to do one run (the bit requiring least equipment, time and discipline) in Plymouth. For the record, because of the increased work / travel load this week, I have conceded one run and one cross training session from my normal week and included a rest day. I can be satisfied I took care of the most important aspects of training and got the maximum out of myself allowing for work demands. None of this planning is possible without headspace.
How do I make more headspace?
In work or life, can you tell the difference between what you have to do and what you perceive you have to do? What you think is expected of you and what you perceive is expected of you? Can you do everything, properly at once?
In my experience, there are two barriers to people creating headspace to be the best they can be at a particular activity. The first is the mis-match between what they perceive they need to do and what they actually have to do elsewhere in their lives. The reality is, with some exceptions, if most people no longer stayed late at work – the world would keep turning, but people often do not see this. The second barrier is the attempt to do everything all of the time. Trying to be the best you can be, comes at a price. You cannot have the perfect social life, be at the peak of your professional powers (although athletes can often far exceed an average person’s work-load), pursue several hobbies and expect to be at the peak of your athletic powers. Determining the difference between perception and reality in terms of the expectations placed upon you and being willing to compromise on other pursuits are the two key mechanisms to promote headspace. On less regular occasions when life and work do takeover, you’ll have had the headspace to anticipate and plan in order to negotiate them more effectively.
Headspace on Training Camp
On training camp, the headspace you have eked out back home increases by at least double. This allows you to train diligently as described in part 1 of this piece. However, it also allows you to plan ahead for when you return back home and this headspace is reduced. I brought an A4 pad on my last camp and developed a feasible strategy between then and when I would like my season to end. I planned and re-planned the weeks of training but perhaps more importantly I anticipated the challenges along the way and adjusted.
Part 3 of being the best you can be will discuss habits to normalise excellence.