Victory before the battle

“I can visualize how I want the perfect race to go.  I can see the start, the strokes, the walls, the turns, the finish, the strategy, all of it.  It’s so vivid that I can vividly see incredible detail, down even to the wake behind me.” – Michael Phelps, No Limits

I was really blown away by how intense Michael Phelps’ description of his visualization process is.  This reminds me of a conversation I had about a year ago.  Some famous olympic triathlete guy was signing autographs at a table outside my gym.   Curious I go to the table and ask him about what makes him win. He gets metaphysical on me. Tells me about how he projects his victory on others with his mind. He beats them by out thinking them. It’s an animal instinct. When he’s won – long before the race is over – he knows it and so does his opponent.

At this point our eyes are locked and we’re completely immersed in this spiritual mind domination conversation. I start to tell him about this amazing piece I read in Popular Science.  It’s about this crazy athlete who’s pushing the boundaries of physical performance and endurance with a revolutionary scientific approach.  He looks at me funny and says, “Are you serious?” I think he’s talking about the training methodology, so I answer, “Yeah, this guy’s intense.” Again, “Are you serious?”  Me: “Yes, it’s amazing.”

“My name is Andy Potts. I’m the guy in the article.”

He was the first person I ever asked for an autograph.


The secret of success?

“The one thing that’s common to all successful people: They make a habit of doing things that unsuccessful people don’t like to do.”

Right now I’m reading “No Limits” – Michael Phelps’ autobiography.  That was one of my favorite passages.

It’s all too easy to look at really successful people and feel as though they are somehow predisposed to being great at what they do.  The truth is, many people at the top of their game work harder than anyone else to get there and stay there.  They put in countless hours and overcome countless obstacles to measure progress by millimeters.  At the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Michael Phelps won the 100 meter butterfly with a time of 50.58 seconds.  Second place went to Milorad Cavic with a time of 50.59.  Being the world champion was a difference of one millisecond.

In another awesome book, The Outliers, Malcom Gladwell goes further to suggest that mastery takes in excess of 10,000 hours of practice (roughly equivalent to 10 years).  For five years between 1998 and 2003, Michael Phelps took off less than 5 days from training.  Think about that, less than 5 days off in 5 years.  That takes a lot of energy and commitment.  Tiger Woods is known for the same rigorous work ethic, working out and practicing from 6 am to 6 pm every day.  Greatness is less a product of good genetics as it is rigid discipline.

On the one hand, it’s inspiring to know that most successful people around you worked their ass off to get to where they are.  That means you can too.  On the other hand, it can be daunting to think how much work your own success might take.  However there’s a difference between good enough and great.  Being good at something doesn’t require world champion discipline or 10,000 hours of commitment.  Think about the time you spend watching TV or surfing the web every day.  One hour a night is 365 hours a year.  365 hours is more than enough time to improve yourself and become proficient in most skills.

As I’m retraining my body to use proper weight lifting form, it’s frustrating to have to do the same light movements over and over.  Subtly adjusting the way your body performs a particular exercise is an excruciating process.  You have to mentally control which muscles you use and don’t use.  Not to mention that I love lifting heavy!  Training all the core stabilizer muscles in my body just doesn’t excite me.  Reading about how much time Michael Phelps puts into being a champion reminded me what achieving my goals means.  It has honestly inspired me to work twice as hard.

[ photo: flickr / markopako ]

Where did the body metrics go?

I stopped posting daily body metrics after July 4th.  Tracking my daily calories and workouts can be a fun and challenging process.  However, the value of it isn’t really in the daily data, but rather in the periodic analysis of the data.

I’ve been spending well over half an hour a day just posting daily stats data.  Aside from my day to day diet, which tends to repeat itself, the daily stats don’t really add value.  With that in mind, I’ve decided to save you some bandwidth and save me some time.  What I will continue to do is track every aspect of my body and post that infomation in an analytical weekly blog post designed to study trends in my progress.  I hope this will give you some insight into what works and what doesn’t.  I’d love to hear any advice you have as well.  I’ve never done a body building competition before and if you have any suggestions, I welcome them.

Daily Body Metrics 07/04/09

Fourth of July was a “relaxation” day.  I thoroughly enjoyed half a pizza and really didn’t think about my fitness much for a whole day.  The workout is actually from the day before, but I figured I’d just merge the Friday and Saturday post.  I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed for the last two weeks, and needed a weekend off.  I spend all of Sunday watching the Matrix trilogy.  Yes, all three movies.  It was awesome.  I’ve only ever seen them once.  I forgot how good those movies are, especially when you watch them back to back.

Calories out: 3261, Calories in: 4097, Protein: 264g, Carbs: 370g, Fat: 111g

Continue reading Daily Body Metrics 07/04/09

Daily Body Metrics 07/02/09

I had a great workout yesterday with a lot of focus on rehabing my shoulder and spine muscles.  I spent 45 minutes just doing shoulder blade rotations, shoulder blade pushups, and stretches.  Then Eddie and I did a light back workout with a strong emphasis on perfect form.

Calories out: 3272, Calories in: 3300, Protein: 255g, Carbs: 395g, Fat: 78g

Continue reading Daily Body Metrics 07/02/09

Daily Stats 07/01/09

I actually worked out twice today.  I had an easy going session with Trevor this morning where we mostly focused on light core training movements.  A few hours later, Eddie and I got together and did a light leg work out.  The heart rate chart is from my second workout with Eddie (my batteries were dead for the first one).

I’ve scaled down my lifting weight a lot in the last few weeks to fix my body and reprogram myself to lift with proper form.  I think one of the hardest things I’ve ever tried to do is to rewire my neuro-muscular communication.  Once your body gets used to doing something in a particular way, it’s very hard to change.  That’s why old habits die hard.

Continue reading Daily Stats 07/01/09

Daily Diet 07/01/09

As I mentioned in my last post, keeping on top of all my tracking has been really hard the last few days. I finally pulled my self together today and got everything down. One of the most challenging aspects of life tracking is actually planning. If I don’t do a good job of planning everything I eat and all my workouts in advance, it becomes much harder to properly track everything.

Calories out: 3349, Calories in: 2716, Protein: 260g, Carbs: 305g, Fat: 42g

Continue reading Daily Diet 07/01/09

Hiking in Paradise

Last weekend I hiked the Na’Pali coast by myself.  I’ve never camped alone before and it just seemed like a great way to meditate and center myself.  The Na’Pali Coast is on the north side of Kauai and the 11 mile hike to the beach at the end of the trail, Kalalau, is considered one of the most beautiful in the world.  It’s also a really hard trek to do in one day, with thousand foot drop offs on a one foot wide path and over 5000 feet of elevation change.  I didn’t have a lot of time, so I hiked in all 11 miles last Friday, stayed the day Saturday, and hiked back all Sunday.

When I got back I was exhausted.  It’s taken me three days just to recover.  In the meantime, although I’ve been roughly sticking to my diet, I haven’t been religiously tracking like I usually do.  I don’t think I realized how much effort all this tracking takes till now.  I totally felt burnt out these last three days.  My take away: when you try to do too much, even of the things you love, you’ll likely overwhelm yourself and get less done in the long run.  I lost three days of productivity because I crammed a five day hike into three days.

That being said, the hike was amazing.  Kalalau is the most beautiful place on the planet.  Check out the amazing photos from the Na’Pali Coast and, of course, a video of the hike…