To train or not to train?

October 15th 2020

By Matt Hill
Categories: Athlete Resources

To train or not to train?

Podcast with Grant Giles discussing self-awareness and to take control back!

One of the key aspects of our training philosophy is self-awareness – wanting our athletes to become self-reliant, self-managing and responsible for their actions.

We humans have an incredible built in awareness mechanism, we can assess our state at any given moment and can make calculated actions to best suit our needs. However, this powerful consciousness we have been gifted with is slowly being disregarded. Instead, we trust gadgets, ignore instincts in favour of following a fad-trend, blinded by ambition, or are simple too stubborn / egotistical to admit we are on the wrong path.

Start becoming AWARE again

Awareness – the Wikipedia description:

“Awareness is the state of being conscious of something. More specifically, is the ability to directly know and perceive, to feel, or to be cognizant of events. Another definition describes it as a state wherein a subject is aware of some information when that information is directly available to bring to bear in the direction of a wide range of behavioural actions.”

So, awareness is not related to thinking, academia or using external references (technology). Awareness is an internal sense (instinct / gut feeling), self-smarts, sense of space (where your limbs are, your balance, your gait), feeling of wellbeing, hunger, thirst, common sense, etc.

It is not something we have to contemplate, reason with, doubt, or need to be guided on.

Start to regain control, or trust, in your awareness. The messages your instinct are relaying to you should be listened to – being aware of your movements, your actions, your feelings, etc in day-to-day life, training sessions (or races) and post sessions. What is your body telling you each second / movement throughout the day?

When you become in tune with your body, know and accept what it is telling you, only THEN can you review the data that’s been collected by technology – using it to confirm your senses /perceived effort, NOT to guide future actions.

Use your awareness to OWN your development and choices. Assess the messages you are receiving to make an accurate assessment of your state. Don’t let your ego, ambition, guilt, data, friends or family, social media or even the training plan (that we have prescribed!) dictate the choices. Adapt as you need to each day!

Be stoic, not emotional with your actions

Be objective, rational, realistic, sensible with your choice, not emotional.

Rumination = the focused attention on the symptoms of one’s distress and weaknesses, and on its possible causes and consequences, as opposed to focusing on the processes that will lead to a solution.

Humans (especially ambitious people – those with type “A” personalities) tend to ruminate – they are driven by high expectations and pressure. They are driven by their ego, guilt and craving for success.

Remember the simple recipe for progress:

Stress + rest = progress!

If you want to progress, you have to stimuli (stress) the body with adequate and dynamic (adaptable) load while backing it up with adequate rest (sleep, fuel, fluids, active recovery, etc).

Training is STRESS. Stress is needed if we want to grow as a person, without it we become stale / plateau.

In any given session you instantly and continually know what the correct thing to do is. Thinking and reasoning with this instinct is where it goes wrong! Take ownership of yourselves, adapt the sessions rather than just going through the motions, ruminate/dwell/ponder on the worth of the content and don’t be led by your ego/guilt/worry/technology.

Get lost in the awareness

Training time needs a training mindset. Training, whether it’s your job or hobby, is a time to escape everything else in life, a time to focus on you, your body, your movements, you perception, your kit, your wellbeing, you, you, you…

Distracting from this internal awareness, by getting lost in thought about other things, things not related to the session, WILL cost you physically. Don’t use training time as time to reflect on what is happening in life, worrying about the end goal, worrying about and chasing the outcomes (paces, power, speed, etc) of training – you cannot control these things at that point in time, but you can control your awareness.

Why not start a simple diary. Make notes of the session type(s) on the day, how it felt:

  • What did you physically sense – in your muscles, joints, etc
  • What did your mind do – did it try to give up, at what point? Did it keep drifting off, in an attempt to think about life events, etc
  • How did you felt before/after?
  • Are you recovering effectively – eating /drinking well, sleeping well

Genuine fatigue or laziness?

How do we know if we are genuinely tired or being lazy?

You know! Your awareness and instinct will have told you! It may be such a powerful sense before a session, that indicates you are not going to benefit from even starting, or it might be confirmed mid-session. If in doubt, start the session, work through the warm up, maybe start the main set, then reassess the messages you are feeling. Are you now feeling good, the blood has been flowing, hormones released, and you are strong enough to complete the session? If so, you may have been tired, but your mind was being lazy! If not, you still feel tired, weak or not “connected”, you are genuinely tired!

By following the above assessment, you will gain consistency. Consistency in the long term not short term. Know when to ease back and when to push on so you can be consistent over the long run.


Those that succeed are successful because of their awareness and mindset. They trust and listen to their body and make correct choices – maybe not all perfect (everyone makes mistakes) – but they are better than most.

Rumination sabotage example:

Background – training load has progressively built over weeks and months, but now an external variable (stress) has increased – new baby, lack of sleep, extra work hours, hot weather, loss of appetite and reduced fuel intake, general under eating, family / relationship issues

Awareness – “I feel tired / weak, my arms/legs are not moving smoothly (swimming form, bike position or running form feels off), my muscles are feeling tight, I am hungry, etc”

Negative rumination – “if I skip this session or cut it short and don’t do the prescribed intervals I will miss out on valuable training load, and there’s not another STOMP/threshold set until next week! I’ll damage my chance of building peak fitness; I just need to suck it up and train”

Action – train as in the schedule. Pushing harder than your body is able to sustain on that particular day. Overreaching, to hit training figures (power, pace, etc – which we DON´T prescribe),

Short term side effects – the session goes BADLY, you become angry / frustrated / disappointed at your performance. You become irritable with others (grumpy!), excessively hungry, thirsty, tired and loss of focus throughout the day, poor sleep quality when you do try to sleep, aches and pains

Long term side effects – you become too tired to perform in the following days / weeks, causing a drop in performance, you become ill (chronic fatigue, viruses, etc), pick up an injury, you slip into depression, you may gain / lose weight, breakdown relationships, etc.

Not a good outcome, from a simple choice to ignore your awareness and take it easy / skip ONE session!