You may have heard the saying, "You get out of it what you put into it." That holds true for so many things we do in life especially if you're an athlete. Athletes in a more full-time position are training about twice a day, we'll say cumulatively 6 hours. That's only a quarter of the day. Of all the time in a day, we're only putting in 6 hours?
I guess you could say success is training is 25% and 75% recovery.
What I like about my current training situation is the ability to focus without too many distractions. Ever since high school, I have brought an immense amount of intensity into my training. That intensity has cooled off a bit over the years because to be honest, having that kind of intensity every day for 10+ years is pretty exhausting both mentally and physically. I'm also not a young, spry high school kid anymore.
I recently told a group of high school track athletes that one of the things that separated me from my competitors was my intensity.
In high school, I had two realizations. I realized my sophomore year that I could be good enough to earn a D1 track scholarship and in my Junior year I realized I could be an Olympian. To make those dreams come true, I became obsessed with my sport and did everything I could to be great.
I became more and more isolated by the time my Jr. and Sr. year came around. Occasionally, I would lift at 0 period. I wore my throwing shoes to school and performed drills in between classes. My throws coach my senior year was also my history teacher for 4th period. Often before class started, in class, and post class, we would discuss technique and training. I ate my lunch quickly in the locker room with the PE teachers, got the key to the weight room, and trained during my lunch period. I had 6th period sports PE where I would get in more lifting. After school, track started and I would train until sunset, eat dinner, then head to my coach's house to lift Monday, Wednesday, and Friday only to wake up and do it all again the next day. I competed, I read books, I went to camps, I went to clinics, I bought my own equipment, watched videos, and did everything to get to the point where I was the best and to earn a full-ride scholarship to compete against the best, and train with and under the best in the USA and the world.
I realized early on that other athletes did not have this same dedication or intensity. It used to and still does bother me. If you're going to compete in a sport, why not try and go all of the way with it? In high school, people took time off for spring and winter breaks, holidays, and dances. There were athletes who chose not to go to the State Championships because prom was that weekend. You can dress up and be fancy any time in your life. Sometimes, competitive opportunities come around once in a lifetime so you better take them.
When I competed in collegiate athletics, I didn't like the "college scene." We lived across the street from the frat houses. I remember the huge messes that would come from crawfish boils and the noisy parties. There were athletes and regular college kids that did underage drinking and went to parties. None of which I was interested in or participated in. I went into the situation believing everyone had the same mentality as me. We are here to become the best. I quickly realized that some people find "making the team" the pinnacle of their athletic career. They are OK with not having personal records or qualifying for meets. A lot of times, athletes seem to be competing just to have school paid for.
But what do athletes like that get out of the sport? They get out of it what they put into it. It all starts in the mind. If the athlete is talented and has the desire, the fight, and the intensity to do whatever they can do to become successful, they will be. If not, they won't be. The saying "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard" applies here. I have seen talented athletes come and go because they weren't willing to give it all they had.
Athletes that should be resting over the weekend but go on ski trips, play other recreational sports, cliff jumping, multi-mile length hikes, drink excessively, stand on their feet in heels all day, sleep too much, or not eat well enough tend to not be so successful. They come in on Monday all tired, malnourished, and end up being extremely frustrated. These same athletes tend not to go to bed at a decent time, eat enough, take their supplements, or generally have a good mentality going into training.
I had one team mate who wasn't working but he was training once a day in the afternoon. "I don't like training like this I just feel like..." I filled in the blank. "It feels like your whole day is gearing up for this one moment?" Well, if you want to be a great athlete, qualify for teams, and have personal records at competitions, you have to embrace the idea of everything you do is gearing up for "this one moment."
That's a lot of pressure, mental, physical, and financial stress to place on yourself. The athletes who can handle this kind of life, tend to truly be great. I cannot profess to be perfect at everything all the time but, from experience and training under and with those with the experience, I know what it takes.
The intensity and sacrifice you have for the 6 hours of training a day needs to be transferred into the rest of your life. The remaining 18 hours are what make the difference in making those 6 little hours successful. Time management, sacrifice, and sometimes creativity are all important factors.
I believe it all starts in your mind. If you want it, you'll find a way. If you have to pay a friend to get you groceries because you don't have time, not hanging out with your friends because you need a break, buying gym clothes over regular clothes, adding extra meat to everything, doing ab work at home because you forgot to at the gym, the books you read, the things you watch, the people to date, the people you associate with, the music you listen to, the jobs you take. the course load you take at school, what/when/how much you eat/drink, and so much more all constitute as that last 75% of the day.
Final thought: 100% of the day is vital; so make the most of it so you can gear up for that "one moment" on your training or career.