The Seven Behaviors of Highly Successful Athletes
There are many behaviors which lend themselves to successful training outcomes. For the purposes of this column however, I'll focus on seven behaviors which I believe are tantamount for unprecedented levels of success:
1) Delayed Gratification. It has been said that the pain of self-discipline weighs ounces; while the pain of neglect weighs tons. Maturity is defined by the willingness to sacrifice now in order to experience a greater outcome in the future. This applies especially to nutrition and supplementation, since the positive outcomes of a sound nutritional program take weeks, if not months, to experience.
2) Consistency. Training is a form of motor learning, and learning requires repetition. Training consistency can be dramatically enhanced through a variety of techniques, but one of the most powerful methods is also the simplest: scheduling.
There is a VAST difference between thinking “Tomorrow I’m going to work out.” and “My workout is between 7-8am tomorrow morning.” In the first case, you might have a vague time-frame in mind, say 8:00am. However, by 7:30, you’re behind schedule, so you reason to yourself that you’ll train after work. Then, by the time you leave work, you realize that you didn’t bring your gym clothes with you, so you think “I’ll just train after dinner.” And of course, after dinner, you’re tired and distracted by the television, and guess what? You missed your workout! Now, you might rationalize that you’ll just do the workout tomorrow instead. This leads you to the incorrect assumption that you simply rescheduled your workout rather than skipping it, which is exactly what you did.
On the other hand, knowing that you have a workout (or a meal) scheduled at an exact time, you’ll be much more likely to prepare for and keep your appointment. If you DO fail to keep to the schedule, you’ll be much more likely to feel a sense of consequence for your decision.
3) Goal-Directedness. The failure to develop goal-directed behavior accounts for more failure than all other causes combined. Most people understand that goals much be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-referenced (S.M.A.R.T.), however, many people fail to carefully weigh the benefits of achieving the goal versus what must be sacrificed. If, upon careful inspection, you are deeply convinced that the benefits justify the sacrifices, you'll create the psychic and emotional fuel necessary to sustain your motivation when the going gets rough (as it inevitably does!).
4) The Autotellic Mindset. Autotellic people do things primarily for their own intrinsic value, whereas exotellic people do things primarily for the secondary, external reward. In my experience, autotellic athletes are far better able to sustain their motivation. The take home lesson is this: people who just LOVE to train go much further than those who just want to look better.
5) Open-Mindedness. Closed-mindedness is, in my opinion, a genetically-ingrained survival trait. Thousands of years ago, a Neanderthal man looked under a rock and found some grubs to eat. The technique obviously had value, and it made more sense to look under more rocks than it did to look up in the trees. But for this Neanderthal to go beyond mere survival, he should in fact look up in the trees, for if he did, he might find better food choices. In many ways, athletes are the same way. At some point in their athletic careers, they are convinced to train in a certain way, and because this way lead to a certain degree of success, they now pronounce this “way” as the “only way.” So remain receptive to new ideas, because usually, the thing you’re looking for is where you aren’t looking!
6) Fatigue Management. We LOVE to feel fragged after a workout, so much so that subconsciously, we tend to actually modify the workout to produce more post-workout fatigue, rather than to permit a better training performance. When you’re trying to do gradually more and more work from session to session, fatigue-management skills are essential. I’ll address several unique Q2 fatigue management strategies for an upcoming column.
7) Lifestyle. Many athletes spend untold hours examining and re-examining their training, nutrition, and supplement schedule, while at the same time completely ignoring the fact that their life is antagonistic to their training efforts, rather than supportive of them. Late night partying, exhausting job schedules (I know what you’re thinking here, but jobs CAN be changed if you have a good-enough reason), and general inefficiency can wreak havoc on the best laid plans.
Putting The Concepts Into Action
Where to go now you’re wondering?
Here’s my suggestion to anyone who’s serious about optimizing their training-related behaviors is to do a simple self-evaluation inventory. After giving it some careful thought, make a list of your 3 most destructive behaviors. Rank them from best to worst. Next, consider the root causes and possible remedies for these behaviors. Can you develop substitutes or alternatives?
That’s your homework for now. In future articles, I’ll share more Q2 (pronounced “Q-squared) principles and strategies that I’ve used with unprecedented results with my athletes.
About The Author:
Charles Staley, B.Sc., MSS: His colleagues call him an iconoclast, a visionary, a rule-breaker. His clients call him “The Secret Weapon” for his ability to see what other coaches miss. Charles calls himself a “geek” who struggled in Phys Ed throughout school. Whatever you call him, Charles' methods are ahead of their time and quickly produce serious results. His counter-intuitive approach and self-effacing demeanor have lead to appearances on NBC’s The TODAY Show and The CBS Early Show. Find Charles online at http://www.CharlesStaley.com