Segueing from the previous article on complacency and contentment, this is a similar concept that can serve valuable in competition both amongst others and sometimes internally.
We only experience from our first-person perspective, so it only makes sense that this is where your mind resorts to a place of adversity. Think about a tough workout or a race when at some point where can’t ignore the feeling of the burn in your legs or lungs, the heart rate climbing, that stitch in your gut or side, or a twinge of a cramp coming on. It happens to the best of us!
But there’s a saying, “Misery loves company.” I hate to use it because of the negative connotation of misery, but it gets the point across concisely. If you were to know that someone else was in the exact same shoes as you, it’s often somewhat relieving that you share this with someone else.
The funny thing is; someone is almost always in the same position!
In a race, someone just ascended that exact same challenging climb or tackled the technical section that forced you to focus with all your wits, and if not before someone behind will soon be. In training, it’s likely that someone has faced a similar interval, workout, or experience. The heart rate, the metabolic byproducts, the muscle soreness, the raspy breathing, etc., and they have likely endured and surpassed the dip (see my other article on that) or have thrown in the towel for another day.
The key is just the act of knowing someone else, especially in that moment, which helps you disassociate from your own level of discomfort.
I witnessed this 1st-hand at a practice where in the same mock race simulation; each person was dealing with their own struggle. One had a calf cramp, another a side stitch, and another a stomach cringe. They all thought they were the only ones dealing with this when in fact, they were all battling their own demons. But once they all came together and realized that all the others were struggling in their own respective ways, everyone seemed to be eased by the mutual struggles and just get back to work.
Did the cramps go away magically or was it just highlighted when that’s all the individual could focus on? Or did the sharing of discomfort with others mute the level of mental focus allocated to the issue?
I’d bet on the latter!
Your bubble of discomfort is sometimes tough to pop, but once you do you can focus on other actionable items within your bubble of control. Think back to the examples of actionable items that brought the riders back in contact with one another from the 1st article. This doesn’t negate the fact that an individual is still working hard or feeling the effects; it simply takes the limited mental capacity and allocates it to something in the moment that will make a positive difference instead of the possible negative or no difference at all.
In your next moment of self-loathing, try to get out of your head and into someone else’s; whether it’s real or not. Placebos are a strong medicine! The first step is to consider things like, “they are suffering up there, ” they are cramping”, “they’re dry-mouthing in this heat/dust” or “they’ve suffered on this workout; I will as well.” But it’s not enough to just quit there, but to then employ the action steps of what you can do like, “I’ll power up playing to my strengths”, “drink/eat now so when I catch them I’ll have the energy to go, ” or “settle in where I’m capable and finish this segment.”
Once you place yourself in control of your actions in real-time, then only you control the outcome. Not the other way around.