This topic made me think back to the days of Physics with the concept of Potential Energy. It’s stored and just waiting to be released. Think of being at the top of a hill on a bike just waiting for speed. And with some intent, we can turn that potential into kinetic (energy of motion) that will snowball down the desired side of that hill instead of backwards.
Have you ever heard someone eloquently speak and be drawn in. Likewise, have you heard someone that rattles on with reckless regard for a listening audience and you find yourself lost in the speed and not able to process or engage in the story. One difference is timing and small transitions of the space between phrases that allow you to take the story in like a sip of well-brewed coffee versus just chugging it down.
Take time to pause and let the statement soak in before moving on to the next topic.
I may be biased, but I believe sport translates to other areas of life and why it’s so important. And this speaking concept is a micro version of the transitions that happen both in both daily life and training that allow you to make the most of the current moment, go into the next task with clarity and in-general make the most of your productivity.
The value of transitions in sport is kinda a chicken or the egg scenario of which comes first. Do you have to have a well-executed life transition to have a successful training session? Or do you have to dial in training transitions to have positive life experiences? The answer is YES….both!
I was recently listening to a popular training podcast Fast Talk (that I’ve had the privilege to be a guest a few times) and one of their frequent guest coaches, Grant Hollicky mentioned this topic of transition with an example of his kids being required to be in the school building by 7:50 with a 10 minute transition period before the classes actually starting at 8.
How many of us actually operate this way giving ourselves that buffer or transition to move from outside the school to being in class? Or from being a parent to being on the clock. Especially with recent changes of working remotely blurring the lines between what is work life and what is home life.
The same goes for transitioning to performing. Not many can go from normal life like being a parent or a coworker to crushing watts in the blink of an eye. It takes some transitioning to be ready to perform. Although the more you successfully complete this “life to perform” process the quicker and more efficient you can flip that switch from one to the other.
What constitutes a transition? I’d beg to say nearly everything but more specifically the changing of significant roles in life, from sedentary to active, and locations (like the home to school example for the child above).
Think of walking in the door at home and immediately being bombarded by the next thing. I know that is often the reality of life, at least for me personally with 2 young kids and dog that always have stoke level at 100% upon entering. I wouldn’t have it any other way, but I also try to make it apparent to have 10 minutes to drop my bag and put things where they go and usually get my commuting things settled before engaging in that next thing. And prior to the commute home, did I segment the end of my work day with an adequate “wrap up” time allowing me to get all my things gathered up and ready to commute home. That requires taking a little mental inventory of any food containers, making sure I’ve got any things tidied up for next time I come in so I don’t walk into immediate chaos, preparing for the current outside conditions with clothing changes or lights, etc. It’s not just walking out the door.
This same process goes for “preparing to perform” (of which is an entire process that encompasses more than just the transition that I’ve written on here). Honestly for me being an athlete for so long, I often take this process for granted since it’s become a bit of autopilot. And if you can get to that point; great, but if not then it will just take a bit more intentional practice to engrain that process.
In my experience, frankly all the transitions prior to and after the session you expect your body to perform offer a cumulative effect. So this often means you can’t be a trainwreck all day, set aside an ideal transition just before the key session, and then hit the launch button and expect the best.
Maybe you’ll get through it and I can’t say I haven’t been guilty of this, but it’s less than ideal. Your body doesn’t really differentiate between the stress from exercise from other daily stressors. So if you’ve given it a healthy dose of sympathetic nervous system stimulating fight or flight by running late into meetings, pushing the window to make some deadlines and even not nourishing your body, then by the time you get to your workout…you may be fried.
And if that’s the case, then it may be better to do less, do nothing, or opt for a more PNS appealing session at least low intensity that doesn’t further stimulate the SNS.
But how do you set yourself up with these transitions? Not to sound Yogi, but just providing space. Being realistic with the time it takes for certain tasks, but also the time it takes you to switch between different tasks or locations.
Let’s just say specifically in our case, we’re focused on performing a workout. We’re not like Clark Kent and can just into our superman suite in any phone booth. We require changing into a cycling kit at a minimum. And let’s hope your bike is dialed and you didn’t just ride it hard and hang it up wet the session before. Because if so, you may need to clean & lube the chain, clean your suspension stanchions (if you’re a mtber) and likely pump up your tires (which is still good to check before rolling out every time anyways). On top of that you likely need to get some fluids both in you and on you for the actual session. And depending on session length, grabbing some calories either from mix in the bottles or stashing some in your pockets. These all take time. So if you think, I’m gonna ride at 5:00 on the dot, then you better have at least a 20-30 minute buffer or transition to get set up.
What about after? Do you need to be done by 6:30 to have family dinner? Then you can’t expect to ride a full 90 minutes because there’s not a transition from your superhero costume to normal family guy. Do you need to shower or do you just change and then shower after? Do you hope to clean and lube your chain so you aren’t rushed to start your next ride? So you can expect that transition to require at least another 15-30 minutes and more if you have any post activity rituals like stretching, checking your Strava leaderboards, posting any ride pics on the Gram, etc.
Just think of it, that is just a 2 hour window of an entire day to get a ride in. How can you be more realistic with all those transitions between scenarios to set yourself up for success?
I think of it like a rolling average where things you can do in this moment to set yourself up for future success. Can you do something the night before to make your morning roll more smoothly? Like sitting out your kit and making up your bottles so that’s less steps.
I find when I or others I let things slide and loaf, then it just compounds later with more stress incurred. So proactivity goes a long way to perform. There’s a quote I’ve heard “Poor planning on your part doesn’t necessitate an emergency on my behalf.” where in this case it’s your nervous system speaking up. Although your poor planning will be a requisite for your nervous system to trigger an emergency. That is until it’s burnt out or you just no longer care and thus no longer try to prioritize that transition or next task.
So to keep the body less primed and in a more parasympathetic state it’s imperative to build in transitions. And get this, if you don’t need them, you’ve just gotten extra time. Just be careful because like I do, I think, “oh I’ll do X since I’m early” where then X makes me overrun my transition and be pushing myself too close to make Y again.
I hope this helps because I’ll be honest; this is something I’m very bad at and constantly working to improve. But just like other areas of my coaching like performing skills, I get better and grow alongside athletes.