Slow down – and go faster

Last Friday I wenslowdownnotaracet to check out a new gym. I was surprised when I walked in. There weren’t dozens of people on loads of machines looking miserable or bored. This was a modest place; few mirrors, no sparkly machines, no nightclub music thumping out.  And – here’s the thing – the people there were all smiling. Even the ones with sweat pouring off them. I had to go in.

After talking to the Personal Trainer for a short time, doing a few warm-ups, and hammering the point that I was no Bear Grylls, we got into the session. He didn’t give me a run through of what was ahead. He simply said we would do a series of exercises and he would time me. Time me? I attempted a smile. I’m not sure I pulled it off.

The rowing, weights and squats it turned out, were the easy bits. The push-ups and sled pull finished me off. My heart was thumping. I was gasping for air. The water bottle was draining fast. My trainer had clearly missed the message or I had stumbled into a secret SAS training camp.

A few minutes later when I could actually speak again, he asked me how I thought I had gone. Too spent to put up any bravado I simply said I was amazed I had been able to finish at all. My brain had stopped worrying about failure and had simply focused on what needed doing.

Imagine my delight when he told me I had come in well under the time he had set me.

Imagine my despair when he told me I had to do it all again. And faster this time. No chance, my brain said. No chance at all.

Immediately I started to focus my mind on the hardest bits and start worrying all over again. With perfect timing, he said two magic words to me. Slow down.

As I went through the circuit again he paced me, getting me to slow down my running, take a quick pause between each activity and remember to take on water as I went. My second time was even faster.

Don’t get me wrong – I was still exhausted the second time. But not only had I done the circuit twice when I seriously doubted I could do it at all. I had done it faster. Faster! And my recovery was much better this time round too.

Many simple truths can be found in life’s everyday experiences. These from the gym:

  • Fully focus on the task at hand before moving on to the next one. Take a pause before you do to reset and refocus.
  • Pace yourself – life’s circuits just keep coming and you don’t always know how long they will be. Hold a bit in reserve until you see the summit – then throw yourself across it.
  • Keep up the ‘fuel’ reserves. Don’t skip the things that keep you (and your brain) moving. Breakfast, lunch, water – been missing those lately?
  • Have a buddy with you on the journey – your own personal trainer to help pace, motivate, and even save you from yourself when you need it.
  • Sometimes its best not to know how hard something is before you start.
  • You can achieve more than you ever thought possible when you least expect it.

The leaders I work with are doing ‘circuits’ day-in day-out in some shape or form. Is this true for you as well?

Try slowing down – you might be surprised how fast you can go and what you can achieve.

With thanks to Scot Auty from the Results Room who reminded me how to slow down.
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