Having just completed the Olympic Trials in Track & Field, I found Garret Kramer’s book Stillpower extremely helpful in changing my mindset of how I enter and come out of races. One section that particularly hit home was idea of forcing thoughts verses letting thoughts flow.
“When Tiger (Woods) was young, his father constanty reminded him about the out-of-bounds stakes and water hazards that existed on all golf courses. As opposed to most sports psychologists or golf coaches who would instruct their players not to think about these hazards, Earl Woods knew that, from time to time, during a tournament, a thought about these danger spots was bound to pop into his son’s head. As a result, Tiger learned not to be duped by his own thoughts. Major championships followed.”
As a long distance runner, we sometimes have thoughts about whether we will physically be able to finish a workout or race. We all have thoughts of quitting. The difference lies in wether we dwell on this thought and take action on it, or wether we let the thought pass as quickly as it came. We have thousands of thoughts going through our minds all the time, and it’s okay to have fears. The key is recognizing it’s a thought that you do not have to act on. This spring I heard Billy Mills, the American 10k Olympic gold medalist in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, speak in person. He said that he thought about quitting ‘every lap’ of the 10k – that’s 25 laps. E-v-e-r-y single lap he thought about quitting. Often times, I think we try to force ourselves to be positive. When a negative thought enters our mind, we try to control it and shove it out. If we just allow ourselves to be who we are, and let the thoughts come and go, our mind actually becomes more still and peaceful. This is the theme of Stillpower, and it’s the biggest thing I took with me as I entered the Olympic Trials this past week. There seems to be a resurgence in the benefits of meditation and health in the media, and this book re-enforces many of those elements. I’d recommend Stillpower to all coaches, parents, and athletes looking to improve athletic performance or simply looking for a more peaceful way to live.