With the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games kicking off this month, I’ve been thinking about what we can learn from elite athletes. Most elite athletes have impeccable self control and never think twice about the sacrifices they make to reach their goals. Elite athletes make a point of eating healthy, getting enough sleep and ensuring that they’re recovered from their training. A big piece of the self control puzzle is adequate planning. Ask any successful track athlete what they have planned for the day and they will probably tell you down to the minute.
Researchers, specifically Dr. Kathleen Martin Ginis, have looked at self control closely and determined that individuals have a finite amount of self control. Think of it as the gas gauge on a car, once you’re on empty, you’re not going to be moving forward. The trick with self control is to incorporate healthy choices into your everyday routine, once something is a habit; it will take less mental strength to do it.
For example, if you have difficulty stretching as much as you should, ensure that you plan a time to do your stretching. If you don’t plan your stretching and you get home from work with your self control gauge on empty, you will not be stretching that evening.
There are many things that can deplete your self control in a day, like getting yourself out of bed, exerting patience with your boss, saying no to a treat that is offered to you, or writing an email you’ve been meaning to write instead of watching TV. Once a task becomes habitual, it no longer depletes your self control, which means that planning even the small things such as healthy eating, rest and stretching are important to all runners.
Choose something this week that you never seem to have enough self control to do and plan it into your day. Stick to this plan for a couple of weeks and get ready to reap the running benefits!