In the age of smartphones, Garmin devices and software that can measure everything from your heart rate to the watts you’re pumping out, the question still remains: how do you view progress? Is it all digital? Empiric?
Or can you feel it?
Yesterday afternoon while Sue and I were out on a zippy one-hour bike ride in the last sunlit hours of the day, I had nothing on my bike to measure my speed or effort. My cyclometer was still buried in a bag somewhere in the house after our training trip to North Carolina. My cell phone had Strava tracking every increase and decrease in speed, but it was was tucked safely in the back pocket of my kit. I’d read it all later.
But yesterday I could feel the difference in my fitness. Those miles climbing the mountains in North Carolina had really helped. My legs were stronger.
Sue could sense the difference too. She was perched on her Specialized Shiv in aero position, a position from which she typically leads. But I felt good, and was doing pulls into the wind and holding our tempo. We traveled a strip of road that hosts a Strava segment and it was nice later on to see the results all digitally delivered in a neat little package on the screen. But what’s more important than numbers on an app is the feeling in the legs that tells you there is more to give.
That’s where the real racing occurs. That’s what the real results come about.
The same sense of change happened in the pool this morning. For the first time ever, I slipped into the water and swam with confidence and strength from the warmup of 400 meters to every single interval I did. There were many moments when the pull phase of my stroke was increased in terms of force and rapidity and it didn’t produce fatigue. My long intervals of 400 and 200 meters dropped in relative time from all previous workouts. I could feel the progress.
Then I did some 50s at a pace 8-10 seconds faster that I’d previously been able to maintain. Between the stroke training I’ve been doing and continually improving my form––the elbows need to come up a little and the volume of training too–– I am actually improving as a swimmer on all fronts. Endurance. Confidence Speed.
In training for sports that require all these things, the process is like merging disparate clouds of control into one dominant vision. Only then can you focus on the light within. And that’s important. Some portion of our success is always based on our wellspring of emotion and thought. We must first dream the idea, translate the inspiration in to goals, then respond to these expectations in the moment. That is how opportunity becomes reality.
In the pool this morning with the narrow focus of bright blue water and spirited bubbles around me at all times, the little screen on my Timex Ironman watch was all it took to know the feelings of power and endurance I was having were not imaginary.
The moral here is clear: It’s fine to use devices to gauge and view your progress. But those gadgets are not the cause of your improvement. They don’t make you faster on their own. That comes from within; the fibers of your muscles, oxygen in your lungs and the power of your brain to sense what is going on in your body.
That’s all part of the feel, and how you truly measure progress.
Now go for it.