By Jess Rego on March 1, 2018
A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to meet with Andy Bruce of ACB Coaching and while we walked into it thinking we’d be focusing on how to ramp up our physical training while avoiding injury (something I’ve been plagued with!) we ended up speaking about the much more complex issue of mental preparation.
Over and over again we’ve heard the mantra that getting to the start line is the hardest part and so far it’s seeming to be true - although I haven’t rowed an ocean yet so maybe I’ll change my tune then! We have to juggle so many things right now; from workouts to fundraising and event planning, it’s a full time job on top of our full time jobs. It’s exhausting and frustrating at times and inevitably leads to high tensions and bad days at times.
Right now it feels like when things get rough we all back away for a bit, regroup, focus and get back on it. That’s just how we’re taught to deal with things in life. Mediate and bite your tongue until things blow over. But Andy had a different take on things.
Because at sea when the watermaker’s broken and there are 40 foot waves hammering you and you’ve only had an hour’s sleep since your last 2 hour shift you won’t have the luxury of taking a time-out and waiting for it to blow over. This is a physically exhausting race but the mental toll of never being able to stop is the real obstacle. I get unbearably crabby if I miss a snack - can you imagine how much of a nightmare I’ll be when I can’t keep any food down because of sea sickness?
But the fact of the matter is that despite how awful a human I can be when I’m hungry, the others don’t have the option to throw me overboard when we disagree. We’re in this together and we need each other to make it to the finish line. Which means we might need to make things a little uncomfortable as we work towards the start.
In addition to just spending lots of time together Andy also suggested something a little… controversial for us. Point out each others flaws. Sit down and have an honest conversation about what we feel our own and each others weaknesses are. Not only will that probably be the most emotionally charged and difficult conversation to have but it also gives us a chance to really examine our strengths.
It’s not an easy conversation to have though. These are my closest friends. We’re on this incredible adventure together and I don’t want to alienate anyone or cause bad blood. Not only is it hard not to take criticism personally but it’s also so difficult to say harsh truths to people you love. We as humans are much more inclined to hurting ourselves than others and it goes against our nature to welcome that opportunity. We must try to remember that observations aren’t judgement, and our own opinions and emotions are just as valid as the feelings of others. We all need to feel comfortable talking about these things now so when we get on the boat we’re fully prepared to handle whatever the race throws at us.
Thanks to Andy for encouraging us to break through the social norms and push the boundaries of polite. We haven’t had our breakdown pow-wow yet but as soon as it happens I’m sure we’ll be right on the phone to thank (or berate!) you for suggesting it.
In the meantime we’ll keep testing our limits as we deal with the frustrations and elations that come with trying to row an ocean. From the most disappointing days to the ones we’re on cloud nine we’ll aim to bring you all along with us on this journey and be as honest with you all as we are with one another.
Andy is a UKSCA Accredited Strength & Conditioning Coach and a NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. The founder of ACB Coaching, Andy specialises in coaching psychology, sport psychology, eating disorders and obesity.
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