This article was originally published on Paddlechica.com.
We train hard. We go to practice. We remain focused. We set goals. We work hard to achieve them. Yet inevitably there are things standing in our way, preventing us from improving at the rate we would like to. All too often, we focus on the things we think we need, rather than things we need to get rid of. Perhaps it’s time to take a look at things to eliminate in our life in order to see the improvements we so desperately desire.
Here is a list of 10 things to let go of in order to be a better paddler:
1) Your Comfort Zone
Nothing great ever happened inside a comfort zone. Let go of the need to feel comfortable or secure. Work to push your own limits. Don’t let your comfort zone be your own personal prison, trapping you on a treadmill of mediocrity. Scared of getting on an OC? Push yourself to try it out with your coach or someone you feel safe with nearby. Worried about taking that intense circuit training class at the gym? Challenge yourself, holding on to the knowledge that you can only grow from the experience.
2) Your Ego
If you think you are better than everyone else, there is no room for improvement. Let go of your ego and open yourself up to learning. You are on a team for a reason. If you think you are above the rest, perhaps you should be competing in an individual sport.
3) Negative Self-Talk
Telling yourself that you can’t do it or that you suck creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sure, we all have training sessions that don’t go as well as we’d like, but focusing on your shortcomings or downfalls will only serve to highlight those issues. Let go of all those negative comments you say to yourself. Instead, develop self-talk that involves an element of positivity while recognizing where there is room for growth. Acknowledge some of the things you are doing right while working on one or two problem areas at a time.
4) Limiting Beliefs
Believing that you will never get better at paddling or that you will never make your club’s race crew, for example, has no place in your development as a paddler. Let go of these limiting beliefs. Instead, set pragmatic goals and work towards achieving them in a realistic time frame.
Limiting beliefs also lead to inflexibility. Paddlers can get locked into a mindset that is detrimental to their own growth. Consider a paddler who believes that he or she belongs in seat 1 or 2, for instance. This paddler is not encouraging himself or herself to experience other positions on the boat simply due to a fixed mindset that there is one specific location on the boat reserved for him or her. Not only is this a coach’s nightmare, but it is extremely restricting to a paddler’s development. Learning how to paddle in a variety of locations on the boat can only benefit your paddling in the long run.
5) Comparing Yourself to Others
Paddlers come in all shapes and sizes. It is unlikely that anyone on your team has the exact same physique as you. Some of us have long limbs, others have a long torso, some have broad shoulders, others have giant muscles. We all learn to use our body in the best way that we can to help move the boat. If I compare myself to someone who can deadlift twice their body weight, I’ll never feel good about myself. Let go of your inclination to compare yourself to others and acknowledge your own strengths.
Spending your time grumbling about things that you are dissatisfied with is a huge waste of energy. Let go of the complaints. Put your effort towards something productive like training. Doing 10 burpees will give you more gains in the long run than whining about the workout or the race crew selection.
We are all scared of things. It’s human nature to have fears. But quite often those fears are preventing us from any kind of growth. I have known paddlers who are afraid to try the OC because they are scared to fall in the water. Others are scared to time trial because they are afraid to not be the best. These fears are inhibiting their development, which will keep them at a stagnant level. If your goal is to be better, your desire has to outpace your fears.
There will always be someone better than you and there will always be someone worse than you. Get over it. It may not be on your team, or even in your area, but you are not the worst paddler who ever existed. If you spend your time feeding your insecurities, you are wasting energy you could have used in training. Let go of your insecurities and instead work towards personal gains.
OK, I’ll admit that I’ve been envious of another team’s cool jerseys or a teammate’s awesomely light OC1, but being envious of another paddler’s talents and ability will never be productive. You are you. Develop your own strengths independent of others, yet within the boundaries of the team. It takes 20 paddlers to move a boat. It’s not the NBA. No one is a superstar. The best paddler on the boat cannot win a race by himself or herself. Turn your feelings of envy into admiration and use that person as a role model for where you want to be in a year or two. Use them as a resource for ways to improve your own technique and training.
Giving excuses, whether to yourself, your teammates, or your coach, is not productive. Making justifications for everything gives the message that you are too lazy to do the work and would rather spend your energy on creating explanations. Most likely your coach sees through excuses. Your teammates probably do, too. More often than not, the only one you are trying to fool is yourself. Instead, when you are inclined to give an excuse as an attempt to justify something, ask yourself why it is you feel the need to give an explanation. And then challenge yourself to push past that and persevere.
So, don’t just target the things that you need when it comes to paddling. Consider the things that you need to get rid of. It’s never easy to break habits, but eliminating these ten things from your life will certainly help you to become a better, more focused paddler.