Avid Marathoner Ranjini Gupta gives us an insight into what it takes for a runner to be on the podium.
In competitive sport, a podium is a raised platform, where individuals or teams who finish in the top three positions are rewarded. Many athletes aspire to get here but having just an aspiration good enough…..let’s find out.
- Aspiration: Define your goal. Do you have the ambition or desire to step on that podium? It’s only when there is a need or desire or drive, that you will start to explore ways and means to get there. This acts as a catalyst for other attributes.
- Dedication: Are you ready to commit yourself to the task?
Day in and day out, you will need to put in the effort required to get there, beyond the boundaries of all those excuses in your mind and/or your physical being. As athletes, you must be prepared for delayed gratification. Remember the saying, ‘It takes 10 years to become an overnight success”.
- Persistent Effort: Now this a subject, which can be a topic by itself because it carries with it many variables – quantity, frequency, and type. In other words, the amount of effort you put into your workouts, the number of times you decide to do workouts in a week, the kind of workouts you choose, will play a major role in deciding how diligently and effectively you achieve the goal. You need to be mindful of the direction of the effort you put. It should take you one step closer to your goal. Even the effort you make in eating the right quality and quantity of food or the effort you take to rest and recover well from hard days of training plays a crucial role.
Many a time we have read or heard of stories of two people who started off their journey at the same time. One, however, makes it big and the other is still struggling to get there….. ‘Continuous Effort’ – that makes the difference.
First, you need to have a goal in mind. Then you need to commit yourself to that goal. Next, you need to put in deliberate practice to achieve that goal. By Deliberate practice,I mean a purposeful and systematic practice that requires focused attention which is specific to your goal and works towards improving your performance relative to your goal.
- SWOT analysis:Do a strength, weakness, opportunity and threats analysis of yourself vis a vis the sport you are in. The foremost thing is you should be aware of yourself, only then can you work towards getting better.
Build on your strength: Every athlete, irrespective of where they are in their journey, will have a set of underlying strength. You need to feed that and work towards building on it. It will have a positive effect on the other variables and help you stay strong.
Be aware of your weaknesses: Awareness is first, followed by a focused effort to overcome this aspect. Taking the help of a coach and or mentor here would also be a good idea.
Look out for opportunities:You need to keep your eyes, ears and most importantly your mind open to learning(and/or unlearn if need be) and to capitalize on any insights that come your way to help improve your performance. It could be in the form of a workshop conducted by a good coach or a symposium which would impart knowledge on your sport…. why many a time your training partners or coach could be giving you valuable feedback after a session which if implemented well could enhance your performance.
Be watchful of threats:you could encounter along the way. The risk of an injury which will cause downtime in your training could be one aspect or the pressures from work or home front which hinder your training or the weather conditions on the day of a key race you have been training for. You need to have a mitigation plan at least for some of those of variables which are within your control.
- Mindset: The cliché “sports is 90% mental and 10% physical“often does the rounds in athletic circles. Yet not many take mental training aspect as seriously as it should be taken. Along with physically training yourself for the big race, every training session, you need to mentally train yourself. Positive attitude during training, staying consistent with the training throughout the season, your persistence to lace up and show up – even when things don’t go your way, self-talk to regulate your thoughts and feeling on how you are going to approach training and race day, visualization to prepare your mind and body for a peak performance on the big day, be open to constructive criticism and have the willingness to learn and understand the nuances of the sport by consulting with coaches, mentors, senior athletes, training partners, your physical therapist or nutritionist. Believe that there is always something for you to learn. Having a growth mindset that the possibilities for you to improve are infinite, if you put in the necessary effort, with focus, in the right direction, is far more rewarding than a fixed mindset.
- An attitude of gratitude: This one of the most important qualities to be possessed – Be grateful for your health and well-being, be grateful to your coach and training buddies, be grateful to your mentors who show you direction and be grateful to your family who supports your dreams. Many a time, during difficult moments in a race, start feeling thankful for being there, for being able to live your dream, for the support system you have and you will spontaneously notice you start easing into the run.
It’s not just enough to feel it, you need to show it. ‘Feeling gratitude and not expressing it, is like wrapping a present and not giving it’ – William Arthur Ward.
This by no means is an exhaustive list, yet, I have tried to mention a few aspects for you to think and start moving in the direction of your goals.
When one competes, one competes to win…….victory here could mean a lot of different things to different people like victory over a certain fear, victory of completing a challenging course against all odds, victory of clocking a particular time at a race, victory of coming out on the top of the list………..every finisher in a way, is a winner.
Strive to always bring a winning attitude and steady effort to practice and competition. When you toe the start line on race day, it should be your training that guides your success. Experience self-satisfaction knowing you have put in the required hard work to stand there at the start line and give the race your best shot. The fact that you went through the process of getting molded to be a better version of yourself, is your success. That itself makes you a Champion.
There are two types of athletes – those who seek awards, admiration, accolades above all else and those who truly love their sport and are driven to find out how to exploit their potential.
Be the latter with a mastery approach.
Be your own toughest competitor – get better than who you were the day before.
Know that failure can be a great teacher.
Don’t ever judge yourself by a race – that does not define who you are.
“A gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you’re not enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it.”
(From the movie Cool Runnings)
My submission would be, finish your race or event with a good performance, one where you have truly exploited your potential. Trust me, the podium is nothing but a byproduct of the process.