I really enjoy outdoor pursuits and over the last year I have been able to do some incredible events from spending 5 days running across a desert, completing multiple half-Ironman races, Ironman Austria, running a sub 3hr marathon in London, a podium finish in a half marathon and soon to take on the Bermuda Triathlon, Valencia Marathon, OMM and Spine Challenger! Throughout the year my performances have been improving and personally I have been really happy (against my goals). I was looking at some of the data and realised two patterns that I feel relate to how we can approach our wellbeing and mental health:
1. Consistency. As Phil Clapp (international sailor and rowing world record holder) once said to me 'If you wish to be a master of your field, consistency will enable you to operate past the level of natural skill'. I also realised how happy I feel generally from setting a goal and being consistent with my effort toward it. At the heart of it I don't think humans like uncertainty! The graph below shows my consistent increase in minutes of running over the last 16 months followed by a decrease to allow myself to recover (physically and mentally) and go again. The level of intensity follows the same trend. Consistency will look different to all of us but I seem to have found what good looks like for me, at the moment.
2. Just because you are not feeling great doesn't mean the process isn't working! For each of my training sessions I collect a huge number of data points automatically through my watch (I don't look at many of them!) however I also reflect after each session and right down how I felt and any observations that lead to that feeling. A basic score of 1 (weak) to 5 (strong) followed by the detail i.e. didn't sleep well, busy day at work, haven't fuelled etc. The graph below is taken from my 7 week training period leading into London marathon and demonstrates how I was feeling week by week. There are clear dips throughout the period (you will notice a week is missing, that was a deload week so did not count it!) and at the time I felt like I was going backwards. In reality it was all part of the process and come race day I overachieved in my Marathon performance (2hrs57!). A PB of 15 minutes in 7 weeks!
It is important to also note another key part to this. Trust and Leadership. The consistency was enabled by having a coach helping me with the plan. I am no expert on training so to have the trust of someone leading me and giving me this consistent platform was key to moving forward, especially when things did not feel good. Thanks to Sam Village, Sarah Halfnight and Tomoki Trees for this leadership!
On reflection I think we can apply this to how we approach wellbeing and mental health personally and in the workplace. There was a study conducted that concluded 'during stressful times, consistency heightens performance and wellbeing'. These are my suggestions to help build a foundation for improving wellbeing and mental health:
- Have a manageable plan (this will look different for everyone)
- Understand the 'why' and 'goal' behind your plan (in the above my why was to show myself my ability to be consistent without much certainty and the goal was a specific time to each race)
- Be consistent
- Have trust in those setting the plan (if you are the leader you must lead by example and have your own support)
- If it is for yourself or others, appreciate that needs are personal (one size fails all!)
- Measure performance and analyse to help improve
- Trust the process as progress takes time
- Have the right environment around you (where possible)
I caveat all of this with noting that life changes and we cannot control everything however I do believe if we have this as a starting point we will be in the best position to be as healthy and happy as possible.