The focus of this piece is tied into three principles behind preparation. #1 focused on estimating the investment that you are willing to make. This write-up will further detail Principle #2: Emulate the variables.
By emulating the variables under which you’ll be performing, you are rehearsing the feelings, thoughts, and emotions connected with those variables. This can be useful for any performance context. Giving a speech? Practice in front of the mirror for 5 minutes. Then rehearse it for your family or friends. Before you know it, you’re ready. Another term to describe this is voluntary graduated exposure.
In the military, they incorporate stress inoculation. Extensive situational training, and physical fitness can be used as ways to elevate the stress threshold of the soldiers in-training. By gradually increasing the stressors experienced in training, it might help enhance performance during combat. To read more, read this: Enhancing Performance Under Stress. Remember, it is incremental. Too much too soon, and you’re riding the risk of either burnout or injury.
Lynne Cox implemented this strategy, which helped her conquer the unknown. In 1987, she swam 2 miles from the U.S. to the Soviet Union as a way to bridge together two age-old enemies. She received recognition from both Gorbachev & Reagan. In addition to that, Cox has completed swims all across the world, many of which have been completed in near-freezing cold waters (even sub-32 degrees F). Perhaps, what made these feats incomprehensible is that Cox completed them in just a swimsuit, cap, and goggles. When training for such frigid swims, Cox had to adapt. While her threshold for cold water has been researched by scientists New Yorker “A Dip in the Cold”, Lynne Cox still feels and understands cold.
I would stand up to my waist in the the water and think ‘O gosh, this is really cold.’ Then, the next day, I would swim for 20 minutes. Then, the next day I would do 25. It was about getting to that edge where you know you did it. Then, come back tomorrow and do a little bit more.
Another prime example of emulating comes from Dr. Stephanie Howe-Violett. A successful veteran in ultramarathon running, Howe-Violett has a route she utilizes as a barometer for physical and mental readiness. One loop is 5 miles up and 5 down. She runs three them, totaling 30 miles. While the distance is certainly significant, it’s the setup that matters. Her vehicle marks the end and the beginning of each loop. Why might this matter? It serves as a visual cue that represents her ticket home. No matter how negative her thoughts become or fatigued that she might feel, she keeps going. That is critical in an ultramarathon, when you have the willpower to call it a day at any given point throughout the race. While a 30-mile training run is a physical endeavor, her approach allows her to prepare for the adversities that will inevitably flare up late in a 100-mile race. She knows that she can keep going.
One thing I do is I practice being comfortable while being uncomfortable. I do a 30-mile training run consisting of 3 loops. At the beginning and end of each loop, I pass my car. It’s so easy to stop. I just kind of practice not wanting to go up another time.
In conclusion, we can all practice being comfortable while being uncomfortable. By emulating the environment under which you’ll be performing, and doing so in an incremental manner, you will be providing yourself the opportunity for success when the day arrives. Yes, an opportunity does not mean a guarantee, but guarantees don’t make for great stories.
In next week’s piece, I’ll be wrapping up the 3 E’s with #3: Evaluate the process and the progress along the way. If you so choose, feel free to provide any feedback. Any and all commentary is welcomed!
Oh & here is a pic from sharing this last weekend at the Conference for Performance Psychology down in San Diego!
Onward & forward, Tyler Baxley