Peaks and Valleys:
I haven't paid the closest of attention to the olympics this year, however, I have kept up with them. So one morning I mentioned to my girlfriend how I was surprised that Ryan Lochte wasn't performing as well as people had hoped. Kailee (my girlfriend) was a competitive swimmer through middle and high school and had often analyzed swimmers technique during the olympic trials and had discussed them with me. As a Spinning Instructor, Group Exercise Instructor, and Certified Personal Trainer I like to learn all I can about health, fitness, training etc. So I enjoyed getting Kailee's and her Dad's perspective on swimming and sports that they'd participated in which I hadn't. But I digress. Kailee mentioned that she felt maybe Lochte was just in too many events and trying to push himself too hard. I thought about this and it made sense to me. I'd heard this sentiment echoed on sports radio and in some articles that I'd perused. That night I went over to Kailee's house and we discussed the olympics a little further. I wondered aloud if, possibly, Lochte's technique was possibly hampering him, since his technique and style of swimming was slightly different than the classic swimmer's. However, Kailee's Dad pointed out that Lochte's been swimming for so long and training so much that his technique is probably as close to automatic as they come. This made sense to me. But then an idea hit me.
Chris Carmichael of Carmichael Training Systems, had recently sent out an email talking about peaking at the right time in the season for your respective sport. Since Carmichael is primarily a cycling coach he used Mark Cavendish, the talented British Sprinter who was, at that time, competing in the Tour de France, and would be one of the favorites for a gold medal in the London Olympics. Carmichael said that he had wondered about why Cavendish didn't seem as strong as he usually appears in the Tour de France. Cavendish had won Stage 2 but didn't win another stage of the Tour until almost the end. But then Carmichael pointed out how this cycling season was so peculiar compared to others because of the olympics. Cyclists tend to tailor their racing and training schedules around a series of peaks in performance so that hopefully they reach higher and higher peaks so that their best performance is in the biggest event of the year. Whether that event is one of the Cycling Grand Tours, World Championships, or Olympics. Carmichael then reasoned that since Cavendish was such a heavy favorite to win Gold in London (home soil for him) he had probably tailored his training schedule so that he would ideally peak and have his best performance during the Olympic Road Race. Sprinters tend to have a much shorter peak period that other cyclists due to the intense high energy effort of an all out sprint at the end of a long 150 mile road race. This made sense to Carmichael and also to me.
So I remembered that newsletter and made the suggestion to Kailee and her Dad that maybe Ryan Lochte had peaked too early. He'd peaked at the Olympic Trials when he showed such dominance and became that heavy favorite to be the next Michael Phelps. Now, at a crucial time Lochte wasn't performing up to expectations. France's dramatic split second victory in the 400 meter Freestyle Relay made people pause and wonder what's wrong with Lochte. Then Lochte placed fourth (not even medaling) in the 200 meter Freestyle (an individual event) which he'd been heavily favored to win. Whether Lochte snaps out of this funk or doesn't we'll only know in each successive event. The possibility of peaking too early is always a danger to any athlete. But let's take this concept of peaking and look at it in different ways apart from the 2012 Olympics.
For me personally I know all too well about peaking at the right time. When I was in high school I always seemed to peak too early in the wrestling season until my senior year when it looked as though I might be able to peak at the right time. I had a heavy January wrestling schedule and tore up my opponents, winning big matches in dominating fashion. Finally, in late January I fell ill and tried to wrestle through it. I lost a match I probably should have won and then in the very next match I sprained my ankle so bad that I had to go to physical therapy and I missed the Conference Tournament the next week (a tournament I would have been heavily favored to win). This set me back and I wound up taking fourth at Districts, and falling off the edge at Regionals failing in my goal of going to States. I was disappointed. I hadn't peaked at the right time. I tried to tailor my training so that I would peak at the right time in my freshman year of college wrestling season. But again, I seemed to peak just a little early and missed out on going to Nationals by just one match. When we climbed Gannet Peak in 2010, I struggled at the beginning hitting my absolute low point on the day we made our summit attempt. After I waited with my teammate Justin at a certain point on the trail for our other four teammates, I began to feel better. The next two days on our hike out I felt much stronger than at the beginning. I was still exhausted, but feeling stronger than I had on the first day. If I'd had a second shot at the summit, who knows I might have made it. If I'd done better at managing where I peaked I also probably could have pushed it out to the summit. Who knows...
If we look around in our lives, our entire year, careers, etc are based around peaks. I always here my Dad talk about market peaks and valleys. I hear him talk about how the summer months are the peak of grilling season and that is typically when he's busiest. This is why my family used to always take a winter vacation rather than a summer vacation. I even looked at my school grades recently and saw a pattern. My Fall Semester grades tended to be slightly lower and my grades tended to rise throughout the school year with my highest grades being in March and April right at the end of the Spring Semester. In high school my best grades also tended to be in the second half of the year.
The more experienced we become in our discipline, whether that's a sport, school or business, we become better and more efficient about managing our peaks and valleys. We can't just peak early in life or just late in life. We're going to have both peaks and valleys every year, every day of our lives. We need to learn to manage our lives, to manage our peaks and valleys. We need to try and strive for each peak to be higher than the last and for valley to be slightly higher than that last valley. Now, of course we're going to have those times where the valley dips a little deeper than planned or expected, but that just means we need to work a little harder to climb out of it. I haven't quite learned how to manage all of my peaks and valleys, but I'm getting better. I try to help those people I train in my Spin classes to push themselves a little higher up that ladder, trying to help them break through those mental barriers. Kailee and I both become stressed at times and at those times we stay strong for each other and help each other out of that valley and begin working up towards our next peak. Sometimes we just need to remember to take a deep breath, relax and just take it one day, project, event, competition, at a time. We will peak and we will valley. We need to strive to make those valleys higher than the previous valley, in addition to making those peaks as high as we possibly can.
Until next time.