What we can learn from the OLYMPICS

100m sprint track

The Olympics have been the focus of many of our lives over the last two weeks and there will be that “what do we do now” feeling when they finish. This incredible event began in 776BC in Olympia and was dedicated to the Olympian Gods. The Olympics is always full of outstanding success and distraught heartbreaking stories of failure. In effect, the Olympic Games are a metaphor for life, in that we can have these wonderful highs and devastating lows. The question is what can keep us going when times are tough?

Resilience may be one of the most important qualities that we can develop and nurture. Resilience is what makes an Olympic athlete deal with a loss or setback and come back to give it all they’ve got in the next event, just like Herman Maier. Whether you’re involved in sport, the corporate world, education or health, there will be days where you think it can’t get any worse. Too often, our perception is that these difficult days outnumber the good, and we start on a steady spiral downwards into misery and feeling sorry for ourselves. We forget just how much we have to be thankful for.

One fantastic mechanism to maintain an objective view is to monitor ourselves on a daily basis. This monitoring may be systematic where we track certain physiological variables such as sleep, levels of physical activity, fatigue levels and psychological status. Or it could be as simple as keeping a daily journal, recording your day. By keeping track of your life, you will often identify that life is not all that bad, and if it is, you can seek answers.

Incorporating strategies into our life to manage ourselves when we are not feeling very positive can make a real difference. It just seems that in these times, when we have so much and want for very little, we don’t have the most important things in life such as joy and happiness. In my experience, much of our unhappiness comes from the workplace. But is it the workplace or is it you? It is easier to change yourself than to change the workplace, so to deal with those difficult times focus on the following:

1. Sleep – make sure that you are getting sufficient quantity and quality of sleep.
2. Physical Activity – ensure you are physically active every day, even if it’s a simple 20 minute walk, as any increase will be positive.
3. Have a morning routine – start the day with meditation or simply taking time out for you.
4. Keep a daily journal.
5. Be the person you would like to meet.

By implementing some simple strategies like these, you can have a positive effect on your outlook, build your resilience and be better prepared to face life’s challenges.

The Tour

Cycling sprint

The Tour

The Tour de France is one of the most watched sporting events on the World sporting calendar. Every July we watch and follow the physical heroics of these professional cyclists as they battle the Alps, Pyrenees and each other for 23 days. In recent years the event has been affected by extensive controversy centred around performance enhancing drugs. However, that discussion is for another day as what is really fascinating is the physical performance and preparation of these (“clean”) cyclists and what can be learnt from it.

The “Tour” is the most important event in cycling and riders complete over 3500km in this multi-stage event. Twenty-two teams of nine riders race  with teams working for their team leader to secure victory. It is a true team sport where one person’s glory is created by the work of his cycling team mates, team managers, sponsors, mechanics, physiotherapists, scientists and the preparation must be perfected and monitored to the minute detail.

The concept of preparation, team work and monitoring has implications for us all. Cycling 3500km may be impossible for most of us; however we all have our own potential “tours”. It may be another sport, work event or even a social occasion. Whatever it is, you will need to prepare and monitor to perform effectively. How do you prepare for your “tour”?

There has been an explosion of books, podcasts and research in the area of productivity. However, are we more productive? The often missing step in assessing productivity is assessing or monitoring the individual from a physiological and psychological perspective. It is not possible to be productive if the human’s capacity is compromised. A cyclist in the Tour de France has real time data to inform them about their capacity but what do you have? Having an understanding of your “real time” physiological and psychological status will enhance your productivity and your overall ability to perform. There have been many errors made in the work place that could have been prevented with an effective monitoring system.

Interestingly, a state of the art transport truck has over 200 sensors sending back information about every aspect of the trucks performance BUT there is not one sensor monitoring the driver. We have a dashboard for our car and even our banking details but no dashboard for us. In recent times we have seen an explosion of wearable tech but this just tells us what we have completed rather than being able to integrate a number of data points to give an overall performance index.

As we marvel at the riders in the Tour de France, it’s important to think that what we do is just as, if not more important than winning a bike race. Whilst every cyclist in the “tour” knows exactly what physiological state they are in and than if they are able to make a decision whether to “attack” or not, it would be great for everyone to have similar information.

This information could help us adjust our work day if stress levels are too high or if our sleep was poor to be aware that our physiological functioning is decreased and some of our decision making may be compromised. There are endless possibilities, but as you watch the last days of the tour just think, are you worthy of having similar information?