The Quest for the Magic Formula and the Social Media Demons


Just a couple of weeks ago, I was having a conversation with my mom about my ironman training. I expressed concern with regards to how I would be able to fit it all in with teaching, coaching, the kids, and the rest of life’s challenges. She asked me “well, how much do you really have to do?” I paused for a minute to ponder this question. How much do I have to do? Well, I don’t necessarily have to do any of it. It’s more a question of how much I think I should be doing to accomplish the goals that I have set out for myself.

If only there were a book that provided the answers to questions such as these. If I want to accomplish x, I need to do y and z. Period. Done. A magic formula revealed. It could work for anything. You set a goal. You look up the formula in the book. You follow the plan. You reach your goal. Life would be so much easier if that was the case.

Unfortunately, there are no magic formulas that tell us specifically how to reach the goals we set out for ourselves. Instead, we have to figure things out on our own. We have resources. We have coaches. We have our experiences to learn from. How much training do I have to do? Well, I could probably finish the ironman with less training than I’m currently doing. But of course I want to put myself in the position to complete the event feeling like I prepared myself in the best way that I possibly could. How much training does that take? I have no idea. All I can do is follow my instincts. Follow the advice I’ve been given. And follow the plan I have established for myself. And then trust the process.

Then comes along the IMLP Facebook group… This is a place where IMLP athletes post their workouts. John apparently is going to be doing “a century ride and a 20 mile run this weekend. What is your training schedule for the weekend?” Well, I’m only riding 50 miles and running 10, so John is doing TWICE as much as I have planned. Instinctively, thoughts such as “CRAP! I’m screwed and am so far behind where I should be in my training” run wild through my head. Naturally, we think more is better and if John is riding 100 miles this weekend, well we probably should be too. In actuality, John may well be running himself into the ground and end up injured or over-trained come race day. John does not know the magic formula either… Regardless, the comparison has been made, resulting in anxiety and self-doubt.

Next comes Strava… A place where we post our workouts, follow our friends, teammates, and competitors, and give kudos to other athletes on “overly impressive” workouts. Why? Why do we care? Shouldn’t we only be concerned with our own training? Shouldn’t we be spending our time monitoring our own progress rather than actively searching to gain insight into what other athletes are doing? For some reason this comparison game often results in a mistaken belief that other athletes have this magic formula figured where our thoughtfully constructed, personal plan may well be sending us down the wrong path.

So how much training should I be doing to accomplish my goals? If only I knew the answer to that question, life would be so much easier. I could calculate the hours, divide it up into the week and schedule it into my life (hopefully it would fit). Instead of a magic formula, I need to place trust in my resources, my experiences, and myself. And create a road map that I believe will put me in the best position to achieve my goals. It’s so hard to resist playing the comparison game, especially when Strava and the IMLP Facebook group are berating me with information on what others are doing. I need to constantly remind myself that there is no magic formula. No one has it. So just ignore this stuff.

To accomplish your goals, you need to establish your own plan. Don’t be concerned with other people’s plans. They might very well send you down the wrong path. “How much do I really have to do?” Well, I really don’t have to do any of it. The question should be phrased “How much do you think you need to do to put yourself in the best position to accomplish the goals you have set out for yourself without making sacrifices you aren’t willing to make?” That is the number that I am targeting.

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