The US Olympic trials are in full swing. I watched the swimming trials and aside from great competition, what caught my attention were comments regarding the new Speedo LZR swim suit. Supposedly, it provides 5% less drag in the water. Rowdy Gaines, 1984 Olympic Gold medalist, talked of the suit. He tried it on (said it took 20 minutes to get into the skin-tight outfit). His comments were to me the real key. He stated that whether it really is faster or not, it doesn’t matter if it makes you feel faster and think you are faster. If you believe you can go faster then you will.
To support his observations here are comments by one of our newly crowned Olympians: “For me, wearing the suit and being faster is a total mindset,” said Ryan Lochte, who seized the 200m backstroke world record last year and finished second in a world record time last night in the 400 IM (yes – second but first place was faster yet – also wearing the suit – Michael Phelps). “When I wear it, I feel like an action hero.”
So, why do I bring up swimming, technology and mindsets? Because it is no different for any sport. Though advances are constantly being made in sporting goods materials – lighter, more aerodynamic, more durable, more cooling – not all those changes make us better at our sports. They do make the manufacturers gazillions of dollars. There are two major points that I want to make:
- Technology doesn’t make you faster if you haven’t done the training.
- Your belief in your equipment, your training, your diet, etc. is every bit as powerful as the equipment, training or diet itself.
Some sports seem more prone to the keep up with technology mindset but we’re all guilty. Golf is a good example. I don’t know a golfer who doesn’t want the biggest baddest newest club to come out in hopes that it will make them a scratch player. Triathletes are no different. Let’s spend thousands of dollars on upgrading a bike and saving one pound. Runners – not exempt – let’s change to the super light 4 ounce shoe to get that new PR; or that Garmin with HR monitor will surely be the trick to my quantum leap improvement in my next race.
Let’s wake up and smell the coffee! If you haven’t been putting in thousands of strokes on the golf course – many in game situations – it’s not the club that will get you to par! It isn’t the extra pound on your bike that is slowing you down. It’s the lack of proper training and maintaining your own body weight! It’s not the reduction of 6 ounces from a shoe that will get you your PR – it’s training smarter and doing all the things you need to do specific to your chosen race distance!
No technology overcomes poor preparation. In his prime, if you put Lance Armstrong on a generic “10-speed” bike and put him against most cyclists – he would beat them. Why? Because he did the training and he completely believed in his abilities. His mindset doesn’t conceive “losing.”
Ryan Lochte and Rowdy Gaines both clearly state that the mindset is what makes as much a difference as the technology (and perhaps more). I will posit that for the average athlete it is the mindset that absolutely makes more of a difference than the technology. I can almost buy that at the very highest levels of competition the balance MAY tip the other way because the margins of victory and defeat are so slim. Maybe. However, no one can separate scientifically which actually provide more benefit. You must believe in your preparation on all fronts (training, equipment, diet, etc.). For instance, there are almost no independent empirical research supporting the use of MOST diet supplements for performance enhancement. Yet, millions of people use them and swear by them.
The bottom-line is that we should not dupe ourselves into believing these new advents are our secret to success… dedication, hard work and smarter work are.
The flip-side: if it feels good do it. If the newest “thing” keeps you motivated, focused and believing you can set a new PR – then go ahead and indulge yourself. But, should you wonder a bit, next time instead of spending hundreds or thousands on the newest gadget – perhaps what you really need is a quality training plan and a comprehensive mental game plan. Spend wisely.