Bruce Conner is an inspirational athlete, who has now qualified for four US Olympic trials at the age 19, 49, 53 and 57. He is breaking down the age barrier in the competitive sport of speed skating and he is faster now than when he was a teenager…whilst also excelling in his career as a 747 pilot!
I had the pleasure to meet Bruce recently and he has kindly agreed to share an excerpt from his excellent book ‘Faster as a Master’ with Rundamentalists followers…
Discipline is the trained state of mind translated into consistent actions. Consistent actions result in movement towards my goals. I make many decisions every day that affect my health, goals, achievement, and performance. Reminding myself of my goals and direction will help me stay on track until the desired behavior becomes automatic. People can use many different ways of sticking with a goal and having the discipline to follow through. How important is the goal to you? If it is really important, you will find a way. How valuable is it to you? Make the commitment; you are worth it! Enjoy the journey towards your goals while smelling the roses and enjoying the process along the way.
When I think about racing, my heart rate immediately increases. As I visualize the approach to the starting line, I repeat my pre-race mantra to myself. When landing a 747, I am totally focused on the job at hand. I do not think about what to pick up at the grocery store later. These are important character traits that maybe I was born with or that maybe I have developed over the years. I can tell you that I have fine-tuned them to what they are today. I will never have it down perfectly, but I continually make progress. This takes practice.
When I’m in training, I bring my “A” game to everything. This means I give my full effort, on every level, even if it means going to total exhaustion. This takes some emotional energy. My emotional energy can be restored pretty quickly, faster than my body can recover. For example, when I’m doing a sprint workout, I simulate a start. Practicing a start from a standing position requires precision. I could just crouch down, explode off the start line, and complete the effort. Instead, I repeat the entire process as if I’m in a real race—including saying my mantra, stretching as I would before approaching the line, acknowledging my competitor, and imagining hearing the starter’s commands and the gun shot.
This allows me to experiment with my mental state during this process. Using emotional passion and energy each time I practice helps me to summon it up when I need it for a race. What works best for me at the start of a race is relaxed but focused, then when the race progresses and my energy is being drained, I summon my deep-down strength and force of will. What works best for you? Experiment with many approaches and find what works best with your personality. There is no right or wrong.
Practice with focus. Bruce practices
physical activities so he can fine-tune
his mental aspects of my training.
I practice the mental thought processes so that I perform better physically. The physical and mental are mutually supportive.
My self-talk can be brutal. In order to for me build confidence, I must speak kindly to myself. Self-esteem is an inside job; I am the only one who can affect it. To have success, to accept myself as I am, I build my own self-esteem through positive self-talk. I do not like to be judged by others because I am harder on myself than anyone else can be. This mindset is self-defeating.
The attention I give to the task at hand must equal my intention to achieve the goal. If I am intent on accomplishing a goal, I must not go through the motions mindlessly but with purpose.
All growth must be allowed, not forced. It must happen in its own time and way. If I force growth, I shortchange myself, and I must repeat the lesson until it is learned correctly. The universe will help me to repeat something until I get it right. I become what I believe. You cannot turn a cruise ship on a dime. It takes time to change the inertia. Similarly, it takes time for me to change my mind and concepts.
It is well known that it takes about 10,000 hours of any activity to be an expert. Building the neural network for consistency and expertise takes a great deal of repetition with focus. Once the nervous system has repeated an action correctly enough times, the connection is solid. Then it takes much more repetition to build the myelin coating over the neural connections in the brain and to the muscles to assure that the connection will stay strong through all conditions. When training as a speed skater, I build my motor for propulsion (muscles) and the brain and nervous system connection to apply my motor to the ice.
Making the commitment to this process is up to me and only me. A friend recently asked me to recommend the best exercise to do. My response was anything a person can do everyday is the best. If you go to the gym and do something you do not particularly like, then chances are you will find a way to stop. If it does not feed your soul, then it probably drains it. You can only drain for so long, and then you will find a way to stop. It may be through de-motivation, a shift in priorities, an injury, etc.
I will not spend time doing something that will not benefit me in some way, even play. You have probably heard the expression no pain, no gain. You must push to break down your muscles so that when they rebuild, they will be stronger. However, to push in a direction that is fundamentally wrong will only result in being tired, angry, resentful, and soul-depleted. Our bodies talk to us, providing physical symptoms to recognize so we can make course corrections. When I am aware of what my body and my gut are telling me, in tune, in the moment, then I have a chance of making good decisions. I cannot change what is outside of me until I change what is inside.
I must accept my circumstances that are both outside and inside of me without judgment. That does not mean I have to like them to accept them. It means refraining from wasting my energy trying to change things I cannot change and making a new decision as a result of acceptance. To move forward, I must accept people, places, and things just as they are—and myself, as I am.
We are constantly changing and moving, never static. It is easier to accept myself knowing that I am not static and that I can and do change all the time. It is my purpose in this life to live, learn, and grow till the day I die.
Bruce W. Conner
"In order to for me build confidence, I must speak kindly to myself."