Who Turned Off The Lights???

A room with a view.

I’ve just got in from a training session in the shed.  It really is as grim as it sounds. It’s a bog-standard 5m x 2m wooden shed which I imagine was bought from somewhere like B&Q.
It’s not top of the range, full of damp, with a plastic window covered in moss and a buckled door.  The luxury!

My Concept2 rowing machine sits right in the middle giving me just enough room to flair my elbows whilst in full swing,  surrounded by all the crap my housemate and I convince ourselves we’ll need at some point in our lives.

My shed training is usually done first thing in the morning as soon as I get up, but recently I’ve been focusing on fundraising instead. 
After an attempt at having my wisdom tooth out 5 days ago, (the dentist couldn’t get it out. They spent 45 minutes and 5 injections yanking at my mouth!), I wasn’t able to train because a). I was tanked up to the eyeballs on painkillers and b). I’ve been on a liquid diet for the last 4 days since I’ve been unable to chew food!

This is the actual view I had on the rowing machine

Getting home from work, I felt withdrawals from my lack of rowing and decided on a 30-minute session to clear the cobwebs. The sun had gone down and my head torch was low on battery so I decided to row in the dark.  “This is what it’s going to be like rowing around Great Britain at night,” I thought. The perfect mental training.

I pull at the handle of the machine and the flywheel is loud. I’m feeling good despite having not eaten for 4 days.  A few more pulls and I flick my head torch on to look at the stats on the screen. “Blimey! Those spilt times are looking good.”

That’s when I decided to do a 30 minute time trial………

I set the rowing machine computer to 30 minutes and my phone timer to 29 minutes. I figured my head torch will have just about enough battery if I flick it on for the final 1 minute.

The shed is pitch black. I couldn’t even see the outline of the computer screen 1 metre in front of me, so I close my eyes.  The first 10 minutes (I guessed) felt good and I feel like I’m on for a personal best.  And then the inner voices start talking to each other.

I begin bribing myself if I get a PB then I won’t have to do the exercise programme I’d originally planned after the row.

Devil – “You can’t get a PB. You haven’t trained hard in weeks! Plus your face looks like a football after the dentist.”
Angel – “You haven’t pushed hard in ages. Just give it a try, you never know what might happen.”
Devil – “You’ll do yourself harm training hard after all that medicine, you should be resting. Plus you haven’t eaten properly in days!”

The conversation continues. You know the kind of stuff.

For the next 28 minutes, I promised myself I wouldn’t turn on my headtorch to see how much time was remaining and look at the stats. I’d only turn it on once the timer on my phone went off ready for the final minute.

Devil – “Just turn your headtorch on, then you can see how much further you have to go. You’ll see how much faster you’ll have to push for a PB.”
Angel – “Keep it off. This is great training for the row.”
Devil – “No-one will know if you turn it on. Turn it on for just a second…. Go on……TURN IT ON!”

You get the score. A good proportion of the 28 minutes was spent having a ‘discussion’ with myself until 28.5 minutes in, the devil won. I turned the head torch on. Shit bags!

(Just to back myself up, I have always been amazed the Concept2 computer does not make a noise when the time has elapsed. Also, my phone has a terrible habit of switching itself off when it gets cold and my shed is cold! I thought I might be rowing forever if I didn’t have a peek.  Either way, I gave in. All I had to do was wait an extra 30 seconds!)

The result?
I got a new 30-minute personal best!  
I rowed 214 metres further than my previous time a few weeks ago. Usually, I get 30-50 metres more on a PB, but 214 metres?!  I was amazed. And relieved I didn’t have to go and do my other exercise programme as I was being sick in my mouth whilst rowing.

I’ve tried to come to a conclusion on how this happened, as I had so many things against me.

  1. My main theory is that training in the dark and not seeing the stats meant I wasn’t chasing numbers but instead working off how my body felt. I was able to close my eyes and focus on my power, posture and breathing rather than getting sucked into feeling motivated/demotivated by what the numbers on the screen were telling me.  If in the first 10 minutes I’d have seen I wasn’t able to get a PB, it’s likely I’d have given in. (This relates back to a previous post about chasing stats whilst exercising)
  2. I have been living sugar free for 4 weeks and loving it.  A friend who joined me in the challenge said he is running faster than he has ever run in his life after eliminating sugar.
  3. Could it be less is actually more? A bit like my post Don’t Try As Hard … Laura Try, which completely disagrees with Train Like A B*****d. I’m not sure I’ll ever decide on this one.
  4. The GMB fitness programme I do 2-3 times per week is keeping me strong, functional and helping my muscles fire.

My favourite options for why I got my PB on very little training is a combination of numbers 1, 2 and 4.

Try ditching the stats, whether that be the watch or cycle computer and try training just listening to your body. You might be pleasantly surprised.

How do you train and prepare for a personal best? I’d love to hear. What are the reasons you think you achieve them? Come and find me on Twitter and let me know.