Protect your performance

Happy May!  87 days until the Olympics begin – which means only 104 until they are over. (Whoa!) This time – your time – is precious.

I loved reading the tweets at 100 days out – Rosie MacLennan figured out that she had 57,142 jumps (on the trampoline) to go, someone at CTV figured out that were only 14 Wednesdays left, Ryan Cochrane got way more specific (as an athlete would) with 1.5 million seconds left to train and this got RT’d a few times: “Odds of being an Olympic athlete are 630,000 to 1. Odds of winning a gold medal are 22,000,000 to 1. #100daystogo to lower the odds.” Across the board everyone seemed to be pumped that the Games are closing in but there is a laser focus on the work that is left to do. Awesome.

A few months ago, in Bubble Wrap and Priorities I wrote about not doing anything ‘dumb’ that could risk your health. This month I want to suggest that you don’t risk your energy. You need to be selfish in the next 104 days and protect your performance. This includes protecting your energy levels too.

You have been working far to hard to give away any second, centimeter or point that you have earned. You need to organize and protect your time; your rest and recovery should be your highest priority. This means saying no to some fun, and sometimes easy, requests. (Some people will likely encourage me to suggest that you consider saying “not now”, or “later”… but often “no” is really what you need to say.)

In the 100 days leading up to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Kathleen Heddle and I said ‘NO’ to being on the cover of Time (Canada) Magazine. The offer was super cool and I was hugely disappointed to turn it down but what they were offering came with a demand that didn’t fit into the training and recovery plan that we had committed to. They needed us to do a photo shoot but we were in a media black out period. (I know – you call them ‘media availabilities’ now, but this is my story.) We already had professional photos that were very similar to what they were asking for, but when they pushed for us to give a half-day to their photographer, we stood by our NO. For similar reasons we also turned down a cereal box and a major shoe company.

Those were three hard requests to turn down but I’m proud that we chose to protect our performance. In the same way that we were strict with our training we were strict with our recovery. We didn’t miss or mess with either. It’s probably no shock to anyone but interviews, photo shoots, school visits and speaking presentations have always been fun and easy for me. And as much energy as some events give, they distract our focus and take our energy.  Recovery is not about breaking even. Think about it – Everything you are doing is to get ahead, not even. 

I still have my gold medals but would I still have that magazine around? If you could only have one…which would it be? Those three ‘no’s don’t linger with me, but the memory of great racing on demand does.   

Requests from your friends, family, CTV, other media, the COC, sponsors, your community, the government all need to be organized and managed. Make a plan with your coach. Start using your media attaché for all of your responses: for your ‘yes’ and your ‘nos. In 105 days you’ll have lots of time and energy to give back.

Your decisions shouldn’t be about being nice, feeling guilty, doing the right thing or returning a favour. And they certainly shouldn’t be about taking advantage of a social or media spotlight. Everything you’ve done for last 1,000, 3,000, or even 7000 days has been about your performance. You have worked way too hard to give it away in the last 100.

Between now and the 2012 Olympic Games I will be sending out a monthly email. Think of it as a talking point; you may agree with me, maybe disagree… It may serve as a heads up or reminder to some ups and downs that are a natural point of believing that you can more than just go, more than just compete, but compete at your very BEST at the Olympics. My goal will never be to add to your stress, but to help you wear it well.

Marnie McBean

Three time Olympic Champion – Rowing

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