Life-Fitness Lessons: Break a problem down

The ability to break things down works well for workouts as well as in everyday life.

There’s a hill I ride quite often near Alresford. It’s called Ox Drove Way and is nearly 3 miles long. (There’s a Strava segment here, but don’t look me up; I’m somewhere near the bottom.) Some parts are easy, some are more difficult and the last 100 metres are a bit of a killer for me. When riding it I concentrate on each section. First I get to that first bend, then think about the bit past the big house, then the farm section etc. If you start off thinking about the steep bit at the top or how long the climb is it’s easy to get demoralised. Often by the time the top comes, if I’ve paced myself right, it’s easy. And nothing beats the sense of achievement (and relief) of reaching the top of a challenging climb.

topOfHillOn a larger scale I break the whole ride down in a similar way. Think about the first few miles, then the next and so on. Others have told me how they approached their first century ride (100 miles). If you are contemplating a ride like that it’s fairly likely that a 25 mile ride would seem easy. So don’t think of a 100 mile ride, think of four 25-mile rides. Given that you’ll be riding slowly and will probably stop to feed, that’s just what it is.

On bad weather days, when I’m stuck indoors on the exercise bike, I have a similar issue. I have developed a number of strategies for distracted myself during indoor workouts. I now have a TV rigged up with a wireless Raspberry Pi running XBMC and can watch movies or TV shows. This works OK, but I can’t stop myself sneaking a look at the timer counting down. Having started a 30 minute workout and watched a bit of a film it can be quite disheartening to find you’ve only been going for a minute when you could have sworn you’d been pedalling for at least five. So I always work in 5 or 10 minute chunks. After 5 minutes I’ve done a sixth, after ten I’ve done a third and so on. Then you an just work towards the end of the next segment and not the whole workout.

Plainly, real-life problems and goals can be approached the same way. Make a list of all the individual tasks that are needed. Broken down in this way there will immediately be manageable activities that you can tackle right away. Pretty quickly you’ll find you’ve achieved your goal.

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