Test Yourself

It’s the point in the summer that can make or break a fall athletic season.  Most athletes have worked extremely hard and stuck with the plan the first four to six weeks of summer training.  If they have seen some gains during their training, they are more apt to continue to work hard and have a good season.  But too many athletes feel a little drop in motivation this time of the year because they have not been able to see their growth.  This could set the athlete up for a poor season.

For me, I think its vital to test yourself at this period of the summer to see where you stand in your training.  It’s easy for a runner to “test out”, as they can simply do a standard distance like the mile, two-mile or the 5k.  If your sport is basketball or soccer, you might have to get creative.  But I know there are some things you can test as well.

I believe so much in testing, that I actually add a small test during each training cycle throughout the entire season.  In order to stay organized and on track, my coaching staff and I tend to break the season into four cycles or training periods.  Each cycle tends to have a theme and there are some goals for our athletes in each cycle.  Ultimately, the athlete can set themselves up for a great season if they focus on each cycle that they are in and don’t try to rush their training or their progression.  That’s why we add some test periods in each cycle, to keep them on track and help them stay motivated.

How does this apply to the non-athlete, former athlete or the professional that is sitting down at their desk looking to increase performance?  Well, it’s the same premise.  We can all get stale in our personal and professional lives.  The work environment can become cumbersome or boring, so its crucial to evaluate and assess your place in life too.

Below are some tips that the non-athlete and athlete can use to find a way to “test out” in life:

Set a test date well in advance:  Give yourself a test date and mark it on your calendar.  The coach in me likes to see the date on the calendar and works towards it.  It keeps me motivated and helps me work hard.  The professional in me likes to put the date on the calendar so that I can prioritize this event and help me plan out my day.

The test should be measurable:  My runners usually like to see what their mile time is and how they are progressing.  They have an exact number (in this case a time) that they can see and know they are progressing.  It can be the amount of push ups you can do, the amount of words you can type in a minute or the amount of customers you can efficiently serve without a slip up.  Test yourself with a number or time that you can write down and look at later.  It will help you evaluate again two months down the road.

Don’t forget that failure is a big ingredient to success:  While doing some research for this blog, I ran across a quote that has quickly become one of my favorites.  Vernon Law, former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher and Cy Young Award winner, once said “Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first and the lesson afterward.”  If your perception is that you failed the test, don’t get discouraged.  Chances are you are progressing and it didn’t show itself yet.  Let it motivate you to be better the next time.

Test out consistently and sporadically:  Make sure you give yourself some time to make gains.  A mistake can be to test yourself so often that you “water down” the test and don’t allow yourself the time to make gains that will show you that you are progressing.  This can become frustrating if you test yourself weekly and only see minor gains or no gains at all.

All of us are in different stages or cycles in our lives.  Some might be ready for their Super Bowl tomorrow, while others may be in week three of a 25-week training plan.  No matter where you are at, step back and test yourself and evaluate where you are in the process.  You will be a better athlete and a better person for doing so.

Chris Hardie is the Head Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Coach at Waynesburg University.  You can follow him on Twitter @Coach_Hardie_WU or follow the team on Facebook at Waynesburg University Cross Country.

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