Establishing a New Baseline

I smiled to see this Dilbert cartoon after my time trials this week. (The relevant frames should appear above, but here’s a précis: Asok tells his boss that he’s accomplished the work of ten people, then catches himself: “Did I just establish a new baseline expectation that will turn my job into a tragic death march?” Boss’s reply: “It’s time to set some stretch goals.”)

While I prescribe testing to my athletes regularly, I tend to avoid it myself. It’s hard, of course, and it can be disappointing. The greater fear, though, is of setting a new baseline that makes all subsequent workouts harder. (Cue the Marianne Williamson quote: “Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”)

Setting the new baseline, of course, is the point. In psyching myself up for the bike trial, I told myself, “Your body knows what it’s doing. It’ll put out the right effort.” And it did, just as it did in the swim test on Wednesday, despite my swim cap sliding off my forehead, getting caught in my goggle straps, and acting as a parachute in the last 100 yards.

I taught handstand this week. It’s a favorite of mine, because watching my students overcome their apprehension, laugh when they fall, and eventually establish a new baseline is so gratifying. If something is scaring you, take the niggling fear as a cue: Do it! Your body knows what it’s doing. And the way it knows is by trying.

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