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Under pressure

| Blog, What Mountain Bike | 31/01/2011 09:08am

WMB blogger Clive turns to the words of former England Rugby coach, Sir Clive Woodward to learn how to keep calm and carry on…

If any of you read my daily blog over at then you’ll know I am a huge rugby union fan. I’ve played since I was 10 years old and reached county level in the 1980s, which back then was a pretty good standard, and now I coach the game.

To say I’m a huge rugby union fan is, in all fairness, a bit of an understatement – sad, lonely rugby anorak is probably closer to the mark! I watch every bit of the sport I can, I read every book I can, devour every bit of info from all sources off the internet and social media, and I’m out coaching various teams as often as possible.

What has this got to do with weight loss cycling I hear you all thinking? If indeed you’ve made it this far down the page. Why are you banging on about rugby on the What Mountain Bike blog?

Okay, good point well made, but bear with me I’m getting there. Sir Clive Woodward, who was the England manager from 1997 to 2004, wrote a book called Winning! after England won the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia. Naturally I bought it and read it expecting either a coaching manual or his biography. What I got was both and neither. He’d written a story about what it takes to win and the standards that are required to be the best in the world. He left nothing to chance.

Let me put this into a weight loss cycling perspective. At the moment, everything is going well for me. I have my goals set for the year and I’m doing exactly what I should be doing. I’m eating correctly, commuting by bike every day, pedalling one day of the weekend and religiously doing my post-cycle upper body and core exercises.

How good am I, eh? My smug-o-meter is officially off the scale at the moment. But, what happens when things get tough? If you read my last WMB blog then you’ll know I fell off the wagon big style in December. I’ve stopped trying to figure out why that happens, but I’ve started a strategy to stop it when badness threatens.

Going to back to Sir Clive Woodward’s book, he set in place mantras for his team; plans that they fell back on when the going got tough. Automatic responses if you like. One of them was ‘control the controllables’. This has weight loss applications in as much as you can only do what you can do. A bit simplistic perhaps, but simple suits me. If you’re doing what you should be, then it doesn’t really matter what your weekly scales tell you if you have a static weight week. My record without dropping a pound was six weeks! But after 18 months if I look at my weight loss graph it shows a steady fall to the tune of six stones.

My favourite Woodwardism is that of TCUP. This translates as: THINKING CLEARLY UNDER PRESSURE

This is especially brilliant for us fatties who could, and do, fall off the wagon with alarming regularity. Sir Clive correctly identified that the top sides in all sports win the games that matter when they’re under the most enormous pressure. The Rugby World Cup of 2003 and Jonny Wilkinson’s drop goal in extra time is the most famous example of Sir Clive and his team demonstrating TCUP.

With two and a half minutes to go of extra time (you all probably know the story) they engineered a field position to get Saint Jonny of Wilkinson into drop goal range and win the World Cup. The particular plan they had in place was called ‘Zigzag’ but they used TCUP to correctly solve the particular problem they had and identified ‘Zigzag’ as the answer. Then they had to stay calm enough to actually perform it with supreme accuracy. Which we all know they did and I had a three-day hangover to show for it!

I asked myself what do all fatties do when they’re under pressure? They eat or stop exercising. I know – been there done that. Which means they lose the game and much worse, undo all the good they’ve done beforehand.

A classic example would be having a hard day at work, a bad journey home, the kids are screaming when you get in, the missus is going off on one too… You get the picture.

Your reaction, probably a natural one, is “Sod cooking, let’s have a take away.” Or “I’m too knackered to do my upper body stuff…” This is the moment when you’re under the greatest pressure with your weight loss lifestyle. And the moment when you need to think clearly under that pressure. Identify this and create a strategy to deal with it successfully and it’s my belief you’ve cracked it.

So the big question for all you fatties out there is how do you apply TCUP and what’s your Zigzag to help you when you need it most? Whatever it is, the simpler the better.


This entry was posted on Monday, January 31st, 2011 at 9:08 am and is filed under Blog, What Mountain Bike. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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