As I reflect on the last four months and how things in my life have changed, I cannot help but look to our athletes for inspiration on what is possible. It reminds me of my favorite parable about a Chinese farmer who lived in the mountains and spent all his days with his son and his horse farming his fields to make a living.
In this parable, a farmer’s horse ran away and everyone in the town said to him, “You must be devastated. You lost your horse and now you cannot plow your fields.” The farmer replied very casually, “Maybe yes. Maybe no.” The next day, not only did the horse return, he brought two stallions with him. The people in the town rushed to the farmer and said, “This is great. You must be so happy! You now have three horses and you have just become one of the richest farmers in the land.” The farmer replied casually again, “Maybe yes. Maybe no.” Soon after the farmer's son was training the stallions and one of the new horses reared up and landed on the boy's leg, breaking it. Now the townsfolk sadly said to the farmer, “You must be so devastated. Your boy broke his leg and now he cannot help with the chores.” The farmer once again responded with “Maybe yes. Maybe no.” Days later, war broke out and the sons of all the farmers were sent to fight. All except the boy who broke his leg. The townspeople said to the farmer, “You must be so happy your son does not have to go to war.” The farmer replied, “Maybe yes. Maybe no.” And so the story continues…
The learning from this story is that we really cannot know what good or bad will ultimately come from any events that happen to us. Only time will tell. In the end, we are only in control of how we respond to those events and the meaning we attach to them. Bad things surely will happen to all of us, but we get to decide how we respond to these things and what things we focus on while moving forward.
I have seen this firsthand with many of the VQers I have been observing during the pandemic. Here are the three patterns of response emerging over the last four months.
A small percentage of VQers (less than 10%) have let their training really fall off. They have gained weight, lost fitness and focused on other things rather than their overall endurance fitness. This is not good or bad, but I do encourage a return to routine. Get back to creating a greater level of wellness that working out provides.
The second group (again a small amount: around 10%) has trained a massive amount and managed to fill much of their free time logging copious amounts of endurance training--more than I would ever recommend, but with extra time on their hands they applied it all to exercise. Many are starting to burn out and all of them are showing signs of being overtrained with no events in sight. They are almost becoming addicted to endurance exercise. This is not good or bad either, but they may want to consider pulling back a bit on the training to create a bit more balance. Be mindful of overtraining and a flat performance curve that just frustrates us in the long run.
Now, the largest group falls into this third category, made up of nearly 80% of VQers. These VQers have found a very consistent training rhythm of specific virtual intensity classes, virtual pilates, long, easy, solo bike rides and the occasional hike or alternative exercise. These athletes have hit new highs in their power outputs, body compositions and overall fitness on less overall training volume. They have remained consistent with structured intervals and have seen how productive this more economic training schedule is. These athletes have hit new critical power highs and found their work/life/exercise balance to be better than ever. With more sleep, interval sessions with more structure and more opportunities to recover they are riding and performing better than ever and on less overall training volume. All this while experiencing the most debilitating pandemic of our time.
This is why the parable of the farmer rings so true for the VQ crew. I have never been more proud nor more hopeful that so many of us have chosen to focus on the positives that can come from this time of sheltering at home. And when it’s all said and done, we will focus on what this change has meant to us.
There is no doubt that the demand for health and fitness will survive, though the behavior of our members may look somewhat different than before. This certainly rings true for our business. Without question, this crisis has disrupted many facets of our business. Fortunately, we, like many others, have focused our efforts on developing new technology-enabled capabilities that have allowed the local, as well as remote, portion of our business to continue despite the inconvenient realities of being homebound.
With our minds on the future, we have continued to develop some incredible new products and services. Over the coming months, we'll share exciting news about our new virtual cycling platform, upcoming camps/events and fall and winter VQ endurance programming. All of our forthcoming workout initiatives are designed to educate, train, entertain and inspire you as we all rally together into the next evolutionary phase of the endurance journey.
We continue to find ourselves living in unprecedented times and dealing with significant challenges. No doubt, as with all walks of life, this crisis has taken a toll on the fitness industry--altering the way we live, work and, of course, exercise. On behalf of your VQ family, I want you to know that we share your challenges. Our thoughts are with each of you and we are grateful for your continued support.
When we look back on this time and ask if we were hurt or helped by this pandemic, our answer could be “Maybe yes. Maybe no.” And that is OK! For good and bad go hand-in-hand and continue to change based on what we make of it. I hope you all continue to maintain your focus and keep it on creating positive outcomes now and in the future.
IMPORTANT NOTE: We at VQ want to acknowledge all that’s been taking place recently. Our eyes are watching the civil unrest and our hearts are with all those in pain. We are prioritizing for change within and have been working behind the scenes on a project close to my heart. Watch for an invitation to join me.