872 Lambs in 9 Hours
When thinking about writing a little review of last Wednesday, I could hardly escape from the word resilience…. I think no matter what definition you chose it doesn’t go away. I was actually asked by another client of mine who holds another shearing record the day after; what did you learn yesterday, (they know I analyse a lot)? Truth is, I shouldn’t drink Jaeger’s after a long day……I jest but seriously the one word that came to my head and then got me thinking was this:
- To overcome or move on from unpleasant experiences which could “overshadow” our future.
- To steer through everyday adversities, stress and challenges.
- To bounce back from major setbacks or trauma.
I have been fortunate enough to be involved in other record attempts and been able to reflect each time on what went well and what we could have done better.
Knowing a little about how to help improve performance through physical and psychological training, I feel it might be useful to share how I believe the 5 pillars of resilience really played a part in Stuart’s success on July 28th, 2021.
This is all about sustaining physical energy to have the capacity to keep going through challenging times. This isn’t just about the day itself; this believe me cannot be achieved unless attention is paid to this daily in the lead up to a day like we witnessed recently.
So the thought process here was and is how can we maximise Stuarts energy levels
- Healthy consumption– let’s not beat about the bush here….. your nutrition is your choice! Stuart will be the first to admit that along with me and most others that our nutrition is not perfect and at times nowhere near excellent…. But when it came down to it at the business end (4-6 months out) he got it dialled in with the help of Kira. We talk often about the 90:10 rule and excellence not perfection, and Matt Smith was very keen this time around that Stu was a little heavier than in 2019 when he broke the British record. So, with Kira we worked out his calorific needs and calculated more precisely his protein intake to make sure this time he was around 3-4Kg heavier come the record day. We dropped caffeine in the build-up to help with caffeine sensitivity which worked really well on the day. As always hydration was a HUGE part of what we talked about in the lead up and practiced on shearing days and in the lead up to the big day.
- Physical activity – clearly for Stu, not enough was not an issue, but too much could have been, but training wise we had to tweak the plan a little due to gyms being closed, he had to get some heavier kit for home and adapt. Managing little niggles, big days, shorter days and really wet days back in May where he would like to have been shearing more in the build-up were all part and parcel with making sure he had enough training but not too much to peak when he needed to.
- Sleep– not ideal with shearing around the country always but Stu made sure he planned as much as he could so he could stay in bed as long as possible. Whether that be making his food for the next day or getting gym kit ready…. Just being organised to get as much sleep as possible is something he did. In fact, in the two days prior to the record, Stu didn’t have his phone to minimise any potential distractions.
- Boundaries – what has impressed me most about Stu this time around was his ability and Kira’s ability to remove as many of the “unnecessaries” of the process from his day to day. This is where having people like Matt Smith, Kira, Pip and many, many others who know what they are doing and who are hugely invested in making the best environment for him to succeed. For most of us, identifying where unhealthy habits become the norm, building in regular periods of R and R and committing to disconnecting from emails and phones are good places to start and this I feel he and Kira did really well.
Having a clear sense of purpose and direction to help to move forwards without getting stuck or feeling held back.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: The last of human freedoms – to chose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances to chose one’s own way” – Victor E. Frankl (Man’s Search for Meaning).
It would have been easy for Stu not to go for the world record, but we know he felt unfinished business after setting the British record in September 2019.
There are two different approaches here…. A fixed mindset and growth mindset. For those who know of Carol Dweck, you will know.
People with fixed mindsets tend to avoid challenge, ignore useful feedback, be threatened by the success of others and give up easily due to obstacles.
Stuart demonstrated a “growth mindset”, embraced the challenge, persisted despite obstacles, saw the effort it took to create mastery in his headspace, pattern and physical conditioning. The other thing I think he did really well and was grateful for was receiving feedback from the man that is Rowland Smith. If you go right back to the start of this in 2016 and 2017 Stuart was inspired by the efforts of Matt Smith and Rowland in their own 9 and 8 hour world records.
One of the habits I really liked and witnessed Stuart doing was he didn’t dwell on from his successful British record back in 2019, in fact we rarely talked about that. We learnt and his mental focus was very much on the present and guided by his ambitions for July 28th 2021 come 5am.
Quick tip here…. If you get stuck on a challenge you are facing ask yourself:
- What aspects of the situation can you control?
- What aspects are within your influence?
- What aspects are out of your control?
Resilient people, like Stuart channel their energy and focus into what they can control and where they can extend their influence.
To be fair this actually came out a few times on the day, when Stu had a couple of things, he could control by changing a couple of thoughts and actions (when his left arm cramped a little in run 1 and 2) and there were times during the day where he couldn’t (for example when he got a tricky run of sheep).
Sustaining self-belief when times get tough, displaying confidence, motivation and perseverance.
All day…. All day Stu had great self-belief even when he was 2 down after two runs, this was helped by the words of Matt Smith in the break but being two down never seemed to bother Stu. Confidence is a difficult one really as he is a very humble guy so perhaps would not outwardly project that, but he was confident in the work he had done across the board and I think deep down he knew he could do it so long as we all stayed on the ball!
Being able to be in control of your feelings whether they are good or bad, managing them is key to keeping that inner drive. We talk about this as a Locus of Control; basically, do you believe control resides internally within you or externally, with others or the situation?
Clearly there are so many variables with a record day, from air temperature, gear, lamb behaviour etc etc but you can plan as much as you can for this then you have to accept that you can do no more and the rest is in your control.
The key thing is here, you are not trying to remove the challenge you are trying to make the challenge surmountable.
Getting up at 3:30am for food and then the prospect of shearing 867 + (872 in the end) lambs you need to be able to park an awful lot of thoughts and show all the characteristics of high levels of inner drive to get after it!
Flexible Thinking –
Having an open and optimistic mindset, enabling a positive and adaptive response to change and challenges.
If you look at the image below you can see we were always trying to keep Stu in the green zone (high performance zone)…. Where you have the ideal mix of adrenaline and dopamine, high levels of positivity, in flow focused and motivated. Clearly its key that he felt efficient, and I know he has worked hard on his pattern with Matt Smith to do that and had lots of discussions with Rowly too and around his shearing gear from the guru that is Antz Bryant and the support of Heineger.
“Solutions not problems” is a phrase that comes to mind when it came to overcoming challenges on the day. In run 1 and 2 Stu had a little cramp in the left forearm and hand which was affecting catching the lambs from the pen holding the lambs in the middle of each of those runs. Actually, what we realised quickly was this more of a psychological/stress/nervous related issue rather than systemic micronutrient and mineral depletion or acidity build up type of cramp as he was better as he relaxed into his work during the day.
High levels of adrenaline and cortisol would be expected so it was just about managing that with good breathing, self-talk, adequate levels of carbohydrates and electrolytes during the day.
Then it was the dopamine (obviously we cant measure that on the day but we can influence it) which links in with our pleasure- reward circuitry. Not sure how much pleasure Stu truly had there all day, but he did say to me during run 3 and 4 he was really enjoying himself at times.
I know Stu listened to some podcasts and listened to audio books and he said he was reciting some of the quotes he found useful in them. Being able to manage your self talk like that is really useful. Its good as an interrupt when you get into painful situations but also as a reminder of key things to think of. For example, when I am running, I often say the words “free speed” to myself so that when I am tired, I think of the running technique tips I can do to get more speed without trying harder.
Building open and trusting relationships and being willing to call on these for help and support if facing a challenge.
It is a common myth that resilient people are fiercely independent or lone warriors.
Science has proven that the most resilient people are those with strong relationships and good support networks both at home and in their work. These strong relationships are built on empathy, trust and mutual respect and that is certainly Stuart has in abundance from us all. We all need strong relationships with people to turn to for advice, support and help with different and complimentary skill sets and that is what I love about the shearing family, so many really good, hard working and humble people who want to help each other. I actually looked around the pen there at one point and saw 14 people so focused on what their role was within the day and thought to myself what a great team we have here; all working towards helping Stu become a world record holder. But that was just those in the pen area, not to mention all of those in the crowd and out the back and those who couldn’t be there on the day.
Stu is humble enough and confident enough to put his hand up and receive help from those around him. He recognised he didn’t have all the answers himself and the people around him had answers to problems he needed to solve to become a world record holder.
The result 872 lambs in 9 hours…. Yep one in – I don’t believe that anyone of us deserves anything, we earn it.
BUT you cant be questioned for giving everything you could for a man and his family who gave so much to get the result…….ultimately the ONE we all wanted there on the day, the one that Stuart deserved.
Super proud of you Stu, inspiring your family, your friends, your colleagues in the shearing industry and the ripples will be felt further than you will ever realise which is amazing.
A few notes you may find interesting:
- Stuart was the same weight after lunch as he was at the start of the day.
- He never lost more than 1.5Kg at any point of the day and gained it all back before the start of the next run (+- 300g)
- The cramp in the left forearm/hand largely went away in run 3 and beyond
- The last two lambs in run 4 were done in under 1 minute to get the catch
Matt Luxton Pg.Dip, BSc(Hons), MMA-CSCC, Pn1
Owner of MattLuxtonHealthandFitness& The Tamar Performance Centre
VotedCornwall’s Best Fitness Instructor 2016
VotedThe UK’s Most Innovative Fitness Entrepreneur 2012
International Best Selling Author ofThe Fad Free Fitness Formula
Author ofThe Hot to Trot Cook BookandThe Equestrian Athlete Plan
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