How To Handle Bad Days - Create Contingencies For The Inevitable

by Jeff Spencer April 12, 2018 3 min read

How To Handle Bad Days - Create Contingencies For The Inevitable

At the Tour de France the last vehicle in motor caravan that follows the riders in each day’s stage is a van called the voiture balai. The English translation is literally “broom wagon.”

"A broom wagon is a passenger van that “sweeps up” the riders from that day’s stage who have quit the Tour."

What’s a broom wagon? A broom wagon is a passenger van that “sweeps up” the riders from that day’s stage who have quit the Tour.

The word used in the Tour for quitting is “abandoned”. A rider who get in the broom wagon has be said to have “abandon the Tour.”

Abandoning the Tour is not a casual act.

It’s only done if a rider absolutely cannot continue because of illness or injury.

"The Tour is never abandoned because you don’t feel good, have the sniffles, or are having a bad day"

The Tour is never abandoned because you don’t feel good, have the sniffles, or are having a bad day. Jumping the broom wagon for those reasons is consider treason to a team. It never happens.

Since the Tour is 21 days of racing, and there’s a lot of hill climbing, a Tour rider can always count on one or two bad days in the Tour. In the back of their minds they’re always thinking, “How bad will my off days be?” That’s understandable as each rider in the team has a very specific job to do for the team and if they can’t perform when they’re supposed to the team’s chances of meeting their sponsor’s expectations are diminished that can have serious consequences. Lot’s of pressure there.

"A bad day can start any number of ways."

A bad day can start any number of ways. As soon as the rider starts to pedal their legs feel like lead or as if they’ve been rusted shut. They notice that rather than pedaling in smooth circles they’re pedaling squares. It may feel like their brakes are on. Breathing harder that the effort demands is another classic sign.

The thought that runs through a riders mind when any of those situations occurs is, “This isn’t good and how am I going to handle this?”

Like the riders we all have bad days and most are unanticipated.

Here’s how the riders cope with their off days:

  1. Tell the team. The first thing they do is to tell their team they’re off their game and let the team decide how to adjust to the circumstance. They never conceal their performance state.
  2. Don’t self-condemn. Rider’s know life isn’t an exact science and that they didn’t cause the bad day. They can just happen without any warning even though the person has done everything right to show up at their best.
  3. Manage the loss. When things go downhill it’s best not to try to perform as if everything’s OK as that can magnify the problem but to manage the downside by only doing what’s reasonable to survive the downturn. Downturns don’t last forever.
  4. Conserve energy. Consciously consume the least amount of resources possible. The object is to hold ground, not gain it.
  5. Know your capability. Bad days aren’t the normal. They’re the exception. Never believe that one off day signals your best days are behind you.

"One thing for sure in life is that we’re all going to have bad days."

One thing for sure in life is that we’re all going to have bad days. Expect them. And, expecting them doesn’t mean we drew them into existence. It means that we understand life and make reasonable contingencies for the inevitable. Work the key actions we discussed here and you bad days will have minimal impact.

Jeff Spencer
Jeff Spencer

At just nine years old, I used to wake up at 4:30 a.m. to practice hitting a baseball up and down our street. That competitive spirit led to winning a national championship at just ten years old and then becoming an Olympian at twenty-one. For the past forty years, I’ve been a professional student of human achievement. I’ve been driven by this unshakable question: why do some people succeed and others fail? After retiring from professional competition, I went back to school to earned advanced degrees in health and wellness. In the decades since then, I’ve worked with athletes in nearly every professional sport, Olympic gold medalists, and millionaire entrepreneurs. I’ve had a front-row seat as I watched these world-class achievers do what they do. For more information: drjeffspencer.com


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