Perform in the storm

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Mindset and Recovery

As a former top athlete, Martin Hersman learned first-hand the rules of recovery, so that he could enhance his performance. These rules, nowadays softened and adapted to real life away from the racing track, help him and his family cope better with the extraordinary situation posed by COVID-19 and be mentally prepared for the long run.

Martin takes his inspiration from the Stoic philosophers and applies their teachings in practice: “I cannot control the situation, but I can control my response to it”. This approach and his tips for recovery highlight a mindset, and a practical way, to deal with the unprecedented situation we are now facing in a constructive and productive way.

Former Olympic speedskater Martin Hersman on setting the scene for sustainable high performance

Key insights

  • Mind your mindset: The unprecedented situation we are now facing is beyond anyone’s control. How do you deal with situations beyond your control? You cannot manage them, nor steer them as you wish. But you can change your response to them. You can choose your reaction. This lesson is as valid for top athletes as it is for managers and companies. Use your mind to steer you in the right direction.

  • Performing is always together: Even as an athlete competing in an individual sport, you still need a team around you to succeed. The same is true for companies and, these days, for your family or whoever you share your home with. If we are to succeed in the current circumstances, it will be together, through joint discussion, agreement and cooperation.

  • Recovery is key: We normally assume that performance is about doing more. It’s counter-intuitive, especially for a top athlete, to stop and take a break. Yet these breaks, physical and mental, are crucial for our well-being and for our performance, even more so when we are all confined together in tight quarters. You only perform as well as you recover.

  • Create the conditions for performance: Sleep is the primary recovery tool, so ensure you get enough sleep. It gives the brain a much-needed break and helps stay calmer and less agitated. Agree on space separation in the home, so everyone can have their own quiet, uninterrupted corner. Set clear ‘Me time’ moments in the day, for some personal breathing space. And rigorously plan switch-off moments, however short.

Dive deeper

Can you do what Martin can?

To help you keep your energy levels high and stay positive throughout your day it is essential to take breaks regularly. To help you get more out of your downtime, Martin Pet, a seasoned sport and performance psychologist and physiologist, will challenge you to perform a wide range of exercises that will do just that.

Martin Pet shows you how to train your focus and muscles using... oranges?
Find out how he does it and why
Can you beat gravity? This agility game not only requires you to use your brain in exploratory ways, but also in high speed; that means you will absolutely need to be full focused to make it happen. This will give you no space at all to rethink, calculate, plan or execute anything else, and that’s what you want during recovery time. Putting effort in catching the balls relaxes your work brain, making you more resilient professionally right after. And don’t underestimate the good feelings you will get once you have done it, or even start to master catching the balls(oranges, apples); a great impulse for your self esteem! Tip; if you really need a good laugh (great recovery) do it together with colleagues on Skype, Facetime or Zoom, it can be hilarious. So enjoy!

About the crew member

Martin Hersman • Managing partner Lifeguard, sports commentator, former Olympic speed skater
Martin Hersman

After his speedskating career as an olympic athlete followed by work experience at KPN and his role as manager, Martin changed his business goals and started practising where he stands for. His ambition is to boost organisations on their vitality level. He focusses on facilitating team sessions to evolve the performance of the team, the people and the organisation.

Your journey until now