The “mental” triathlete: understanding the craziness

I admit it’s not an easy thing to understand.

How I look is exactly how I feel here. This is just after finishing what was probably my first triathlon last year.

How I look is exactly how I feel here. This is just after finishing what was probably my first triathlon last year.

Why do it, if it causes you so much anxiety?

Why do it, if you don’t seem to enjoy it?

Why do it, if it comes with so much pain?

Yesterday, as I headed out the door to go on my weekly longish bike ride I felt like I wanted to cry. I was feeling cold and I was sick of the cold. I’m generally burnt out (I’m in desperate need of a holiday) and tired. I’d much rather just laze about under a warm blanket and watch crap TV on my comfortable couch.

This morning I forced myself out of bed, got dressed, foam-rolled my legs to try to wake them up, and instead of taking my time to say hello to the world by eating breakfast in my robe and getting some caffeine into my system, I ran out the door to do my medium-length weekly run.

When I was cycling across Europe two years ago, I blogged a lot about my daily anxieties; so much so that a friend asked, “Are you sure you should be doing this?”

The answer is yes.

I can think of a few reasons why.

Most importantly, I refuse to allow anxiety and an inner tendency towards laziness to take over my life. 

Also, even though I realize I’ll never be an Olympic athlete, I like feeling like one. Even though I’ll never win gold, I love beating my personal times.

You know that morning run I did today? It was my fastest 8km run since I started logging my activities in January shortly after recovering from a shoulder operation. I’m starting to think there’s something to be said for running on an empty stomach. I also ran a great 10km run earlier this week on an empty stomach. I might hate forcing myself out that door in the morning, I also deplore feeling like I’m going to throw up mid-run because I’m pushing hard, but I absolutely love looking at my running watch at the end and finding a pace that I haven’t seen before. Those great paces for me are barely leisurely jogging paces for others, but that doesn’t matter a single bit. I still feel like I’ve won gold after a run like that.

Another thing is that I want to be stronger, fitter and faster. I want to be able to run, cycle and swim harder and longer. I want that more than anything. Well, not more than anything. I want to see my kids doing well and living happy lives even more. But I really want to be stronger and faster. A large part of that is wanting to be in control of me. I want to be able to tell my legs to move and they move. I don’t want my heart getting in the way and saying that movement is too much for this li’l ol’ heart. I want to be able to tell my anxiety to go burn in hell and to take laziness with it for the ride. I want to take back control of me from all the other me’s who would rather laze about on the couch and watch crap TV or drink an extra-large size of Coke or stay at home under a warm blanket and read a book in bed. I don’t want to be those me’s.

But to be the other me means dealing with pain, mostly cold and wet weather, and doing things that never feel great until they’re over.

It’s a mental battle. And that’s so much a part of why I do it. I’m up for that battle. I want to be up for the battle. I know if I can keep engaging in this battle I’ll be mentally stronger to deal with a whole shitload of other life issues.

This week’s training is done. I might go for a sauna and Jacuzzi in the afternoon to treat myself. Next week I taper. I have an Olympic triathlon on Sunday and I really really really want to do well in it. Even if I don’t do well for any reason, I’ve done the training. I’ve overcome all the little and large mental blocks and went out that door every single time. I’d say I’m a winner already.

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