I have never been able to understand people who are all lovey-dovey about their
training. You know; the people who are on a constant high because they live a life of “activity”. The ones who wake up cheerfully at 5:30AM in the morning because they are about to go out for a 5km run in the freezing cold. The people who talk incessantly about how great their four-hour bike rides make them feel. Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy for them. But those feelings they have are something I have never experienced and I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like to have them.
I am the kind of person who wakes up at 5:30AM and thinks: But I just want to go back to sleep! I am the kind of person who never really learned to enjoy pain, and I find running in particular quite painful and thus not enjoyable. I am the kind of person who hates the cold, so jumping in an 18C lake for open water swim training is simply a miserable experience. I am the kind of person who can sometimes enjoy a bike ride, as long as I’m going at my own comfortable pace, I’m not expected to push myself, and I don’t have to ascend or descend too many hills, or to keep going for too long.
When I explained all this in a blog post once while I was training for my Ironman, and then shared said blog post in a Facebook group for people training for an Ironman for the first time, I got a lecture from an Ironman coach in that group saying something along the lines of: Well if you don’t enjoy it, maybe this isn’t for you. You shouldn’t do things just because other people do them.
That woman made me very very upset that day.
We are not all alike. We don’t all get lovey-dovey about training. Some of us find training extremely difficult both mentally and physically. But we do it because we recognize the value in keeping fit. And we book ourselves into events because they give us goal posts to aim for in our mission to keep ourselves fit. We are the people who hate the training, but love the benefits we reap from doing it. We are the people who have learned that we can do things that we really don’t want to do because we know they are good for us in the long run and that they will get us to our ultimate goals. We are the people who take these lessons from our training and are able to extrapolate them into other aspects of our lives.
Because I find training so challenging and not enjoyable, I have to turn my stubbornness gene on to full volume, especially when I need to train hard for an upcoming event. To train for my Ironman race, I had to be extremely stubborn on an almost hourly basis. I had to be very structured in my daily routines to fit in my work, my trainings, and all my other normal life things. If I ever felt like I really didn’t want to do something, I would have to tell myself to suck it up and just do it. Part of me would feel like a petulant child throwing a tantrum on the floor, while the other part would be yelling at me, military style, to man the fuck up!
That’s how I got myself through ten months of Ironman training.
Now that it’s over, I have had to turn down the volume of my stubbornness gene and give myself a break. And it’s not been easy. It’s been REALLY easy not to be as regular with the training as I had been. It’s been REALLY easy staying at home sometimes to laze about on the couch watching crap TV or to read a book. But it hasn’t been easy internally. I have been stubborn for so long that now that I’m not being stubborn about training, however temporarily, I end up feeling guilty inside. Part of me, the smart part, knows that my body needs a bit of a break. But another part, the stubborn part, has been turned on for so long and so intensely that it’s playing mind games with me. I have been struggling with feelings of guilt for many weeks now. That is something I need to work on.
So just as I have had to teach myself to do things I don’t particularly like to do because they are good for me, I now have to teach myself to do things a bit differently for a while. It’s not going great, the guilt can be overwhelming at times, but I’m trying.
I’m giving myself another 1.5 months of semi-regular, not-too-intense training. And then I’ll have to ramp up the regularity, the intensity, and my stubbornness gene to prepare myself for the summer season.
I’m learning about balance: when to push and when to give myself a break. When to be stubborn and when to go easy on myself. The end goal is always to live well, to be healthy in mind and body, and to keep fit.