Right now I’m in a low for training. My back is still keeping me from doing what I love to do and I am starting to beat myself up about it. The roughest point was this week. In an effort to try and improve my back, I thought I’d try a yoga class. Fifteen minutes into it, I realised there was no way I could get through it. When I left and the door had closed behind me, a wave of laughter went through the class. I was the butt of a yoga class joke. Ironic since yoga has been the butt of my workout jokes.
The good news is that everything else in my life is on a high. Personal life, job and family life all couldn’t be better. I wouldn’t mind if my next door neighbor and his barking dog were to move away tomorrow but other than that, I have it pretty good right now.
I have spent most of my life arranging my professional life around my personal life. Some would say, like my mother, that I am an underachiever but the truth is that once I started working in the real world I did not see anything that was worth cutting into my training schedule. This is also due in part to the fact that physical activity is tied to my mental health. If I cannot train regularly I start to slip into a depression.
Over the years I have learned the values of pushing myself when it comes to sports. I know that if I put in twenty plus hours of training per week it will pay off. It’s been my experience that this is not true for most things in life especially when it comes to a job. You can work hard at your job and be good at it and then the worst recession in one hundred years comes around and your job and 401K disappear over night. Or somebody you work with just doesn’t like you and you find yourself being subtly pushed out of your job.
With long distance sports their are tangible results. If I work hard and stick to a sensible training plan, more than likely I am going to finish the race. There’s no way in hell I’m going to ever win a race, but I usually will accomplish my goal. Sure, I can have some bad luck on race day or mother nature can throw me a curve in swimruns (frigid temperatures, abnormally rough seas). But even if I don’t finish the race, by the end of four months of training, I feel great.
For me, training has required a self-discipline that I rarely put into anything else in my life. I am not physically built to be a great long distance runner so I need to put in the work just to finish these types of races. Talent is not going to get me anywhere.
Although training has shown me the benefits of working hard for a goal, there is a definite drawback for me. Sometimes its hard for me to differentiate between beating myself up and pushing myself. Pushing yourself is what gets you up at 5AM on a Saturday or Sunday because you want to get in a workout before its too hot. Pushing yourself is going out for that run or swim when you’re tired at the end of the working day or the sea temp is only 12°C and its a cold grey day with an equally cold air temp. Beating yourself up is when you start to get depressed because you couldn’t get in a work out or your training time is a couple of minutes longer than last weeks time. I often find it difficult to find that line between pushing myself and beating myself up.
Pushing myself I see as sharpening the knife and beating myself up is saying the knife is a piece of crap and throwing it out. Right now, I’m beating myself up. But I can easily beat myself even while I’m healthy and all pistons are firing. A 10K training run that is a few minutes off my regular ‘fast’ time can send me down a spiral of what a crappy runner I am and remind me of being an eight year old at camp during an all camp Olympics and finishing last in every event I competed in. Funny now but a definite ego punch all those decades ago.
When I start to beat myself up in those situations I concentrate on what’s going on about me. If I’m swimming slow and start to beat myself up I think about how lucky I am to be able to swim year round in the Mediterranean with all sorts of marine life swimming around me. On runs I stop looking at my watch and start looking at the view and listening to the sounds of a trail run if I find I’m starting to beat myself up. When I want to get my perspective back, I will stop everything and just listen. Even though the trails I run on here are not too far from some pretty big urban centers you don’t have to go far into the woods to hear nothing but the wind or the birds.
So I’m now forming a plan to get out of this ‘beating myself up spiral’. I’m looking at my recovery as I would a race. I’m celebrating every time the back doesn’t hurt and looking at it as a positive step. I’m seeing a new Osteopath and am going to keep in mind that it will improve. And when it does feel better, I’ll have an even bigger appreciation for a nice relaxing 20K training run regardless of the time.
I grew up in a small town north of Toronto. I started running on country roads and fell in love with long distance running when I was twelve years old. I loved (and still do) getting up just before the sun and going for a run in the country. Running in Canada you get everything from 30+°C heat in the summer and minus 20°C cold in the winter. I started challenging myself when I was 13 and would just run for hours on the weekends not really knowing the distances or pace but just seeing if I could run to the next town and back and then set a new challenge. I first heard about an Ironman when I read an article about it in Sports Illustrated when I was about 13 years old. At the time, an Ironman was a disorganized, crazy endurance challenge and I set my sights on doing one. Finally did my first Ironman more than ten years later in Canada out in British Columbia after completing several marathons and several smaller triathlons. I finished. I still remembered how exhausting that first one was. Although I’m not fast, I love the endurance aspect of sports. This led me to the world of ulra-marathons where I’ve done a 50 mile, 100KM and 100 mile race. A few years ago, my wife told me about these swimrun races in Scandanavia. Easily the toughest endurance event I’ve done because you need to not only have endurance but you have to be quick. Then there’s the challenge of nature, the cold and trails. The best thing about it is being a team with my wife and sharing the highs and the lows that a demanding endurance sport brings. One moment you’re telling each other to fuck off and the next you’re kissing at the finish line.something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
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