Back to Running, er, Walking?
About a month after my BQ, I thought I was ready to start building back some consistent run miles and get back to training for the next race, whatever that would be, an ultra maybe? I'm still using the MAF Method principles (and probably always will) so nothing crazy. I was willing to slowly earn more volume and not force it. Doing other workouts too: strength training, low-mileage cycling, yoga, SUP, etc.
But life had/has other plans.
I'd go out to run and generally it was all crappy--a few glimpses of my typical fitness, and some runs ok, but more so just blah quality. I even started walking during runs in a way that was rare for me. Some days my mind would be into it, other days it was going through the motions with my mind somewhere else. Weekly mileage was low, in the 20s.
It's worth pointing out that my health is still just fine right now and there's not an underlying cause that would be making my performance tank.
I thought, "Well, maybe I just need to keep going, run more, get through this funk and it will come back eventually." So, I got back to the habit of doing regular training with very few off days since MAF felt so moderate. A few weeks went by. My running wasn't coming around, and even though just taking it easy, I was just getting tired from it. I know a few weeks is not a lot of time and you're probably thinking "take your own medicine, be patient," but here's the thing: I didn't really feel that drive and desire to try and build back the running.
Generally my exercise breakdown since the marathon has been:
20% strength training
20% other - backpacking, SUP, bikram yoga, hiking/walking, etc.
Weekly volume in the 8-11hr range.
I surely wasn't overtraining/overtrained, but that doesn't mean I wasn't overdoing it from a whole-life standpoint. Hmmm....
A couple weekends ago I finally switched things up. I stopped being stubborn, stopped trying to force the run. I stopped trying to convince myself I had to race because "that's what I do" and since I'm healthy I have no reason not to, right?
It started with a weekend of just resting, relaxing and thinking about what I wanted to do. Thereafter I started walking/hiking to replace the running--ya for real. While foreign to go out on walks instead of runs, it felt great and refreshing. Immediately the pressure to perform disappeared and in the meantime I had great energy all around. Walking is not just for non-athletes or old people, take it from this 30-year-old. I'm even seeing positive body transformations inside and out (I think it's because I'm being kinder to my body and less oxidative stress).
I've spent more time thinking about my journey, my goals and focusing on the idea of purpose. I've started studying meditation and mindfulness. I'm reading certain books and listening to certain podcasts that often nothing to do with sport or fitness. I'm slowly getting some clarity. Things are starting to making sense.
Listen to the Body
Here's what I've concluded: The running blahness was not going to be cured by tweaking some variables to get it back. No. It was my body telling me "now is not the time," and it was cautioning me to be careful in order to prevent a burnout or setback or injury or whatever negative thing. And you know what? This time I actually listened rather than stubbornly ignoring the signs.
Furthermore: If we only have so much energy to give, how do we want to spend it? Honestly, you guys, right now I feel like I'm sitting on a mountain of opportunity with certain things and I have all these dreams of things I want to do--it's a calling, the time is now, and it's something I can't ignore. What I'm talking about transcends me. I really can't justify spending my good energy on race training right now. It's like when you hear about those athletes who write a book and then go on tour (specifically thinking about someone like Rich Roll and how he went from being an all-in ultra athlete to busy with another purpose that didn't really allow for that ultra training/racing he once did). People needed what Rich put out in this world, and he was willing to chill out on his ultra-racing to deliver. I dig that.
So, then I thought: "Does it always have to be about a race?" No, it doesn't. SO why was I "ready" to race again this time? The only things I could come up with in this case were external reasons--namely how racing is important for my career, image and it's what others expect from me. however, feeling the need to race wasn't coming from within. That's a problem. So I pulled the plug.
But that doesn't mean it's time to be a blob on the couch.
Cultivate Fitness For Life
I was listening to a new Tim Ferris podcast recently with Laird Hamilton, Brian McKenzie and Gabby Reece and he asked what they'd each tell their 30-year-old selves. Brian said, "be patient;" Laird said, "stop drinking now" (lol!); and Gabby had a bunch of wisdom too especially for women/athletes, too much to reiterate (listen to it). That got me thinking, "I am 30, what should I tell myself now so that in 10-plus years I don't look back and say, 'I wish back then....'" At 30 I want to be healthy & happy, do cool shit, be me, rock my career goals, help others be awesome, and be fit for life...
On that same podcast they were also all talking about how they're into the "Natural Born Hero" kind of living--the title of Chris McDougall's latest book (I interviewed CM as well on this podcast)--which promotes this idea of training to be fit for life and not necessarily a race or competition. While I haven't yet read the book, to me this idea of fit for life means training in a way that allows you to be present, naturally and dynamically strong, ready for the next adventure, intuitive, and able to survive on your own. Fit for life means that you are not training in a way that wrecks the body, causes injury and makes you feel trashed all the time with a building apathy toward what you're doing. I see a lot of endurance athletes literally complain about the training "they have to do"--what is this? Shouldn't we LOVE the exercise and/or training we're doing? I know I certainly want to!! I also don't want to fall victim to being "fit but unhealthy" again, ever again.
Now, if you look back up at my training breakdown, you see that I'm already going in the direction of fit-for-life training and diversity... this is what my body craves right now! Am I still working out a lot? Yes! For example, my strength goals are ridiculously awesome right now in terms of creating an unbreakable body, to steal McKenzie's verbiage, and that uses precious energy--energy well spent IMO. Or what about the backpacking?! It's the best. I'm in love with it...
|Backpacking - the ultimate for the fit-for-life way!|
|I will always have my own fitness & health goals that I'm striving for, even if they're not "a race."|
Here's another quote from the book "Zen Mind Strong Body" that sums up my current thinking well:
"I train to be strong, robust and healthy. I train to make day-to-day physical tasks easier. I train for enjoyment. Gymnasts train to win—oftentimes at the expense of their health and fitness. Competitive athletics are funny like that. Professional athletes are the fittest people in the world, but they are frequently forced to train through injuries. Many wind up pushing their bodies beyond what they can safely handle. The irony is that these people may get to be the best in the world for a brief, shining moment, but will often suffer for it later. The higher the high, the lower the low. I prefer to take the middle ground. If I feel pain, I back off. If I need rest, I take it. By using this approach, I’ve managed to avoid any serious injuries or major setbacks in my training, despite over twenty years of strength work."
The Irony of Being an Athlete-Coach
And just to be sure, I still have a great team of "advisors" with whom I can share my inner most thoughts, and bounce ideas off; that helps immensely. Thankfully my man Dr. Phil Maffetone is one of those guys. We recently had fabulous personal conversation (sorry, not the podcast but you can listen to this new p-cast with Phil here) and it validated what I was thinking to be the case, and some. For starters, he definitely put me in my place (kindly) on how I need to stress less in certain areas of life and just let sh*t go--yes, I'm still a work in progress, I just think a lot often to a fault (probably why I'm so good at coaching stress management in my athletes because I sense this stuff from a mile away).
More so, the convo with Phil turned into an insightful analysis of athletes who become coaches, and the athlete-coach who wants to go from being an ordinary coach to great one--often at the price of continuing on as a highly competitive athlete. There's a certain irony of the athlete who loves sport so much that he/she becomes a coach, and then eventual struggle between those two pursuits when you're at that next level. Phil shared some stories. This was his own journey, and he and I agree my path going a similar direction. Phil had me walk him through everything I do on a regular basis (coaching, podcasting, and all), and it's a lot. It's a lot that can be fatiguing--mentally and physically--just as a workout is. We talked about associated stressors (even the "good" stress) and he told me that I can't expect to work like I am, invest so much time/energy/thought into my work, and also expect to train like an elite athlete. There's only so much we can give as a person especially if we want to stay healthy, as I do. I needed that convo with Phil.
|Donating my time to spend a day educating these fine folks on achieving health + performance. Literally spoke for 5+ hours; a different kind of endurance effort that was pretty darn cool. More please!|
So that's where I'm at.
More transitions and acceptance of where I'm at and what I'm doing with my life. At the end of the day, I do not feel lost, I don't feel weak, and I certainly can't feel guilt for not actively training for a race. And, look, I am only 30 with decades to come and I'm almost certain that my racing days aren't over. Heck, I do have Boston 2016 ;) But I think the point of all this is finding peace with where you're at in your journey and not letting external forces influence what you should be doing, nor letting yourself get stress or feel guilty for what's not happening. At least, that's what I'm doing....