Monday, July 20, 2015

Cultivating Fitness For Life

About 5 weeks 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.

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.

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 couple weeks went by. My running wasn't coming around, and even though just taking it easy, I was just feeling off. I know a couple weeks is not a lot of time and you're probably thinking "take your own medicine, be patient," but here's the thing: it was feeling forced and something was saying be careful.

Generally my exercise breakdown since the marathon has been weekly volume in the 8-11hr range, with less than 50% of that running (other workouts/activity include strength training, backpacking, cycling, yoga, walking/hiking, etc). I surely wasn't overtraining/overtrained, but that doesn't mean I wasn't overdoing it from a whole-life standpoint. Hmmm.... 

Embracing Walking 

Crushing my walk commute lol!
So then I drastically switched things up. I stopped being stubborn, stopped trying to force the run. I stopped trying to convince myself I had to train & race again so quickly. It started with resting, relaxing and thinking about what I wanted to do. Thereafter, I started walking/hiking to replace the running--yes, for real walking. While foreign to go out on walks instead of runs, it felt great and refreshing. Immediately the pressure to perform (hold MAF HR, hold my usual MAF pace, etc) 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). 

Listen to the Body & Mind 
The running blahness my body telling me "now is not the time to run at this speed/intensity," 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. So, then I thought, why would I force it? For racing? Body comp? To adhere to my public image as an athlete? Or for my own happiness and personal reasons? I think I was forcing a run comeback based on the calendar and what I assumed was the reasonable progression, not running by my intuition... all while feeling that underlying sensation that the clock is ticking and it's time to train for the next race. Kinda stressful. Which made me question (again), does it always have to be about a race? No, it doesn't. So why was I thinking that I was "ready" to race again already? The first things that came to mind were external reasons--namely how racing is important for my career, image and it's what others expect from me. However, at this moment in time feeling the need to race wasn't/isn't coming from within. Maybe it will again? I just have to be patient. That doesn't mean it's time to be a blob (and I could/wanted to do more than just walking lol)... 

Cultivate Fitness For Life 

Backpacking - the ultimate for the fit-for-life way!
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. 

KB Swings on the patio... love my little set up of strength equipment!

SUP Day.
I will always have my own fitness & health goals that I'm striving for.

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.

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. Who knows, in a couple weeks I may have a different story. Sometimes as athletes we just go through these funks. I'm cool with it! I'm healthy and motivated enough to let it be an opportunity rather than a way to get lost and wrapped up in something no good...
Riding all the waves that life has to offer.