Two Times

As the saying goes, there are two times to train — when you want to and when you don’t want to

There are plenty of times when training comes easy.  Blue skies beckoning you to roll along to feel the breeze, warm sun on your back in the outdoor pool, a hard tempo run to attack the pavement as well as attack stress.  On these days, the living is easy, so to speak.  You’re chomping at the bit to get out and move and sweat and training becomes this life-affirming act that nourishes your soul.

These, however, are not the times that define us as an athlete and competitor

No, the days that mold us are the ones when you sit on the edge of the pool thinking, “DAMN that water looks cold!” and you just can’t make yourself jump in.  Or when you sit on the couch, all dressed to run, and can’t seem to think of a legitimate reason why getting outside would be better than just napping in your favorite chair.

Now, I’m newly in the ranks of having a triathlon coach.  Someone to make all my decisions for me — I no longer have the power to skip workouts with no reasonable explanation.  Yesterday, I had a swim on tap.  And it was DEFINITELY one of those “don’t want to train” days.  Now, for those that know me, swimming is not my favorite discipline of the three — far from it, actually.  I sat on the cold tile for at least 10 minutes, trying to think up a good enough excuse for not swimming.  Finally, after determining that “tsunami moved in and the pool closed” wouldn’t be believable, I took the (very cold!) plunge.

As I started my workout, my brain was still concocting ways to end the swim early:  foot cramps, chemical imbalance in the pool, ripped bathing suit, projectile vomiting, swim cap too tight (I’m pretty creative when I don’t want to do something!).  The fact is, I mentally quit this workout at least a dozen times.  It was essentially a 6×300m workout, and within each set my brain would plot against me:  ”You can quit.  No one will know.”

That whisper in my head almost did me in… I almost caved and took the easy way out. 

It took finding a louder, stronger voice to do a little talking back:  ”Shut up.  Let me do just one more set and then maybe I’ll listen.”  But – it was always “one more set” and then — the workout was finished.

Was it a good swim?  Not particularly.  Did it make me a better triathlete?  You bet.  Those mental victories add up … and after overcoming again and again, pushing through the bullsh!t becomes second nature, the way of a competitor.  Sometimes it’s supposed to be difficult — if it wasn’t, everyone would do it — and those are the workouts that bring about the stronger, mentally-focused athlete that achieves great things.


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