Or here’s another way to put it, I’m a polyamorous athlete. There are lots of different sports and physical activities I love.
I spent a lot of time with people who really only love one sport–Aikido, rowing, CrossFit, or cycling, for example. Sure they may do other sports but those activities are in service of their one true love. They lift weights to build strength for cycling off season or they run so they don’t get winded on the mat in Aikido but if they could just cycle or do Aikido, they would. I find the worst mono-exercisers to be runners and I’ve written a bit about that in the post Is there life after running?.
My son is like me. He plays rugby, basketball, and football. He loves all three but he’s at an age where he’s being pressured to make choices. He’s a good size for rugby but a bit small for football. He runs well for his size but getting faster might mean getting smaller. And tackling styles vary between rugby and football. Specialization lurks.
But me? I’ve got no serious future in sports. I play for fun. My primary passion is cycling but I’ve come to love rowing too. I’m a green belt in Aikido (middling rank) and I dabble in soccer and CrossFit. In theory, it ought to be okay for me to play the field, so to speak, but in practice there are challenges. Here are some of them:
1. Coaches design training schedules assuming you’re doing one thing, their thing. Sure, they say you can substitute one workout each week with a crosstraining activity of your choice but often they don’t have much idea of what you’re up to with your other things for which their thing counts as crosstraining. It can get messy.
2. This get worse when training gets more purposeful. You might be in the “build an aerobic base from which to add power” stage of one activity while the other is focused on “developing explosive power.” Yeah, right.
3. Then there’s race schedules versus training schedules, building and tapering and recovery all thrown into one big mess. This year I considered doing a rowing regatta the day after a mini duathlon and while I think it would have been okay (both events weren’t that long) I can see why others were skeptical. That’s one nice thing about triathlon. You get to do multisport but with a training plan where the sports fit together.
4. You are often arriving at one activity tired from the other. I felt bad for teammates in soccer when I showed up for a game the day after a century bike ride. On the one hand, I was there. But on the other, I couldn’t exactly run my hardest.
5. Sometimes it feels too much like an excuse. The rowers think I’m really a cyclist. The cyclists say, well you haven’t been out much this year, you’re too busy rowing. The CrossFitters know I dabble and running, it’s always third string. I make no great claims in that department.
6, And it can be frustrating. I watch the people who do CrossFit everyday or who row everyday or who are at Aikido each night and see them make terrific progress. They advance much faster than me and I’m jealous.
6. But on good weeks? It’s amazing. I’m doing lots of different things I love. I’ve got a waiting list of new things to try. And the world of physical activity looks rich and full of choices. I’ll never be a star but I will have an awful lot of fun. I promise!