It’s been a cold wet spring. As Tracy posted last week we’ve had a miserable few months of cold wet weather that hasn’t exactly been inspiring outdoor activity. I was envisioning months of outdoor riding leading up to our Newfoundland trip. (I think there’s still room, by the way.) Instead I’ve been riding inside even in May!
Well this weekend is the May holiday weekend in Canada and while the weather wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t terrible for riding either. Susan invited Sarah, David, Kim and me to her family cottage for the weekend and we all brought our bikes so could ride and get ready for our big Newfoundland adventure. Susan got to introduce us to her favorite nearby hilly road. You could tell it was warm and the holiday weekend because on Sunday there were three other groups of cyclists on that same stretch of road.
I think we all felt a bit rusty. Well, I did. Susan got to ride her fancy new bike. We all got to practise our group riding skills. The hills were demanding on the way up and “whee!”on the way down. I loved the hills. I wasn’t a big fan of all the gravel that had washed into the road. But there was a big smile on my face doing one of the things I liked most in the world, riding bikes with friends.
This week it’s back to work and back to my resolution of riding 20 km and writing 30 minutes each day.
One month ago, I signed up for the Shape Half Marathon in New York on April 14. I haven’t run a regular road half-marathon in about a decade. I do still participate in the occasional trail running event, but some years ago I decided that I’d run enough road races. To compound my dread going in, I knew I wasn’t even going to be able to start training until March 14th(literally only 30 days before the race). Sure, I would be cross-country skiing for the weeks before then, so not out of shape, but certainly not in running form. I only signed up because a friend asked me to. The race is on her birthday, so … Before I could second guess myself, I registered.
Well, I’m remembering why I don’t do road races anymore. My head. My head. My head. I know I’ll be slower than my last half-marathon, yet I don’t want to know. I’m aging. I didn’t start running seriously until I was in my late 20s. It took me a while to find my strength. Which means that I had the good feeling of beating my younger self until I was well into my forties. Not so anymore. A lot of days I don’t think anything of my generally slower pace. When I’m not training for a race, I’m able to think: How lucky am I to still be running? How good does it feel to travel on my own two legs? How strong am I? But these days, when I’m out for a training run, I think: Why am I so slow? Why am I so tired? Where’s my spring? Where’s my lightness? My zip?
The looming race screws with my sense of self-worth. My mind turns on me and I can’t access my gratitude. Sigh. There’s no joy in the training. Thank you, Sam, for pointing out earlier this week thatwe are not always going to have fun in our workouts. Though I want, as Tracy pointed out, to have some kid-like funwith my body. I am not having fun with this training. I’m having frustration and self-recrimination instead.
Also, I did not ease into my training. I decided that with only a month to train, I’d start with a 14-mile run. You don’t need to tell me how ridiculous that was. Plus, I wore not just new running shoes, but a new kind of running shoe I’d not tried before. So smart. Turns out the new shoe style did something nasty to my calf, which has taken a full two weeks to almost heal. Two weeks during which I continued to run haphazardly, because how could I not do at least four 2-hour runs before the race? More like 2-hour lopsided slogs through a haze of discomfort. Last week I was only able to run once after my long run, because my body was in pain and exhausted. And I’m not even sure that my “long” run was actually a long distance, because I was in Illinois, running somewhere unfamiliar, and I don’t track distances. All I know is that I was running for more than 2 hours; who knows how far or not far.
You get the picture. I’ve done a lot wrong to prepare for this race. I might have done better to rest for the full month and then run on the day in my old, familiar running shoes. Am I self-obstructing so I have an excuse (other than time and years) for a poor result? And by “poor” I just mean relative to my own past results.
I’m writing this with 10 days to go before the race. Here’s where I’m at: I know I can run 13.1 miles. That’s not the challenge. The real obstacle is my thinking. I’m competing with my younger self and that’s a losing battle. I need to make the mind shift. As one of the guided meditations I often listen to asks, “If I am not this body, who am I?” Or, I could just keep being disappointed in my physical self for the whole rest of my life (!). But that doesn’t seem like a wise choice. I know that how I think and what I think are choices. That’s step one. Step two is actually implementing that knowledge.
So hard. Working on it!
Anyone else slowing down? I’d love your thoughts and insights on how you’ve come to peace with the new normal.
Yesterday Sam wrote a serious post about how most of her exercise these days is not fun. And she’s doing it anyway. I felt profound relief when she got to the part where she said she can still ride a bicycle (the thing that most makes her go “wheeee!”) and lift weights.
It made me reflect a bit on my own activities and how my definition of “fun” has changed from “fun” to “challenging with a bit of fun thrown in.” In honor of spring, I thought I’d repost something from my swimming days about doing these that make us feel like kids again. Lately for me that hasn’t been swimming (not fitting into my plans these days), but rather colouring books (the ones for adults) and photography (SO much fun). But even those don’t quite reach the fun level of the little swim sprint races I describe in this post.
The other morning at the end of a 6 a.m. training session in the pool, the coach told us to swim down to the flags about 3/4 of the way to the other side of the 25m pool. The point: to do group sprints from there back to the end of the pool, about 20m.
When the four of us in my lane got to the flags, we treaded water waiting for her countdown. Three, two, one…GO. When you’re used to pushing off from the pool wall, starting up from treading water feels odd. The first few strokes almost don’t take at all.
But you know what I learned as I powered out of the deep end and made my way to the end of the pool as fast as I could, lane-mates doing the same alongside me? I’m not bad at it. I gained momentum after a couple of…
And the furthest I’ve run in recent weeks is 24K (or was it 22K?). And that’s the furthest I’m going to run. Because my running coach, Linda from Master the Moments, has me working on intensity over distance. I confess that I have told her more than once I’m worried that I haven’t done the distance. She assures me that I can.
It’s an approach that I’m not used to. Usually when I’m training for a distance, I make sure to cover that distance at least once, even exceed it sometimes, to feel confident that I can do it. But this training cycle I went to India (where I only got in one treadmill run) and I’ve been doing a lot of treadmill training this winter, and when I got back from India I got slammed with a cold, and just generally life has been harder than usual so I’ve needed more sleep.
So when I got back from India Linda switched things up. First, when I had that cold, she had me doing ONLY easy runs. “Just get back into it,” she said. “Get your legs used to moving again.” It felt like permission to do something that I needed to do. What it accomplished was that it got me moving where a more daunting commitment would have had me saying “forget it.” Linda is smart that way.
But I expected that when the cold went away (it’s just started to subside and not quite all gone), she would be upping my distance again. But instead, two weeks ago my “long run” was 45 minutes (Anita did 24K with the Running Room). Then this weekend it was an hour: 30 minutes easy, 15 minutes moderate effort, 15 minutes hard effort (Anita did 26K with the Running Room).
She increased the intensity on the in between runs too. For example, I was assigned 6x800m repeats at a hard pace (I managed 4x800m), with a warm up and cool down to equal 8K (I managed 7K).
Here’s the thing. I’m doing it but I’m feeling nervous that it’s not enough. Again, Linda reassures me that I will finish. Switching up the paces, especially with the hard effort at the end, reminds me that I have more than one gear. I have done 30K before (heck, I’ve done 42K before), and I wasn’t nearly as fit when I did that, so in some sense I know I can do it. Also, I was having IT band issues manifesting in my knee before India. Now nothing. Mind you, that only kicked in at 20K, so I guess we’ll see on race day.
And here’s the other thing: I am enjoying the training and feeling strong. Yesterday I went out for that 60 minute with the increasingly difficult paces, and it felt amazing. It helped that spring was in the air. I’m going to need to strategize my Around the Bay a bit, breaking it up into 10K segments. I am a little concerned that I won’t be able to keep up with Anita, who is a machine right now, clocking the mileage in preparation for ATB.
But I guess we will see how it goes on race day. I’m less keen to do 10-1 intervals than she is because, to be frank, though I can look forward to the rest intervals, I find it hard to break my momentum and restart it again. I realize there are pros and cons, but psychologically I fare better with a walk-through-the-water-stations strategy than a 10-1 interval strategy.
Have you ever done a long race on training that puts intensity before distance? if so, how did it go?
Last March, exactly a year ago today, I posted to Facebook: “Feeling hopeful. Really hopeful. First time on the spin bike without any pain when pedaling while standing. No pain while using big gears either. Phew. There’s hope.”
This March I’m happily riding, indoors and out, and thinking about training for the summer ahead. March is very important training month for those whose summer activities start in June or so. I’m not racing but I do have a very serious cycling event in June, the Newfoundland bike tour.
In order of events, it’s the 5 boro bike tour, the Newfoundland Bike Tour, the 1 day version of the Friends for Life Bike Rally, and then the Tri-Adventure. See here.
Chris Helwig, my former cycling coach posted to Facebook the other day about why March matters for cyclists: “March is here. In my humble opinion this is the most important month of the year for anyone racing road or MTB or even athletes just wanting to ride faster for group rides or in general. This is the month that sets you up for the rest of the spring and summer. Even if your winter so far has been mediocre, having a good volume and quality March can assure you have a great season. So clear your social calendar, dig into those trainer rides during this cold spell and get it done!!!”
There’s still a lot of snow on the ground and it’s cold. I’ll commute to work but training rides are indoors still.
This Saturday Sarah, Ellen and I met up at the Bike Shed to ride for a bit. I think I might just leave my bike there for the month and ride lots.
Every day I find myself using something I learned in my almost ten years with the Guiding movement.
While I might not ever go camping in the woods again by choice, should I land there, I know how to build shelter and fire and how to find water. I use my map reading and orienteering skills when I travel; I am conscious of my footprint on the earth and what I need to do to take care of it.
With my Brownie pack and my Girl Guide company, I learned to be part of a team, to solve problems jointly, and to respect others and their gifts. I learned to set goals, to acquire new skills, and to cultivate resilience and strength in myself and others.
I am grateful to the fabulous women who gave their time to support us girls in growing up to become competent, committed, and engaged members of our society.
Today is Thinking Day and I am reminded of what a great space for girls and young women the Guiding world is to learn some practical skills. And this reminds me that I have found or built other spaces where I can continue to grow and develop.
Like the gym. Not the gym of my childhood though. That place was fraught with stress and fear, the kind that is negative and immobilizing. While I know my gym of today can sometimes cause me stress (hello, wonky hip) and a little fear (goodbye Jacob’s ladder), it’s the good kind of stress and fear.
The gym is a place for me where I can build the skills that will make me strong, and I hope, keep me that way for a very long time.
The gym is a place where I can push myself to try new things. And it’s a place, when things don’t work, I can try again, or figure out a way to do it differently.
The gym is a place where I learn how marvelous our bodies are: for the things they do naturally and the things they don’t and the things we may need to re-learn how to do all over again.
For me, the gym has become a place of opportunity and a place where I value physical strength, in the same way being in Guides developed and supported others kinds of strength.
How about you? What does the gym mean to you (if you go to one)? What are the other places where you grow and support resilience and strength through fitness?
MarthaFitat55 is a writer lifting all the things, physical and mental.
It’s all over the fitness media this week. For weight loss, you should go for high intensity interval training over other forms of exercise.
According Runners World, “Interval trainingcould help you lose more weight than a continuous moderate-intensity workout, according to a new review and meta-analysis published in theBritish Journal of Sports Medicine. Interval training may make your body more efficient at burning fat, the researchers believe.”
But why is weight loss even the question? Why not sports performance or other training goals?
I confess this was my reaction: Yawn.
I shared the story with the other bloggers and Catherine chimed in, “Also, for those who are not actively competing, there’s the issue of what we LIKE to do and what we can sustain over time. I’ve done plenty of HIIT, but these days I’m not up to it mentally. We shall see as the weather improves– hill repeats do have a certain masochistic appeal– but right now steady state is a happy place for me.”
Then Mina, “I don’t even like the phrasing “not up to it” in this context, because it implies a shortcoming or deficit. No activity is sustainable, unless we like it. In fact, I’d Kondo-ize that statement and say that maybe we shouldn’t do activities that don’t spark joy. Recognizing, that we will need to sweat a little and experience some false starts to find what activity that is. Even if our goal is competing, we better be loving the training to get there. Basically, I think we feel best when we are pursuing our personal version of excellence and when that excellence has meaning to us (which likely involves some meaning for others, too).”
What’s your response to this report?
Also, I then ran into an interesting critique of the headline version of the review’s results. Read the whole thing here.