Friday, October 16, 2015

Motivation, Drive, Discipline

A friend recently asked me how I find the drive, discipline, and motivation to work out, because—let’s be honest—it can be REALLY hard sometimes. I have four(ish) main strategies/components that help me.

  1. Big-picture, long-term thinking: This one is extremely personal and will not apply to most people. The truth is that I am not at all good at running consistently, and I frequently see fits and starts throughout the year. I don’t have an addictive personality, I don’t have reliable self-discipline, and I do believe strongly that fitness should be enjoyable and I should rest when it’s not. So there are A LOT of rest days.

    However, I do know there is a very strong correlation between my bouts of depression and long periods without exercise. This knowledge keeps me jumping back on the bandwagon every week. I don’t get the runner’s high to keep me going. Regular exercise brings my daily moods up to normal. I don’t receive positive reinforcement of feeling great . . . just feeling well enough to function.

    I get up and go so I can keep going on.
  2. Timing: Personally, I have to commit to working out in the morning because I will always be too tired and hungry after work, and I will always be drained from evening rush hour traffic. Sometimes this means I set an early alarm and grumble in bed for an hour before getting out the door; sometimes it means I'll jump right out of bed at 5 AM to run and then sleep another hour after my shower and before work.

    This makes me more mindful of my sleep, which also improves health and performance. I make responsible choices more frequently when I ask myself how much I’m gonna hate life the next morning and how many days a single late night is going to make me miss working out as I spend nearly a week recovering from feeling time-lagged.

    Find a time that you like and just do it. If that means 10 jumping jacks, pushups, squats, or burpees every time you get up to go to the bathroom, just do it. Every little bit counts.
  3. Accountability: First, a story. Life happens. In this case, I spent every free minute last week preparing for a weekend camping trip AND had two migraines that week. I walked a lot over the weekend but could not train. It took two more days to rest and recover from heavy drinking, camping with 800 hundred strangers, the elements, and the minimal comfort of an army cot. I think the primary reason I managed to run Wednesday morning is because I mentioned to a friend the night before that I would try to.

    When I have a feeling the next morning will be tough, I don’t hesitate to make a Facebook post asking for some encouragement. Friends are always happy to tell me to kick some ass. It doesn't always work, but when you have someone who will later ask “how did it go?” and you don’t want to say, “Well . . . I didn’t go,” it can be VERY motivating.

    3a. Community: Joining a fitness forum where people have similar goals and cheer one another on can also be hugely motivating. Even if you’re much weaker than all the rest, they’ll remind you that everybody started where you were. No one runs a marathon on a mere whim.

    Some groups focus heavily on diet and weight loss or strict discipline and elit performance, and that doesn’t work for everyone. Lots of groups have a different focus and vibe, and there’s at least one out there for everyone. I’m active in at least 5 Facebook fitness groups and also connect with friends via the Fitbit app and challenges. Everyone is very encouraging and supportive, and connecting with a community can turn self-discipline and accountability from drudgery to enjoyment.
  4. Goal setting (or accountability, part 3b): I only started running because some friends pressured me into signing up for a 10k race in 2010. Being my first-ever race, I had to train for it. I continue to register for fun and difficult races often so I feel compelled to get out and train. I don't motivate myself well without an event to train for. Last year I did over 30 events including virtual runs, and this year I’ll do about 20, not including social running events.

    Sure, I can easily walk a 5k if I must, but failing to train for anything longer makes for a painful event. I may not train to win or compete, but I train to finish strong. I’ve undertrained for a few races and cried across the finish line, but that’s far from ideal. I’m not likely to just skip a race if I didn’t get around to training, because these events are so expensive and I want my stupid fucking race shirt. So I train.
What works for you?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Race Report: Playtri Stonebridge Ranch Triathlon

After signing up with me for a sprint tri on a whim in the spring, taking a hard fall on the bike course, and not finishing the race, my friend received a free registration for a future race, bought a bicycle and swim lessons, and signed up for the Stonebridge tri because it offered the super short Super Sprint distance. I signed up for the same race so I could be there to support her. She didn’t bike. She didn’t run. She didn’t learn to breathe in the water. She didn’t go. I ran alone.

I did not, however, do the super short Super Sprint. I’d wanted to stick to a challenge more on my level and signed up for the Sprint, which happened to have a 750-meter swim course . . . 50 percent longer than my two open water experiences. Fortunately, I was struck with a bout of depression in the weeks leading up to the event that prevented me from worrying or fretting about the difficulty of such a distance for me.

Race day: I was ready to give the event an F several hours before it started because there was no on-site parking and the transition area was as far away as possible from everything else, specifically, 300 meters from any portapotties and just as far from the swim exit. So after walking my bike nearly a half mile from the car to transition, I walked a quarter mile to get my timing chip and then back to transition, and a third of a mile to and from the portapotties—twice.

One positive: The water was about 10 degrees warmer than my first and only OWS race a year ago. But the air was chilly, so I chose not to warm up and spend another 45 minutes shivering before the race. I was nervous about the swim but confident in my ability to start slow this time behind the other swimmers. It wasn’t as rough as I expected. I didn’t swim well and did spend a fair bit of time on the backstroke and was nervous with so many other swimmers so close. The finish was to the east with the rising sun in my eyes for 300 m.

I supposedly improved my pace by an unbelievable amount since my last tri, so I highly doubt the course was 750 meters. Three weeks ago I’d swum 300 m in a pool race in 9:14 minutes and then Stonebridge in 17:41. Sure, I’ve been taking swim classes, but I’ve not been improving my speed that much, especially in open water.

From the swim finish, we trudged up a 15-foot high hill and back down the other side to the transition. My bike transition is always slow because I need sunblock, socks, and gloves. Whatever.

The fucking bike course STARTED UPHILL for the first HALF MILE. It felt like most of the course, at least two-thirds, was uphill. I felt slow and worried I wouldn’t make the cutoff. I actually improved my bike pace significantly over my last race, though I’d not touched my bike since then, and I know that’s the only part of the course that was measured accurately.

I worried about starting the run with a half hour til the course closed, but the run was on sidewalks and crossed no roads, so I wasn’t that worried. My last three tri 5k paces were 12:28/mi on 3/29, 17:09/mi on 9/7, and then 9:37/mi on this 9/27 event. Nuh-uh. I set an INSANE 12-minute tri PR because the 5k was two miles. How the hell is this shit USAT certified?

The medal was great, the volunteers were great. I will never do another Playtri event because I’m sick of their not offering women’s size shirts and this event pissed me off so much.