Why I’m Going Streaking

I’ll admit it. I’m in a rut. I’ve been able to string together six months of injury-free running (yay!), but have lost my fire. I still work out. I still run. But lately I’ve also skipped workouts for any number of reasons (too tired, too hot, too cold, don’t feel like getting sweaty, just don’t wanna).

As someone who’s been at this for a while, I know that the first step out the door is often the hardest. I like this challenge because I think the suck it up, it’s only a mile voice can drown out my inner whiner until I’m in the groove and actually feel like moving.

So I will run when I am tired, cold, lazy… and remind myself that I can.

streak

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Of course it’s effin’ hard!

I am training for a marathon using the Hanson’s method, and am running more miles and more frequently than ever before. The program is designed to develop cumulative fatigue, and while the longest runs top off at 16 miles, they are meant to simulate the last 16 miles of the race, not the first. 

I was about five miles into a nine-mile goal pace run one morning when I really wanted to slow down. My mind whined, this is haaaard. All of a sudden, something I had read on a triathlon forum popped into my head: Of course it’s effin’ hard. It’s IRONMAN. While I have never trained for an Ironman (and probably never will), I had a “Well, duh!” moment right there.

Marathon training isn’t supposed to be easy. Running a marathon isn’t easy. Neither is any physical endeavor where you are pushing your body beyond where it wants to go. To a person trying to get in shape after years of sedentary life, running to the end of the street is effin’ hard. No matter how fit you are and how much you might love to exercise, there are days when it’s a struggle just to get out the door.

Anyone who decides to tackle a goal knows from the outset there will be a struggles, but the buoyancy of untested enthusiasm can obscure that fact. Once a person is down in the trenches dealing with the nitty-gritty tasks at hand, however, it’s easy to lose sight of why this crazy thing ever seemed like a good idea. A decision must be made whether or not to press on, sometimes multiple times a day. But while the prize is obtained at the end, the true treasure is often found during the journey.

So, I forged ahead with a bit of a smile on my face and finished the workout strong. I have a few more tough training weeks before taper time, and I plan to carry this mindset to the end. Every effin’ step.

Life is pain

Because the “Hard is what makes great.” quote from A League of Their Own would have been too obvious.

A Tale of Two Workouts: Stopping, overcoming, and the stuff between the ears

Yasso 800s on the treadmill. It was a workout I had done several times leading up to my marathon last December. Challenging, yes. Brutal, no. One month after the marathon, they were on my schedule again. The first couple felt okay, then they got progessively harder. Normally, the first couple are the hardest while my body tries to adjust to the pace. This time when I finished the sixth one, I was spent. I had been in contact with my coach about how I had been struggling with some of my workouts. His advice to me was “When in doubt, rest,” so I decided to pull the plug. Since I had so much experience with this workout, I knew something was off and I felt that trying to finish might set me back more than it would help.

Fast forward a couple weeks. Same workout. The first few 800s were challenging. Number four was worse. I considered bailing out. During my recovery “lap”, I remembered a quote that went something like, “Once you start quitting, it becomes a habit.”* I still felt like I had made the right decision the last time, but was the fact that I had bailed out weakening my resolve? Would I start taking the easy way out during races? I knew that I was physically stronger than last time, so I told myself that I needed to at least make it through six. Then I pushed through number seven so I would at least be able to say I had made progress. I felt I could do another, and after number eight I knew I’d make it through all ten. Victory was sweet.

Knowing when to stop or modify a workout is tricky. People who have been exercising a long time develop a mental toughness that allows them to push through extreme physical discomfort. As Tom Hanks said in A League of Their Own “The hard is what makes it great.” This kind of attitude can lead to tremendous accomplishments, but if we ignore everything our bodies are telling us, we can end up doing ourselves harm. Some good reasons to stop or scale back a workout include:

  • Illness
  • Injury
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Feeling the after affects of a race or hard workout
  • Staganting or slowing down despite consistent workouts
  • Mental burnout

While “quitting” can be the smart thing to do, it’s also important to make sure a detour doesn’t become a U-turn. Let’s face it – exercise is often inconvenient and uncomfortable. There’s a reason why most people don’t stick with it. A pattern of skipping workouts leads to diminished fitness and discouragement which makes it even tougher.

I still think that ending the first workout was the right choice, but I was surprised at how much it affected me the next time around. Training my body continues to teach me a lot about my mind.

* The official quote was Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.  -Vince Lomardi

Motivation and Commitment

January is more than halfway gone. The month that often begins brimming with plans, goals, and enthusiasm often ends with the same-old-same-old. Excitement wanes and we fall back into old routines. People who want to pursue a healthy life often bemoan a lack of motivation. Speaking for myself, it’s amazing how jazzed I can be to workout while I’m sitting at my desk at work only to have to have that feeling vanish as soon as I leave the office. An internet search for “Workout motivation” returns scores of results. Why is so hard to keep?

Motivation ebbs and flows – kind of like the loving feelings you have for someone you’ve been with a long time. When you’re excited to tackle your fitness goals, life has a way of leaving the toilet seat up*. I think motivation is an important thing to have and it certainly makes the journey more pleasant, but it is not sufficient in itself. The question you need to ask yourself is, “Am I committed?”

I don’t know if there’s a person alive who doesn’t want a healthy, fit body. So why doesn’t everyone have one? Our society certainly makes it easy not to. High calorie junk food is cheap and abundant. Modern conveniences have made it so very little physical effort is required. Jobs and family require our attention, and rightly so. Appealing distractions are everywhere. Many people just go with the flow because it takes such a concentrated effort to swim upstream. Progress is often slow. Just like your thumb can block out the sun, immediate wants can seem much bigger than far-off goals.

The lifelong commitment involved is a deep and personal thing. What will being fit ultimately bring to you and your life? Then ask, “Am I going to forgo short term pleasure to get what I really want in the long run?” Passing up food you love is hard. Getting up early to work out is hard. Working out after a long day when you’d rather just flop on the couch is hard. Know it, own it, and do it anyway, then while it may never become easy, it will become part of your life. And that great feeling that comes afterward? I find that… motivating.

*My husband does not leave the seat up.

No, this isn't me :)

Does this mean I can hire Jerry Maguire?

Sometimes a small moment in life can change the way you think. During my second triathlon as I was nearing the finish and the announcer said, “Here comes Michelle Kaseler, looking strong. This athlete is going to finish well.” I had never thought of myself as an athlete before. The word made me think of professionals, or at least people who earned college scholarships. I admired them, but I wasn’t one of them; I was just a girl who liked to work out and race.

Merriam-Webster defines an athlete as “a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina.” Dictionary.com says “a person trained or gifted in exercises or contests involving physical agility, stamina, or strength; a participant in a sport, exercise, or game requiring physical skill.” Gifts and abilities are mentioned, but so is training and participation. Maybe an athlete could also be described as a person who prepares for and engages in physical competition. Many of us participated in sports when we were younger, only to stop after high school. The good news is that are plenty of events out there, whether your preference is racing, weight lifting, teams sports, or a forum to display your hard-earned physique.

Having this mindset changed the way I looked at things. Should I go to bed at a reasonable hour or keep watching re-runs? I’m an athlete, I need to sleep so my training will be effective (confession, this works about 25% of the time, but it’s something). Does it make you want to take better care of your body throughout the day? How does an athlete view food? A well-nourished and fueled body will perform better than one that isn’t. Junk food can keep you from realizing your potential. Does it give focus to your workouts? You have goals and events ahead. You’re not just going through the motions: you are in training.

My compensation as an athlete consists of an occasional age group award, EPSN isn’t trying to set up any interviews, no child has asked for my autograph, and I will never be be able to say the word quite like Cuba Gooding Jr. does in the clip below (I am an at-thlete!). On the other hand, I get out there and do it, not to make Gatorade or Nike happy, but because it’s who I am.

Train on, fellow athletes!