Sunday, April 20, 2008

Training & the Brain

I've come to the conclusion that training for athletic endeavors is 75% mental and 25% physical. There are two major ways in which my head seems to always get in my way. First, especially when I'm working out by myself, I wimp out or don't push myself hard enough. This happened today when I kept working in one minute walks during my morning run. Ugh. Why did I keep doing that? I didn't really want to walk but my brain kept saying, "Oh, just walk for a minute. It will feel so much better. I promise . . . " And, then, I'd stop and walk. Ugh, that sucks!

This first mental problem of mine though is no where near as bad as the second. The reason for that is that I usually don't work out by myself. I'm either training with my women's tri group or riding with a friend. And, one of my strengths is that I will listen. Hence, if my women's tri coach tells me to do something, I just do it. I don't really think about it. I don't even consider not doing it. If I'm there doing a workout with him, I just do what he says. This, however, leads me to the second, and previously stated, worse mental problem.

I have the hardest time actually making myself workout. I seem to always be able to find excuses. It has been the case recently that I've been working so much that finding time to exercise is difficult, but that is also bullshit. Triathletes are busy folks and the rest of them figure out ways to train. I just lack motivation, will, something. As I ran this morning, I thought of Vegan Run Amok. She's training for her first sprint triathlon and simply does not miss a workout. She's got a plan and she follows it, every, single, day.

I lack motivation. Vegan Run Amok has mentioned a few times that fear is motivating her. She wants to make sure she can finish her first tri. Other athletes just seem to love what they do. What else explains marathoners, ultra runners, and ultra cyclists (is that what y'all are called?). Y'all must love it or something? The weird thing is that I love it too when I actually make myself do it. When I'm swimming, running, even cycling, I like it during the exercise, but I guess I don't like it enough that the feeling gives me the motivation to make sure I'm working out at much as I should.

What got me out of bed this morning to run was that I'm starting to get a little soft around the middle. Now, we can't have that! ;) That might motivate me for awhile, but hopefully my waist will shrink quickly and I'll need something else to motivate me. Anyone have suggestions? Any ideas how to increase motivation, commitment, or will? I need help!


Vegan Run Amok said...

Hey, TLO! It is so funny to me to be mentioned in this way because, especially when it comes to running, I think I have the same problem you do.

I was never super consistent at training before I started this sprint triathlon training program. In fact, this is probably the first time in my life I've ever gone 44 days without missing a scheduled session.

When I used to miss sessions, it was usually because I felt too tired or felt like I had too much to do - and in truth, I think I often was, and did.

I think the reasons I've been able to stick to this particular training include the following:

- Fear

As you said. :)

Fear of drowning. Fear of not finishing. Fear of not fitting into my tri-suit on race day. (I gained nearly 15 pounds when I hurt my back and ribs last fall and still have another 6 pounds of injury weight to lose before the event, which I'm on track to do, but not if I miss a bunch of training sessions.)

- Do-ability

The training plan I'm following is really pretty low-volume. Last year before I hurt myself I was doing a lot of 80 minute, high-intensity (for me) runs, 75 minute weight training sessions (including warmup), etc. The longest sessions in this plan are 45 minutes. I'm pretty busy, but 45 minutes plus whatever preparation is required, that's rarely so much that I feel like my day will just totally implode if I'm away from my computer for that length of time. Plus, I don't usually feel like I need a nap afterward, whereas with the higher volume training I was doing previously, I would be totally wiped out afterward and unable to do much other than sleep.

- Better Organized

I finally made the leap to David Allen's Getting Things Done time- (really life-) management system earlier this year and although it was kind of labor intensive to make the transition, it has really helped me to get on top and stay on top of everything I need to get done and also forced me to really sort out my priorities. In particular, I've realized that I'm getting to an age where I *must* make my health a priority, otherwise I'm quite likely to be spending much more time and energy than I'd like in the future dealing with chronic illness (a la practically everyone else in my family).

Enjoyment: I really think the swim and bike are fun! Which may mean I'm not working hard enough, but whatever. I'm learning new skills, which keeps my brain humming happily away, and anyway, the main point for me (going back to priorities) is to feel good and stay healthy, not to qualify for the Olympics. Running is still not so much fun especially since I'm always wondering at what point I'm going to lose the feeling in my leg, but at least that's just two short sessions a week... which I guess kind of goes back to do-ability (though maybe in the psychological rather than time-related sense in this case).

This probably should have been a post rather than a comment. Oh, well! :) I'm looking forward to other people's comments! I often wonder if I'm the only one who has to force myself out the door some days... it does seem like so many athletes, as you say, just love what they do and don't need any further motivation.

Charlie said...

It is good for me to reexamine my "why" from time to time. The waist line works short term, but what is the big picture.
Once I am sure, I have no struggles in motivation.
Now, why am I doing this?

the little one said...

VRA - you know I think you're inspirational!

Charley - I've been thinking about this question ever since you asked. Why do I want to do this? I decided to write a post evaluating this question on my home blog. Thanks for getting me thinking!