The month of December and it's cold air has finally hit the Northeast. For an endurance athlete/competitive cyclist this means a lot of lonely days either on an indoor trainer, fighting the cold outside, or cross training. Since my coach has me doing specific workouts with a variety of intensity changes I succumb to indoor trainer riding because I can in more ways than one "zone out". I either put on some slightly motivating movie, or throw my ipod on and get the work done for the day. As an endurance athlete for a bunch of years now I've made revelations about my training. Some are quite accurate while others are definitely questionable.
When I was running track and cross country throughout college I used to always be on the brink of over-training, burnout, or injury. This happened because I always believed more is better. Being the stubborn "Long Islander" I am, I would shut out others who opposed the idea and think of them as lazy, or unmotivated. Especially people on my team. There were always those runners who would do the minimum of the day's training. If our coach said go out for a 30 minute recovery run many would do just 30 minutes and call it a day. I on other hand and a few select others would always go above and beyond the desired duration because we somehow thought:
1) We were invincible
2) We were better, stronger, faster
The list goes on and on. Those who I always ran high mileage with were either a lot faster than me or slower. Personally I always felt as if I need to prove something to myself, and others but in a negative manner. My running races speak for themselves. I consistently ran workouts as hard and as fast as I could thinking this type of program would make me have a "breakthrough", maybe even qualify for certain races.
I remember during my Freshmen or Sophomore year in college I had to go on a two week leave for the Army. We had to do some medical and field training. Anyway, it was the middle of the indoor track season and I was trying to run faster than 2:38 for the 1,000meter run. When I felt for two weeks all I could think about was how much fitness I was going to loose because I would not be able to train. During those two weeks I almost didn't run a step because we were so busy. I got back to the campus on a Thursday night and left the next day for a track meet. The first day I ran 2:40 for the 1k but on the next day I ran 2:35! I new PR with two weeks off?
The point I'm trying to make out of all this is that everyone is different. Some people need to run or train for very long durations at a time while others can get away with 50% less. So whether you are an endurance athlete or just someone looking to do exercise make a plan, schedule, and training regiment which works for YOU. Ironically enough others will follow your plan because they either think you have knowledge (which you may or may not) or because they haven't yet learned or figured out a plan for themselves. In the mist of training there will always be those who follow. This is not a negative form of training, just a means to getting in a workout. During college I would always follow (to a certain degree) the training plans of those runners who were faster than me. I would run 60-70-80-90 or even 100 mile weeks with no intention or direction. Then when I would get to a race and run no where near my own potential I would gloat on those runners who made it look so darn easy. The one single most important lesson I have learned from endurance sports is that our body and mind constantly need to be challenged. Movement has been the single most important aspect of who I am today. But ironically enough rest needs to remain an unremitting portion of our existence as athletes.
I was reading Outside Magazine the other day and came across an interesting article about some influential people of 2009. Individuals who might have came from money or not but decided to give back some of their time to others. One person specifically named Brad Ludden, 28, who is a Pro Kayaker, started and organization called First Descents. After his Aunt was diagnosed with cancer in 2000 he started this organization to aid in the second chapter in a survivors recovery. This is also known as the "emotional cure". Ludden took them on some fast exhilarating kayaking adventures to restore the courage they had lost from their illness. Even after a traumatic life experience there are ways to realize we are not as fragile as we may seem. Let loose once in a while. Go into a field and scream as loud as you can, or sprint down the street with all your might (watch out for cars), meet and talk to a stranger... Do something to exert built up energy inside of you in a positive manner that will challenge your daily routine. This could even mean driving a different way to work than you usually go.
With the Holiday's not too far away lets not forget those family members and friends who we care about most in our lives.
Enjoy the day!