Monday, March 17, 2014

Burning the candle at both ends

S - 20,300 yards
B - 78 miles (1 very long mtb ride)
R - 51.9 miles

Time - 18.08 hours

Thankfully (at least, as of this moment in time) the title of this blog-post is not self-reflective.  It has, at various points in time, been a true statement in the context of the way I felt I was treating triathlon.  Now, however, I feel as though what I do is "manageable."

I remember when I first started the coaching relationship with Brian back in 2011 I was getting some serious work done.  From January to late March I was averaging ~20 hours a week (that is a true average, not a skewed average like a lot of people throw out) for 12+ straight weeks.  I remarked on this fact on facebook with something along the lines of:

"Total hours for the last 4 weeks: 90 hours" (or something like that)

My comment was probably generally perceived to be bragging and/or arrogant.  I understand where those people were coming from but they were wrong.  I was PROUD. If being proud of something means that mentioning it is taken as braggadocio or arrogance then I am not really sure what to tell those people that think that way.  It would be obvious that they do not really KNOW me, but that's ok.  Only a few people really get to know ME.

The point, however, of mentioning the hours total in this particular context was to remark on a comment that was made about it.  It was something along the lines of "Wow! Sounds like someone is headed for a June burnout!" I don't really remember who made the comment or what it was, specifically, but it has stuck with me for three years because it bothered me so much.

High volume (20+ hours a week) training requires, simply, a few things:

1) Consistency
2) Commitment
3) Availability

For the past 3+ years I have had all of those things.  I had (and still have) the available time to train 20 hours a week.  I have the available time to train 25 hours a week.  But somewhere in that spectrum I start to lose #2, a little bit of #3 and then #1 suffers.  If I didn't work, or just worked part-time, I'd have TIME for 30 hours a week.  But what would that do to #2? The idea of training full-time SOUNDS great, but then training becomes your job. Would I like it as much if it were ALL I did? Would you?

If you are smart (or have a smart coach), a burnout is not going to happen from a physical standpoint. A mental burnout is very possible.  Guess what happened in June? I didn't burn out, I just kept getting better.  I had enough time and sleep that my body could absorb that training load and improve, slowly, over long periods of time.  The same has been true for the last 3 years.

Each week brings with it an "adequate" training load that leaves me fatigued but in a "manageable" way.  If I felt overwhelmed I would talk about it with my coach.  I go through ebbs and flows from a mental/motivation standpoint but there are little things I do that make each day a little more enjoyable as a consequence of those actions...

1) ACT like I am having fun.  Sometimes this is forced, sometimes it is not forced.  Sometimes I do not act like I am having fun and maybe I am not.  But the point is that I generally TRY to have fun.

2) Do stuff that's different.  Lately that's been mountain biking.  Signing up for a mountain bike endurance event, signing up for my first XTERRA, etc.  Maybe for many triathletes it's a single sport event: swim meets, bike racing, run racing, etc.  Just do something DIFFERENT. Chances are that if you are reading this triathlon is not paying you a lot of money (guess what, I'm reading this myself too) so don't act like it is. It's NOT your job until you start making more money from triathlon racing than you do from your "real" job.

3) Wear fun clothes

4) I try to take each day as it comes from a workout standpoint.  There is no point in "pre-worrying" about training. The only thing it does is stress me out; I don't really like that. Manage your days, not your months or years.

One thing to keep in mind: I am 29 years old. I have not yet developed the full weight of "responsibilities" that can - and frequently do - exist for an "adult." I think my #4 would change "slightly" if I were in a different life situation. But I am not. I am who I am. You are reading this so you must have an idea of what my life is about, otherwise you wouldn't have found yourself here.  Everybody's #4 will be different depending on their life context.

When you start to burn your candle at both ends, life becomes a lot more stressful.  Managing your own expectations, plans, etc is imperative to maintaining a healthy life balance. I still do triathlons because they are fun.  I have gotten a lot faster and my goals have shifted slightly to accommodate my changes in speed but ultimately if I stopped having fun and enjoying the process I would stop racing triathlons. I do not view being good as validation.  I view it as important because I have shifted my life "track" to allow for the availability from a time perspective to be good.  But I wouldn't trade that for anything.

I don't have many friends outside of triathlon.  My work revolves around triathlon.  My mind revolves around triathlon. So yea, I'm pretty obsessive about it but I do my level best to not let it be all consuming.  I haven't burned out in 4 years and don't plan on doing it anytime soon. I try not to let my success or failure in workouts and races dictate my level of happiness.  Not always possible, but it helps to not think of them as "win or lose" events. Everything is a learning experience and the "business of life is the acquisition of memories."

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