Lance Armstrong once said "Endurance athletes are running away from something inside of themselves and that is one of the reasons they do what they do."
(not that I look anything like this)
I have been really struggling with my workouts lately. Even the easy ones feel hard and the hard ones are impossible. Yesterday I had a swim workout that included 8 x 100 starting at a reasonable pace and descending to 5 seconds faster per 100. I started 5 seconds over the starting pace and was only ever able to descend to four seconds over the lower target, before falling completely apart and finishing up at three second slower than the first 100 (which was SUPPOSED to be the slowest).
I finished not even that winded. My muscles were a little fatigued but really, what I lacked was not a physical endurance. I am forced to confess that I didn't try that hard. I thought I tried… but I didn't. I gave into all of the negative emotions and "I can'ts" and guess what… I couldn't.
I was reading through Meredith's page (www.swimbikemom.com), a blog that I follow closely because I often find it's a little like looking in the mirror, and saw an older post where she talked about those " fighting through all those I can'ts". I digested that for a while and came to a few conclusions.
One, athletics may breed confidence but they also require confidence. I went into that workout after reading an article about mental toughness where the author talked about pushing yourself and going into each workout with an "I'm gonna nail this workout" attitude. (I would post a credit but honestly, I don't remember where I read it!) I went into it telling myself that, but I realize now that I didn't believe it. So when the going got tough, the duck curled up into a mental fetal position and stayed in her comfort zone.
Two, you have to get outside that comfort zone… a lot. Steel is not forged at a nice room temperature. 'Nuff said.
Three, there is only so much you can manage at a time. If you are in a period of great stress, you can only add so much before your cup runneth over. Perhaps, if I am honest with myself about how stressed I am I can be honest with DW. At present, I am not talking about a tough day at work and traffic on the drive home type of stress. I am talking about wallowing about in all your life's baggage and facing the worst of your demons before breakfast type of stress. I am talking about feeling like you are spinning out of control because you have eliminated all of the comfort foods from your diet. You know, the ones you used to use to keep yourself numb at times like this.
Due to the gluten intolerance, I have a new relationship with food. I have cut out the "drug" and I have felt like a raw nerve this holiday season. I feel like I have a lifetimes worth of skeletons coming out of the closet. When I train, while the endorphins may be what's keeping me sane, the baggage carousel in my head is kicking on high. Even though I have been pretending to be fine, my confidence and sense of well-being are in the gutter which truly means "I can't". Not today, not right now, not when all I really want to do is curl up and cry. Not a lot of iron will kicking here these days... more like a deflated balloon.
I keep realizing that for me training means sorting out that tangled ball of christmas lights inside my head. If I do that, the physical will follow, though the physical realm has become the staging ground for the mental battle. I am not without my strengths and talents, but as my own worst enemy, I am a formidable foe.
In a few days, I will be returning to my own life. I am sure that by itself will help. But I think the revelations of the past few weeks might be with me for a while. I will not be returning to a life of medicating with food, or anything else for that matter, so I will need to learn how to live with it all. And I need to rebuild my confidence. There was a point, recently, when I never would have backed down from a challenging workout. I would have nailed it out of sheer stubbornness (at times I am far more mule than duck). I need to tap that B*TCH and use her strength find my way past the edges of my comfort zone, out into that great wide (painful) world where the real work gets done.
So in summary, in order to change my body, I have to have the confidence and strength to test myself, put discomfort into perspective, and face my demons. I doubt I will ever get my head screwed on so straight that I don't have plenty to run from... but getting my head sorted well enough to run a little faster would help. It lessons the chance of those demons (and the other people in my age group) chasing me down and devouring me!!
It is a long, long road.