Monday, June 10, 2013

Motivation with Temperance

There are two types of "feelings" we have that pertain to training. One type of "feeling" is the "I don't feel motivated to hit the gym or run right now because I've had a long day". The other type of "feeling" is the "I'm trying to work out but it feels like I'm towing a small truck behind me."

Sometimes, especially at the end of a long training cycle, these two feelings can become related. Repeated poor workouts, muscle fatigue, the inability to recover, and general exhaustion can make your body feel like dog crap, and keep you from feeling like leaving your couch.

image


However, most of the time how your body feels and what your mind says are two separate things. I've been learning that knowing when to listen to your body, and when to ignore your mind are really important skills to hone during a training regimen.

According to a training schedule I'm trying to adopt and modify for my own use, I was supposed to do intervals on a track last night. Yesterday I drove two hours each way to the Gunks and worked in the sun for a good portion of the day. By 7:30 pm I had no interest in working out. I wanted a beer. Housemates and friends were already at my house with beer and food. After a lot of hemming and hawing I slipped out of the house with my dog and headed to a trail along the river nearby.

I was able to beat my lack of motivation, a victory for me and my fitness. As I began to warm up and think about the workout ahead of me I felt my legs. Yesterday's seven mile road run left my legs feeling heavy. I'm trying to run more. The goal is to stay injury free and run a 10-mile race in September. That's four months away.

Prior to last week I was taking two rest days per week. Now I'm shooting for six days of running each week. It will be the first time in more than eight years (probably more like 15 years really) that I'm doing that. Top that off with a few climbing gym or outdoor rock sessions and each week feels pretty hard.

At this point, for me, just running six days a week is a giant hurdle. The final 20 minutes in an hour run is hard (I need to make sure I'm not near my house until the very end!). Long runs, even at an easy pace, still make my legs tired. The only days that I recover are days when I'm completely off.

Killing myself just to check a box on a training schedule didn't make sense last night. Three weeks ago it didn't make sense either. After three hard weeks of training, several fast track workouts, and an X-C race PR my legs were tired. I arrived for a track workout and did the first interval. I struggled to finish, running a moderate pace. Instead of pushing through the remainder of the workout I cooled down and left. I took 4-5 full days of rest after that.

When I returned my legs felt great and I was psyched to work out again. Lance Armstrong (doping or not, the man was a master at training) did something similar to this. He used a 4-week training schedule each month, which left him with several rest days at the end of each monthly cycle.

As long as one is careful about eating well and sleeping enough, no harm will come of a few extra rest days. The opposite isn't true though. Overdoing it with too much speedwork or too many hard workouts will decrease your performance, ultimately causes weight gain, and makes motivating to exercise seem impossible.

Motivation seems like the single most important tool we have as athletes. Without it we'll end up on the couch or stuck in front of the computer. However, our motivation will be the most useful when combined with temperance. By listening to our bodies we can decide where the "edge" lies, stay excited about training and ultimately gain exceptional fitness.