Yesterday I was asked how many hours a week I devote to training. The answer is 12-16 hours per week. It sounds like a lot! My friend commented with admiration not for the actual activity, but for the dedication to my hobby. Truthfully her praise was exactly what I needed to hear. It’s not just the exercise that I love (although I do love the endorphin high every day), it’s the whole process of planning the training weeks, testing my speed and endurance once a month, eating well so that I don’t sabotage my workouts and above all, organizing my days around swimming, biking and running.
She asked me how I stay motivated. Sometimes I’m not sure. Most of the time training kind of sucks. Yesterday’s ride was over two hours long and the driving wind and rain was bitter. The day before there were several other people in my lane at the pool and their breaststroking antics were annoying. The day before that I forgot my outdoor running clothes at home and had to do my workout on the treadmill because I didn’t have a jacket. Before that I had a pretty uncomfortable run because I’d indulged in chips and candy the night before. Last week I tried compression tights for a long ride and they were so disagreeable and tight they actually left marks on my skin. Yet somehow the motivation to finish what I started carries me through all of the discomforts of actual training.
I create my workouts to the minute. For example, a 16 hour training week is 960 minutes. Swimming, biking and running is divided proportionally according to my goal time in the race. My goal is to complete Canmore Xterra 2018 in 192min, broken down as follows: 30min swim, 105min bike, 55min run, plus 2min for transitions. The training proportions correspond to the race goal: 16% time spent swimming, 55% biking and 29% running. A 960 minute training week equals 153minutes at the pool, 528minutes on the bike and 278minutes running.
Each workout is subdivided into intervals. I might do a 160min bike, which is further divided into 6x20min intervals with a five-minute rest in between. My point here is not to outline every workout but to emphasize that when the training is really demanding (which lately is the case every day), I focus only on the task at hand. I only have to ride my bike for 160min today. If that’s too hard, I tell myself I only have to finish this 20-minute interval. If that’s still too hard, I tell myself that I get to rest for five minutes of easy pedalling. And if that’s still too hard, then I tell myself to tough it out and get the day’s training over with so I can get back into bed.
All this to say that the motivation doesn’t come easily. The training is excruciatingly difficult, painful, boring, lonely, frustrating. But at the end of a session, I get to colour in one day’s block on my calendar. The week is white to begin with, but at the end of the week, it’s coloured. At the end of many weeks, the entire google drive is colourful!
So is that what motivates me? Coming home and colouring in some digital boxes on the computer screen? Maybe! These boxes represent the commitment to following through on a plan that I schemed up on a frigid afternoon in March. These coloured boxes represent the complexity of the training and that it’s so much more than just pounding out the kilometres. It’s researching the best training formulas, it’s finding the most comfortable clothes so that I can stay as happy as possible on the long workouts, it’s making enough time every week to fit it all in, it’s learning which food makes me fast and what snacks make me slow. Ultimately, it’s just following through on what I started. So regardless of the wind, the rain, the uncomfortable spandex clothing, the missed junk food, the irritating swimmers at the pool, the skipped parties because of the protracted training schedule, I do it for the simple pleasure of saying that I completed a task.