Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ebb and Flow

The ebb and flow of motivation through the miles is similar to the ups and downs in daily life. Sometimes you just wake up in a funk. You can’t shake off the sleepiness and nothing seems to go your way. Suddenly the next day you are brimming with a new perspective on life and ready to tackle the world! There is often no visible explanation for the changes but it is very easy to feel. You can be down for a couple days and sometimes only for a few minutes. At least this seems to be the way I experience it in both life and miles traveled. Energy levels during a long run often follow the same up and down cycle but the changes occur more quickly and are more acute.

At one moment I am cruising along enjoying the scenery and then an ache will set in. Before you know it my legs feel heavy and my stride becomes more inefficient. Every step can become painful. This is usually when the strongest desire to stop and rest comes. It washes over your whole body and the voices in your head giving you excuses to quit begin to get louder and even more convincing.

Haven’t you have done enough . . . if you keep pushing you are going to damage something . . . who is going to know if you just take a break for a little while?

Often, if I just persist, like a storm that has blown in quickly and turned the weather upside down but then blows out leaving the air calm, my aches will fade away and the pace becomes easier again. Before you know it you are cruising along again feeling like you might just finish in record time. These recoveries are blissful and knowing they will eventually come is one thing to focus on to help you through.

As I progress through my training cycle and spend more and more time pushing myself each day, I have found these moments to come more frequently and with a greater impact to my system. I have different strategies I use to combat the urge to give in to the rising desire for the sweet relief of rest. Often I take the approach of taking stock of my form and breathing. Spending just a few minutes actively relaxing and controlling your breathing patterns can help you make it through a rough patch. There are times, if the trail is smooth and wide and nobody is near, that I will close my eyes and run 10 or 15 steps collecting my thoughts.

I use my MP3 player a lot to keep my spirit high. This morning was no exception. It was much easier to ignore the voice of weakness when I had Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name” pumping in my ears. I believe the more often you place yourself in these situations, and subsequently the more times you overcome these feelings, the better you become at handling difficult scenarios as they arise not only on runs but life in general.

It most likely has something to do with nutrition and the amount of rest I’ve had. There is a fine line between performing the optimum amount of training to reach your potential and burning out before you get there. Along with a higher resting heart rate, lack of ability to recover from exercise and the inability to sleep well at night, one of the symptoms of burnout is a lack of motivation to train. Ideally, you should train just below the point of burnout. If you cross this threshold into burnout you have no option but to rest. Continuing on will only raise the required level of rest necessary to compensate. To make it more confusing everyone’s line is in a different place. You must just listen to your body. I think I’m in the right place.

Week of September 6 – 48 bike, 55 run

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