Back To The Basics

The other day one of my crazy, fit friends sent me this text …

Oh no … I have a love / hate relationship with epic goals.

My immediate reaction was to respond with, “No! Are you crazy? I hate running … Yes, ok, when and where do I sign up?”

  • Do not fear, an epic commitment to spend half of my life running over the next few years has not been made … yet. 

My absolute favourite way to compete in races or fitness adventures is with very little notice and no specific preparation; competing just because I can. Planning to not plan is a thoughtful response to my incredible ability to over train and over do things. If I am completely focused on training for something, its annoying. I have even been known to annoy myself, which in and of itself, is quite the feat. And then after being very annoying, I get injured and all of the focus and discipline becomes null and void.

The ‘Why the heck not Half Marathon’ Approach.

I decided to run my first half marathon the afternoon before the race. Not having anything better to do on that particular Sunday morning and my need to do interesting things led me to swing by MEC on my way home from the ritual Saturday morning after run coffee and pick up a race bib.

Carbing up, tapering, water loading, myofascial release therapy, pre-running of the race course and all other preparatory things which real athletes do prior to a race were not done. There was no time. I was running 22.1 kms in 14 hours and I probably needed a good 8 hours of sleep.

I simply did what I always do before a long run on the weekend — the exact same thing I had done the morning before to run 16 kms with the girls – sleep, coffee, water, a small breakfast and then run.

I am a very average athlete. In a pack, I am in the middle and if I stand out stand out in an athletic crowd it is from my ability to get injured or have a clumsy near death experience, which, let’s be honest, is rather ridiculous.

Some days I wonder if I can even call myself an athlete … the answer to this question and many other fitness ponderings came in the form of a book passed to me by one of my gorgeous, blonde running friends.

Nerd + Fitness Hobbiest = Woman who reads fitness memoir-esque books.

Born To Run

It’s true … I have been known to haul books around the weight area for an hour so I can read while cycling after I am done training …

Deep within the story woven throughout the pages of Born to Run, I found myself sighing a deep breath of relief; every person on the planet is designed to run.

  • I know, deep thoughts with Donloree …. Yet how often do we simply dismiss the obvious?

Being the hilarious humans that we are, we overcomplicate and spend a gazillion dollars on something that is woven into the fabric of our DNA. When taken back to the basics, simply put, we are meant and built to run.

The ultramarathon query came to me while I was armpit deep in the story and becoming highly curious about my potential as an athlete.

Reading the book I remembered that inside of me there are the makings for a fit, capable and skilled athlete and that I need to point myself in the direction of the things I want to do with my fitness adventures and simply LIVE and TRAIN to the best of my ability.

Every. Single. Day.

For me, fitness isn’t about training for the next race, hike or epic adventure I decide to try, rather it is about living a good life and having the option of climbing to the top of the mountain to see what I can see.

An average week of training for nothing in particular at this juncture in my life looks something like this:

  • Monday Evening – Running hills
  • Tuesday Lunch– Training back with sprints
  • Wednesday Lunch – Training chest and arms
  • Wednesday Evening – Running intervals
  • Thursday Lunch – Training legs
  • Thursday Evening – Possibly a shorter run or a hike
  • Friday – Whatever the world I want to do or not do …
  • Saturday – Long run or bike ride (spring, please come soon!)
  • Sunday – A run, hike, training or long bike ride … depends on how I feel

Perspective.

I am surrounded by amazing athletes; people who can literally run circles around me while barely breaking a sweat while I wonder if my next breath will be my last.

For anyone who doesn’t have an active life, they want to die looking at my schedule and for the people who run circles around me … they laugh at how easy I take it week to week.

As annoying as it is to be one of the slowest people in a group of fitness fanatics, it causes you to go past what you think is possible and grow your capacity.

In the whole scheme of life, it doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing. It simply matters that you are moving and pointing yourself in the direction of where you want to go in the long run.

Right, that pesky ultramarathon question ….

Let’s be honest, I am probably not going to run an ultramarathon, but I also don’t need to answer the question for quite some time. Until an answer is required, I am going to be out there kicking my own ass on a daily basis and training hard while going back to the basics.

My fastest times running, biking and hiking were when I was simply doing it for the fun of it; enjoying the race against public transit while riding 20 kms one way to work, running with friends who were doing longer, faster distances and hiking all over the Rockies because there are things to see and experience,

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Sustainability.

In a world where boredom creeps in faster than a cold snap up here in the subarctic, we are quickly disillusioned with our inabilities rather than delighted with our abilities. If you want to open the door up for things such as running an ultramarathon, biking across a few countries in Europe, hiking tall mountains, doing things you never thought you could do and seeing parts of the world that very few people get to see, you need to choose the path of doing hard things and embrace it.

To be able to sustain a decent fitness level in a world where you get paid to sit takes purposeful action and discipline. You must move past the ‘train for a race’ mentality. Too many times we focus 16 to 20 weeks of our lives and make extreme diet and activity changes so we can run a race or wear a piece of clothing and then once its been checked off the list the reward is going back to the sloth-like activities which got us into a place of requiring an extreme life change.

Trust me. I know. Anyone who has dieted and competed in a bodybuilding show knows exactly what I am talking about; completely and utterly ridiculous.

  • Been there. Done that. Bought the bikini.

Learning to be ridiculous in the right kinds of ways.

Training because you want opportunity and the option to say yes to something when it comes is harder than the narrow focus of training for a single event. There is no end in sight, there is just the next day of training, eating well and fully showing up for yourself in your own life. There is no finish line, no medal, no one on the sidelines cheering you on; there is only you.

Once you realize and accept that life is always going to be hard in some way, you suddenly get to choose which hard you’re going to have – regret and pain or discipline and focus.

Swimming through life.

Swimming in open water, you quickly realize how different it is from swimming in a pool.

  • There are no lines 12 feet below to guide you.
  • The water may be anything but pristine.
  • Shoreline quickly disappears as you set out.
  • At some point, you are in the middle of nowhere trapped between the start and the finish.

In order to get where you are going, you have to keep your head down, swim with good form and then look up every once in awhile to ensure you’re still swimming in the right direction.

Course corrections are often required and good form is always required.

Life is in the open water.

Point yourself towards where you want to go and use good form. When you get to the tricky part where you can’t see the start or the finish, keep going with confidence because you are doing all the right things to get to where you want to go.

Every morning when you wake up, ask yourself a few good questions:

  • What do I want?
  • What’s not working?
  • What must I do today?
  • What needs to change?

After you are honest with yourself, and only after you’re honest with yourself, lean into your day and live in such a way to honor your answers. Go to the gym, have the hard conversation with your boss, book the appointment you’ve been avoiding, dig your bike out from the back of the garage, tell your family what they really mean to you, quit something, open up a blank page and start writing, say yes to something you want to do, wear the sassy heels, get rid of things you don’t need, stop deciding you can’t, be gentler with yourself or simply roll the window down and sing along with the radio at the top of your lungs.

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Above all, avoid choosing the easy route get good at doing hard things and run, cycle, train, swim, stretch, swing a racquet … move your body and sweat. Training your body gives your mind permission to expand and you will be surprised at what you accomplish.

Go ahead, surprise yourself, I know I will.