I have always believed that the opposite side of opportunity is regret. I don’t want to look back on my life and lament all of the things I didn’t do. Indeed, this is something that I tend to beat myself up for even today. The “woulda coulda shoulda” thinking that leaves me shaking my head in frustration at myself for not doing something in life when I had the chance. The same goes for fitness and exercise.
One of the glorious problems with living in CoMo is that you can drown in opportunities to exercise. Or find yourself scrambling from workout to workout just so you don’t miss anything. Why is this a problem? Well, two reasons, actually. First, there is an extreme danger of finding yourself overtrained (which leads to misery, pain and woe). The second is that a lot of the fabulous athletes in CoMo that dream up these crazy workouts bring with them the Kool-Aid. And you know what I mean. They are going longer, harder, more frequently than you are. BUT… If you can keep up, then maybe…
Before you know it you are not only overtrained, but you are signed up for an Ironman because a Kool-Aid pusher convinced you that, despite your 4 kids, demanding work schedule and lack of fitness… you would be fine. And heck… if THEY can do it…
So, yes, opportunity needs to be sweetened with a big scoop of reality, but it remains a very attractive drink.
I have been on both sides of this. I have had WAY too much Kool-Aid (the half Ironman, a marathon, etc.) and paid for it. But I have, on occasion been the Kool-Aid pusher as well. Offering up whacky workouts or extra bike rides that attracted dozens. I always try to temper them by adding a “this might be a tough workout” or “we will be riding at XX mph, slower riders need not apply” type of disclaimer, but it never works. People just like me show up anyway because they are afraid for some personal reason to miss the opportunity.
I am not on a strict training program right now. In fact, I’m not on ANY training program. If there ever was a time in my life that I COULD be spontaneous or keep the bike in the car, just in case, it would be now. But I really feel like I need to be careful. I don’t need or WANT 80 mile bike rides or 16 mile runs. But the this is what the Kool-Aid pushers usually offer up. And when everybody goes to them and then talks about what a great time they had… regret.
So how do you balance opportunity with reality?
I think first of all, you have to look realistically at yourself. Everyone has limits. They are nothing to be ashamed of. But they need to be respected (and occasionally… pushed. A little…). For instance, I KNOW, given my current state of fitness, I can’t run a marathon. While that is disappointing and perhaps tough to swallow, it’s reality. It’s just not safe. And I would regret a thousand times more if I pushed it too hard trying to get to a marathon and ended up taking myself out of the sport permanently, than I would for skipping marathons, this year.
The next step is to ask yourself what you CAN do. Again, be realistic, but don’t be afraid to dream… a little. I know I have tried to de-value goals a little bit so don’t take this as hypocritical, but make a plan for what you WANT.
My plan is to lose weight. The goal weight is somewhere around 170 pounds. Where my “plan” loosens up a little is how I get there. The hard, fast rules are no alcohol, chips or sodas and stay away from fast food as much as possible. After that, it’s wide open. I’m giving myself permission to jump on any opportunity to exercise that comes along, even if it’s something completely out of bounds with a “triathlon training” plan. I’m also giving myself permission (and this is the toughest one) to MISS a workout. And I’m not setting a time limit on when I need to achieve my goal weight by. If I lose a pound a week, great! If I lose a pound a month, great! The key is to keep moving forward. If my legs hurt from a run, swim for a week. If it’s beautiful outside and Rock Bridge is open, ride! Take the opportunity while it exists. ALL of these things are a part of my goal.
Another really important part of capitalizing on an opportunity is giving yourself permission to stay on your own path even if you take the opportunity. You have to be able to tell yourself that it is OK to GO on the ride, but it is also OK to come back early. It is OK to go off the back if you can’t keep up or to jump out on the pointy end of the pack if you are fast. The point is to remember that you are there. And while you may “regret” going too hard or getting dropped, it will never equal the amount of regret you have if you DON’T GO.
So what brought all this on? Well, it’s the middle of January and Mother Nature has sandwiched a 55 degree day between 2 weeks of 20-30 degree temps. THAT, my friends, is an opportunity. And one that I will surely regret not taking. I’m going for a RIDE!!! Is it a part of a plan? Yes and no. It meets my goal of doing something fitness oriented today, but doesn’t meet a mileage goal or anything specific like that. So why do it? Because it’s 55 FRICKIN’ DEGREES IN JANUARY!! You can’t pass that up! This is what I’m talking about. I had a run planned for this morning. But I can ALWAYS run. This may be the only day this MONTH that I can get out on my bike. I have to go.
I’m thinking about a lot of other things as well. I’m looking for opportunities. I would like to learn how to kayak this year. Maybe even paddleboard. I think an Xterra would be fun. I want to go back to track nights again. I want (in some sick way) to do one night per week of running hill repeats (behind Cosmo on the Old Grey Bitch). And if the opportunity presents itself, even if it means missing a scheduled “workout”, I’m all over it.
“Do the best you can until you know better. The when you know better… do better.” -Maya Angelou