A few days ago for a workout, I rode a stationary for 45 minutes and then swam 2000 yards. I call it the 2X4 workout. 200 warm up, 2 X 400 swim with paddles, 2 X 400 swim with pull buoy, 200 cool down. After the second 400 with paddles I was pretty sure I would need to exit the pool through the kiddie wading area because my arms had ceased to function. I recovered pretty quickly though and finished pretty strong. It was the first time in a long time that I hit the illusive “redline”.
Then, I learned Thursday night the difference between a spin class taught by a “personal trainer” and a spin class taught by a “triathlete”. Let’s just say I prefer the second, even though I nearly passed out a couple of times.
Don’t get me wrong. Both are good classes. But the “trainer” is more of a personal fitness trainer and she teaches her class as such. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure she has never been in a bike race of any sort. She knows how to push, but I don’t think she has ever hit redline on a bike. The triathlete has. I know this for sure. She races a lot and trains/teaches that way. She dared us on several occasions to push past comfortable and find 90% of our max and stay there so we knew what it felt like. She encouraged us to take it as far as we could and even go a little further, even if we blew up and had to back off a bit. As she said, “how do you know your limits if you never bump up against them?”
I have gotten into a bad habit over the last 2 years. In 2012 my training was focused on just making my mileages for the week/month/goal period. I rarely pushed past about 70% of maximum effort in my training and I trained this way for so long this just became routine. On the rare occasion I did hit redline I blew up WAY too fast and had to limp home. I took this as a failure, and that was a mistake. Then in 2013 I was just trying to get ANY mileage in, no matter how slow. While this was understandable, it may have been a mistake as well.
And, no, I’m not saying you should train in the redline (max effort) to flatline (pass out/die) zone. That’s stupid. But I do think you should push yourself. If you always run 9 minute miles you shouldn’t be disappointed when all you can run is 9 minute miles. While there is a time for this, if you want to run an 8 minute mile… You kinda need to crank it up a bit.
It’s easy to put together a “plan” that pushes you. It’s much harder to push to the necessary level for the training to do you right. This is that mental muscle that is so hard to work out but so easily flexes when unwanted. I mean, honestly, I’m a 47 year old fat guy desperately trying to be UN fat. That is all. I’m not trying to make the olympic team or get sponsors… so… why should I push that hard, again? Intrinsic motivation is the most difficult to manage. The reality is, training that hard hurts. You sweat. You can’t chat with your running buddies because you are breathing too hard. You stink (physically, that is). You are tired, and sleepy and hungry and sore and grumpy. And, if you are a triathlete, you get to multiply this by 3.
I’m not painting a very pretty picture… am I. I guess the “pretty” part of this is when you hit that PR or get in those jeans again. Or, for me, when you hit your target weight.
And, while these are all good goals, try telling yourself that “this is for your health, or those jeans” when you are 7 hills into a 10 hill set and you are pretty sure you just saw your lungs on the side of the trail. This is when that mental muscle flexes and says “Screw the jeans, and screw you too!” “I’m quitting when we get back to the bottom.” The hardest part of the workout is turning around to go back up again. Because you know you have to take it to redline (and run past your lungs sitting on the trail) AGAIN… 3 more times. It takes a special kind of crazy sometimes…