... my journey from ballerina to triathlete

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year's Resolve


I am now on day four, week three of my twenty-two week training schedule. I have been writing retroactively because I started this blog two weeks after my first wobbly steps toward training, but I've decided that rather than continue attempting to catch up I am simply going to summarize the past few weeks and go on from today in real time. 

After my varying experimental successes during the grace week before I began officially training, I started the training schedule on December 15, 2012. The first week continued to be a challenge for swimming, as I struggled with my cap, ear plugs, and stroke. Despite buying good plugs and using a swim cap, I continued to have problems with water in my ears, which due to childhood ear infections and multiple surgeries can cause major issues for me. The temporary solution was to use a snorkel so that I don't have to turn my head to breathe, (the motion that allows water to sneak in too deep), but the first time I tried I found that using the snorkel while breathing hard made me feel claustrophobic and uncomfortable. I was beginning to get truly frustrated when I found a product called EarBandIts. This tight-fitting neoprene headband blocks water from entering the ears, hopefully eliminating my problem altogether. I ordered it via Amazon and am waiting for it to arrive. Until then, I discovered that if I allow myself more time to acclimate to the cool water and pace myself more while swimming, the snorkel does actually work quite well. I am now up to a warm up, a 150 meter swim followed by a 100 meter cool down.

Amazingly, once I worked these solutions out, the swimming quickly became my favorite part of the training. I love the rhythmic motions, the lack of impact on your joints, and the feeling of the water sweeping over your body. I can't believe that I actually look forward to the swim workout each day. 

The biking has been somewhat of an afterthought, mostly because I feel that if push came to shove I could bike the 12 miles today with very little problem. I am still using the stationary bikes at the gym, and as soon as I get the swim headband figured out my next priority will be to get my bike to the shop so that I can start riding on the road. My mileage, consistent with the training schedule, is 4 miles per workout. 

Running, I'm afraid, is where I find the most challenge. Although the training schedule says to walk rather than run, it seems like a cop out, so I am running (jogging) every bit of the scheduled minutes that I can. I am up to 2.20 miles now (in approximately 24 minutes) and every second of that feels like a struggle. I've found a route that I like which goes around the park near my house, down along the beach, and through a cute little neighborhood and allows me to at least enjoy the scenery while I trudge along. If I am feeling like it is impossible I make myself at least get out there and alternate running and walking, reminding myself the whole time that I am still doing better than what the training schedule dictates. Certainly I can't be the only person who has trained for a triathlon who hates running. 

Another tool I have discovered to make the running portion a little more bearable is the Nike+ Running app in iPhone. It tracks your run via GPS and keeps track of your mileage, time, and other stats. It is full of fun little pictures and details and I find myself motivated by the prospect of logging another workout and seeing the summary at the end. For example, here is a screenshot from my last run:

Whatever keeps me going, I'll take it. 

I have been really amazed with the journey that has taken place in such a short time. I feel like each time I do a workout I expect to simply hammer it out and get it over with and instead find that I have a unique and memorable experience. I discover something new- about the activity, my technique, or about myself, and I feel more connected to the outdoors and what is going on around me. I have incredible amounts of energy compared to just a month ago, and I am already noticing less jiggle in my upper legs, more definition in my calves and butt and strength in my triceps. Instead of dragging myself to the start of each workout I am looking forward to tomorrow's, and my overall outlook on life feels reinvigorated. It always amazes me how much of a difference it makes to push yourself a little. 

Some thoughts, observations, and lessons-learned over the past three weeks are as follows:
- Frustration is part of the process. You're doing new things that you are not familiar with. Feel the frustration, accept it, and remind yourself that it will be overcome.
- Be flexible. Some days it may just not be possible to do the workout you're scheduled to do. Look at the next few days of your workout schedule and see if you can flip flop a workout, make a substitution, or fit in an extra session somewhere in the coming days. Don't get down on yourself, things happen. 
- Realize when you have to take a break. I came down with a nasty case of food poisoning three days ago. It took me almost throwing up as I strapped on my running shoes to realize that it is counterproductive to fight your body. I'll be back to workouts tomorrow.
- Don't make excuses. Busy later? Work out now. Raining? Do it anyway. Tired? Run, then melt onto the couch for a nap. Relaxing will feel better when you know you've accomplished something.

And, last but not least:

- BEING UNCOMFORTABLE IS OKAY. This is probably the most important thing I have learned so far, and it's the mantra that keeps me from stopping during a run. Being uncomfortable is what is necessary to make you stronger. Welcome that this feeling is caused by pushing yourself, improving yourself, and expanding your body and mind. We spend so much of our lives avoiding it, but once you accept the discomfort, it is empowering.

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