This is why we train. Awesome determination. Welcome to monday.
This is why we train. Awesome determination. Welcome to monday.
Today I registered for my community’s 10k run, the Times Colonist 10k, which has been running for a few decades now. I have never run a formal 10k before. There will be bibs. There will be tracking chips with space-age technology. There will be elbows, and masses of my fellow humans getting in my way. It’s going to be awesome, but also a little intimidating.
Why register for a 10k run? Why pay hard-earned dollars to go suffer for an hour with over ten thousand of my closest neighbours? Well, as I have said before, all the training we do needs to mean something. Simple fitness is a fine goal, but achievement is something different. Achievements and goals push you harder.
But that’s not the only reason this 10k is pushing me; several of my classmates at school have also committed to run this 10k, and because I somehow organized this is a team activity, that makes me team captain. Now instead of this run being about me, and thus entirely subject to my convenience, motivation and schedule, it’s about them. So, I’m running as much because I don’t want to let them down as I am for myself. Suddenly, it’s all about the team, not the bastard.
Teamwork ups the stakes, but also the rewards, too. After the race, we’ll head out for some breakfast. And that night, there’s talk of time out at the pub, celebrating our success. And somewhere along the way, there will be stories about it, as well.
The race is just the culmination of the process; before we get there, we’ll motivate each other to train, trade information, and we’ll end up in a better place together.
So will I slack off before the race? Maybe a bit, here and there. But I’ve committed. I’ve got skin in the game, financially and socially. I’ll run that 10k as fast as I can manage, and I’ll do it knowing that I’ve got a team at my back.
I had a great week this week. Among the highlights:
Altogether, a successful week for me. The strange thing is that when I first started running and going to the gym, I had to talk myself into getting there. I’d have this mental dialogue with myself and it went as follows:
“We took a vote down here, and we think this whole running thing and gym time is bullshit. We’d rather sit around eat cake.”
“Now listen, you guys aren’t in charge. I’m the brain. I’m in charge. I say we go out for a run.”
“Lefty says that’d be a bad idea.”
“You know, lefty — the left leg.”
“Why would it be a bad idea?”
“Lefty says he’s a bit sore, and that maybe putting him up on a pillow would be nice. He also thinks we should have pie, not cake.”
“Lefty is fine. We’re all fine. Now quit bellyaching and get moving, you idiots are too lazy and nobody’s paying you to eat cake.”
“But — ”
“If we don’t work out, we’re going vegan. No pie, no cake, no bacon.”
Nowadays, things are different. Twice, I’ve gone through the mental conversation, and have really just been telling myself that maybe today is the day to slow down, and take a break, and maybe I don’t really need to go hit the gym or go for a run. Here’s the weird part: both times, while having this conversation, I was walking to the gym, or getting my running gear on. Both times, despite thinking it’d be not a horrible idea to not run, my body wouldn’t have it: the habit kicked in, and I still hit the gym, or went for the run.
It’s fun reaching the point where working out is easier than staying in. I don’t know if it’ll last, but for now, I love it.
This is another reason we train, and also why we go to work. Welcome to monday morning.
Training needs a goal. That’s pretty clear when following a program, or pushing through those days when your motivation just isn’t quite up to par. But its easy to get burnt-out over time; when you spend your days constantly thinking about your diet, mentally planning your next few weeks of training, and the scheduling that’s required to make it all work…well, let’s just say that burn-out sometimes feels like the smart choice.
Yet lots of us stick to it, through thick and thin. People who are new to exercise and fitness often get fixated on the process, because there’s so much to learn. So how do you keep the motivation up, day after day? One way is by taking advantage of your training to do new things, or things that you love to do and just improve by virtue of training.
Take me, for example: I run, and I hit the gym. That’s my thing. It can be a lot. However, I also live on Vancouver Island, in British Columbia. And what is readily available anywhere in BC? Mountain biking. It’s a great sport, it’s hugely rewarding, it’s an incredible workout, and it showcases the bang-for-buck you get for time spent at the gym and worrying about the diet. But most of all, it’s just fun. This is one way I stay motivated. Check out this video on mountain biking, and you’ll see why I find mountain biking to be both a motivator and a reward for time spent in the gym:
I just wanted to highlight another example of the progression principle in action, this time in the dieting world. This comes from a post discussing the current thinking about cheat days and dieting over at Greatist.com. While I encourage you to read the whole post, here are the important bits:
- Psychologically, it may be effective to accept that it’s only possible to stick to a diet about 80 percent of the time. The other splurges are totally natural and a-okay.
Here’s what they had to say about guilt, slipping up, and back-sliding:
The key, according to Joe, is getting past the guilt of assigning “good” and “bad” tags to various foods. Rather than turning a minor slip-up into a major back-slide, she says cheaters should simply accept what they ate, and continue with their diet as planned.
So what are we talking about here? We’re essentially talking about the progression principle, or the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time, you will stay on target for your diet plan. 20% of the time, you will slip-up now and then. You may even back-slide. That is OK. As long as you accept the slip up, and then return to your plan as normal, in the long-term you will continue your upwards progression. This holds true in diet as well as training or any behaviour you’re trying to change.
Remember, when you’re habit-forming — and that’s what dieting, exercise training, or learning a skill is — you are building new pathways in your brain. Through repetition, you are making those pathways easier to access. But sometimes your brain will revert to old habits; it’s a resilient organ, and that’s in it’s nature. Expect these slip-ups to happen from time to time, but just make sure you stay on target the rest of the time. If you can manage that, you’ll find that the new behaviours slowly become easier, and the slip-ups will reduce. Torturing yourself over missing a calorie goal or missing a workout once in two weeks is not worth it. Simply accept the slip, adjust your timelines, and move on.
I came across this video while reading a great post over at StrengthRunning.com, but I wanted to highlight it here because it’s not just applicable to running. In fact, it’s applicable to weight training, weight loss, diet, or any sort of situation where you are developing a new habit or skill. Check it out.
In the video, Jason describes using a long-term, staggered approach to training. This approach assumes that there will be plateaus in achievement, but more importantly, also assumes rest periods where negative progress occurs. In the context of this approach these plateaus and negative progress periods are actually desirable, because they allow the body to rest and heal. This is important, because it allows the body to adapt.
Most people plan for a perfectly linear progression when they’re trying to do something — move straight from A to B, without deviation — because that seems like the shortest route to get there. The problem is that that strategy allows for no mistakes; it requires perfection. And nobody is perfect. Training or developing a skill using the progression principle, on the other hand, might take longer, but it’s more resilient; it takes rest and recovery into account, and allows the average person to continue even when the inevitable breaks in routine, or the other demands of life, intrude.
For example, I’ve been off training all week due to a non-fitness related medical issue. Rather than stress about it, however, I’m viewing this as an opportunity; a good chance for my body to recover and rest, and get ready for another 5 weeks of hard weight training.
The progression principle, as outlined above, is a useful way to think about breaks, whether they’re by choice or not. Planning your training (or weight-loss, or diet changes) with the progression principle in mind gets you out of the “never-fail” mindset, and can keep your motivation and progress up. Worth thinking about.
This last week was a busy one around here at Healthy Bastard. Exams to write, social engagements, the constant work of life…it can get overwhelming. Because I had procrastinated earlier this month, I was under some deadlines for school, and I had to choose between the gym and my education.
I chose education. That meant I missed three days of my routine this week, two lifting days and one running day. Oof. Does this mean that I’m no longer a gym goer? Does it mean I lack discipline? No, it doesn’t.
One of the things that everybody runs into when changing their diet or their exercise regimen is interruptions. So here you are, you have this great plan to eat right every day of the week, to hit the gym three or four times a week, without fail, and to keep it up. No excuses! No retreat!
We all talk like that, either to our friends or just to ourselves. But the reality is that eventually, life will outpace you. You will not be able to hit the gym on Monday morning, like you have been doing for three weeks. You will not be able to go grocery shopping and start your week off with a full meal plan and your fridge stocked up. Sometimes, life just gets busy.
I’ve been the guy who has started and stopped routines in the past. You work so hard, for weeks or months, and then you get knocked off your game, your streak gets wiped out, and boom, that’s it; your motivation is gone. This is the point where many people quit; where they say, “Okay, I’ve had enough. I’m just the sort of person that can do this.”
And every time, they’re wrong.
You see, even the best athletes know that discipline isn’t about never falling down; it’s about standing back up again.
So what do you do when your routine is a mess, you’re behind on your meal plan, or you’ve just blown your calorie limit?