Happiness in the present is shattered only by comparison with the past. (Douglas Horton)
With the opportunity to race in the Philippines in just 2 weeks, on a reputably tough course, a small fire has been lit under me to kick things into gear. I’ve found a bit of extra motivation to get back to the routine. Despite it being an early season race, I don’t want to go in underprepared and I’d prefer not to get it handed to me; just doesn’t seem like a fun way to start the season. After a short run focus over the holidays, I knew it was time to get back on the bike; suffice to say I took a good bit of time away from cycling in December. One thing that type A triathletes are good at is routine. ‘Tell me what to do, and I’ll do it, coach’. There isn’t a lot of thrill and excitement about going back and forth in a pool over a black line hundreds of times, or pedaling your legs in circles for hours on end. But we do it. We become creatures of habit and immune to boredom, or at the least, we become adept at refusing to admit to boredom when it inevitably seeps in. However, the past few weeks, I’ve found myself craving some change. I’ve acknowledged that you can get the work done but still retain a bit of flexibility, truly listening to yourself and respecting the instincts that may pull you in slightly different directions.
When you have done something for many years, and you have worked hard to become proficient at it, you have grounds for comparison. You know what has worked, and it’s easy to want to revert directly back to this. While of course there is a time when it is necessary to implement things that have worked in the past, and even gauge improvements and fitness gains in this manner, I have found it can be very dangerous to do this too much, too often; comparing ‘now’ to ‘then’, whether it be 3 years ago or 6 months ago. In 2012, I hit a groove. My running felt effortless; paces and times dropped. Power numbers on the bike finally clicked, and winning races became something that it seems I managed to just ‘do’. (Yet it’s crucial to realize, it was not necessarily what we were doing at that time, but likely the months and years prior that resulted in this sudden ‘flow’ of fitness gains). Along with this came a good stream of confidence and self-efficacy. I would be lying if I didn’t say there have been numerous times I’ve looked back at those training logs, those workouts, and strived to hit (or exceed) those numbers. At times, I have; others, I have not. Then somewhere along the way I heard the simple phrase, ‘Comparison is the root of unhappiness.’ It seemed a bit harsh at first, then I thought about it; and it really struck a chord. I had a fairly major surgery in September of 2013. I expected myself to come back right to where I was before in 2014; that’s that Type A, driven person in me; take a bump in the road in stride and hit the ground running. In hindsight, while it was a great season, it is only fair to myself to have viewed 2014 as a year of re-building. And when I look back on it with that perspective, I can say it was a pretty damn good season. With too much comparison to what once was personally (or even comparison with what exists around us, especially what others want you to ‘believe’ exists), can often come too much self-critique; and rarely does this produce positive results. We are always evolving, ever-changing…it would only make sense to roll with these changes, appreciate but let go of the past; embrace the now and the possibilities of what it is to come.
Which all brings us to now. Change from routine, and conceding that there is more than one way you can approach something to achieve the intended goal. The past few months, I’ve implemented consistent strength training for the first time in many years, working it into the mix as one of my ‘quality sessions’. I was feeling a little weak and we believed that some pure, basic strength could help. I’ve been known to bang out some ridiculously mind-numbing long interval-based trainer sessions in the past; lately, I’ve been craving being on the roads; riding my bike for the enjoyment of riding a bike, not as much for the sake of staring at power numbers. So I’ve flipped days around based on weather when needed, to take advantage of the beautiful days riding and to utilize the crummy ones to swim and run. I’ve hopped into once a week trainer classes with a group (run by Durata Training & my husband/coach Derick and his biz partner Dave) and just gone along for the ride; whatever the intervals are, letting go of planning. Going into Ironman Cozumel back in November, I got on the track every week, which I hadn’t done all season; it just sounded fun and refreshing. I finally had my swim stroke analyzed in December, and I’ve been working diligently on some technique imbalances; I’ve mastered a snorkel! Sounds so minor, but I put one on about 6 months ago, made it halfway across the pool and stopped, gasping for air, convinced I was suffocating. Now I can do 1000 straight, snorkeled up. When Whitney (Masters swim coach) has given us massive kick sets and silly sculling drills that make you feel as if you’re drowning, I’ve done them all…and needless to say, I’ve gotten better at the sculling; and I’ve let go of the worry that the kick sets will wear out my legs for a subsequent bike or run. And enjoyed them, because I LOVE to kick! It may all sound silly and minor, but to a sometimes overly-focused, obsessively-analytical triathlete, these small changes can really feel good and make you step back and enjoy the immediate process in countless ways.
So, here’s to a year of letting go to move forward. Enjoy the day to day, listen to your inner instinct, seize the now; and most importantly, resist the urge to keep looking back.