Aarhus aBloggin’
General updates on my training for Multisports

Balance- training/ life and expectations

I know I will start this thinking I can write something brief, but as the variables all come into play I know it will lengthen. One of the common things I hear as a trainer and coach as to why people don’t take on certain challenges in the sporting life is usually 1 of two things, if not both: Work( which for this purpose then also includes $$ in general) and Family ( or social life then could be included). Now I know I might even get flamed on some things as I don’t know all of everyone’s situations, nor does anyone know all of mine. I am merely attempting to enlightening some thought by what I have gone through over the years.
Now, having been involved in the sport of bicycle racing for now 20 years, speed skating prior to that, triathlon 10 years, and various dabbling in stair climbing, ultra running, marathoning etc, and all through that time held various jobs ( at one time 3) , had 4 children, and moved once ( these all also have stories of their own). During that time I achieved a 2nd place at nationals in speed skating, 16th@Nationals in cycling, have been to Kona Ironman World Championships 2x, 70.3 World’s once,  9 State championships, and 50+ wins in various cycling,tri, running events.

Whew! Now, I would be lying if I said that didn’t come at the expense of some ( a lot) sleep, the occasional delayed bill payment, much social time, arguments with significant others and crummy paychecks. If that was the trade off to be the age I am now, can still ride and run just about as fast ( depending if I really crack down) for those occasional sacrifices..for my health and state of mind? then so be it. For some, this is hard to comprehend as I never really made a ‘living’ in terms of financially from any of these sports, sure I have won my share of prize money here and there ( paid those late bills 🙂 ,  just as I can’t fully explain the feeling you get from winning.  And I will state there that accomplishing a goal, and winning, each have a different feeling.  ‘Competing’ and ‘Completing ‘  are two different things entirely. And thus leads into the subject, expectations.
Maybe some people don’t choose to do this sport or take on any physical challenge, even a 5k run, because they expect too much from what they have(n’t) been doing.  They generally claim they don’t have the time to train, won’t do any good ( compaired to what!?) Fear of the unknown is also a culprit.  But really, in the beginning and for the most part, we start out just wanting to ‘complete’ the event.  People seem to forget, that with even half hearted training, as long as you keep moving, you will ‘finish’. It is only a matter of time. And some will say, ” But I wanna do good”. Like being 50th or 150th in the grand sceme really makes a difference.  Heck, winning most of the things I have won made no difference to anybody outside the realm of that day, really.  Even now, many just use that as even more reason to validate not doing something. Oh you do good” because you train so much”,”I dont have the time for that” etc.  Tell you what, I see people at the gym every day that put in 2x the training “time” I do, and are either still not as good a shape, or avoid doing anything with that fitness because they think they ‘won’t do good’ or “..not as good a shape as you (me)”  I’M not the competition!

What I am getting at  with all this, is that over the years I did learn a bit from the times I was what some would say obsessed with training and racing…though I knew plenty of racers that were more so than I.  I raced practically every weekend for years throughout most of the summer, upwards to 75 times in a year ( again, the ‘pros’ were in the 100’s).  People tend to judge only on what they see or have experienced, and can’t always comprehend that there are athletes that are way high on the scale of obsessiveness, just as there is in the business world. For every one guy that is working 60hrs a week and people thinking that is excessive, there is another working 100.
So me riding 250mi in a week of course seems more excessive to some.  And the guy that gets grief for sneaking in the 35 mi ride on Sat morning to complement his 2 spin classes the rest of the week, feels that’s asking too much.  Yet I am up against the guy putting in 400mi a week.
Anyway, what I have found out as I got older and even more responsibilities piled on, and I looked back at when I was racing more often, that the competitive people came from all sides. For as much as I was putting in training, there were those putting in much less, had more on their plate to juggle, and were still highly competitive. It really was, what they did with their time they had…AND their mindset with what they could accomplish with that. If anything, they were resting a bit more and not overtraining. Overtraining..hmm, see, this can come from too much training, and also from under resting. Meaning, someone training merely 6 hrs a week can still show the signs of overtraining because he works too much/too stressfull a job, eats like crap, doesnt sleep etc.
So it gets back to balance. Part of that balance is a mind set that what you are getting in is adequate for what you are trying to accomplish.  Yes , there is the simple fact that if all you did was eat sleep and train, your chances of excelling increase dramatically. Chances, not guarantee. I spent 3 months not working one spring doing just that, going South for the winter ( when I was living in Nebraska) .  I got stronger, but still got my butt kicked by  those that stayed in the freezing midwest.  I didn’t train properly. Very few get the complete support needed to be on the top of the game. Most paid their dues somehow, we only see the success.  See, everyone was generally juggling at least work and racing.  Some school as well.  And then you have social time. And usually those of us that got better, minimized one of the others. Either worked less and lived on less, weren’t going to school or minimized the hours, or had no social lives outside of the sport.  Then we would listen to the complaints at the race about ” Oh, I would be good too if I blah blah..” yeah, you mean if you were sleeping on friends floors, driving a questionable car, hoping you won some cash at the race to get home on?? No, usually you climbed into the Escalade, checked out of the Hilton, headed home to a house, and back to working 45hr weeks and eating out 5 nights a week.  Now there is nothing wrong with how people choose to live their life, that’s not what I’m getting at. But understanding that it depends what you want and what you feel you need that keeps you from accomplishing something. Some feel they need that big a house and that ‘fancy’ ( again realative) car and have to work to keep em. Fine. And the sport is only as expensive as you make it. I definitly dont fall in the catagory of the statistics for either sport, and I venture to say many of the top athletes don’t.  I certainly don’t fund the industry.  I don’t travel to my events as if they are my vacation.  I don’t buy any equipment unless I absolutely need it. Have been on the same bike for years.  And race much less than I used to.   Yet others will work their butts off,  thus sacrificing training and recuperation time, balance with family, so that they can buy the latest bike model and race wheels, and go to exotic locals.

I learned that you could get a better balance on these things and end up eliminating one of the big hindrances of fitness/progression…stress.  So if I trained a little smarter and more concise, then, yes I lost some of the ” oh riding as long and to wherever I want” days, but I also had less conflicts.  If I planned a little better and incorporated running or riding to destinations then meeting the family there, that helped as well. If I didn’t get a prescribed workout in..then I didn’t. Stressing about it just makes it worse.  And realizing I wasn’t going to the Tour de France was another. Not that I ever really had the aspirations of going.  When I first started riding/racing, it was to just do it. It just slowly evolved to, ‘ and then what’ as I moved through the stages. Each one coming with it the ” and what do I have to do to get better? ”

But here is an example of perception. I had placed 3rd at a race in Wichita Falls back when many big pro teams used to show up. And people back home were asking if I had gotten any offers from Pro teams because of it.  So in their eyes I was ‘up there’.  But in reality, to the ‘pro’s, I was just some guy that raced aggressively that day, made some good moves, had a good day, and snuck in there.  I was like 24 at the time and DNF’d the previous year.  I would have to have placements like that 5x a year for a couple years to get ‘noticed’.  Most have already been to or are being groomed for, the Tour by that age.  Other than the occasional star, most have been in the system since they were 14.  Already making contacts and racing races overseas and all by then.

So again, is choosing to do a triathlon, a stair climbing event, an Ironman, really that far out there? When you put it into perspective of what it is you are trying to do. People have trained for full Ironman’s on 6-9 hours a week.  Is that going to get you to Kona? Probably not. Nor does training 30 hours a week guarantee it either.  But there was an article once about mental training for athletes. The author didn’t focus on mental imagery or breathing techniques and such, but rather what makes one athlete accell over another? An innate sense that they can do it, no matter what, and that they will minimize all possible distractions to get it. Note I say possible. If you have the family, then it is usually sleep and/ or socializing that have to get cut.

But the athletes believe they can do it no matter what, AND are rarely satisfied with their outcome, hence the drive to train more and learn more about what they do.  Where as the person that doesn’t excel or progress, usually is the first to find and allow other things to come into play to hinder what they need to do.  All the excuses and blame on others surfaces. NOw, if you just plain don’t care where you finish that is another thing. BUt many say they aren’t competitive, yet they are there standing with the rest of us going ” ugh! If i had just done this or that blah blah I woulda ….”  I wanna do ‘better’ but I’m not trying to go pro. Well, the training methods are about the same, just the volumes and external factors differ.  As an athlete with other commitments, you learn that little things like diet and sleep, consistency and quality in training time, all have to be fine tuned a bit more.  With that you can get pretty high up on the scale of performance without it being a big drain on the rest of your life.  If you don’t ever think you can get beyond where you are at, then you probably won’t, because you will always cut yourself short when it gets tough, skip more days than you should, choose to stay out late more times than needed, all to fall back on and be able to say ” I just couldnt get the training in so why bother?”  It is in the back of the mind when training. If you don’t have the buring desire to improve, you prob won’t. If you expect to ‘ just finish’ event after event, then that is all the faster you’ll get. Now, again, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with the ‘completing’ mentality.  If that really is the goal because you just enjoy being active then so be it. Many have some private reason or enjoy the atmosphere and all.   I’m talking about the ones that ‘say ‘ that yet still say they are trying to beat a PR or something whenever I talk to them.

If you expect to participate, finish,  then get up and just go do it. Expect nothing out of it but what you put into it. Know that someone most likely is doing more than you ever thought, because if you are new, you have no concept generally of what you are capable of doing.  When I first get with people I get excited sometimes because when I see what they havent been exposed to yet, I know they can go way beyond what they thought possible.  The athletes that have already been applying the right methods for years are harder to deal with. The changes become less apparent as you tweek things here and there with the already fit.

In the end, the more you balance it all, minimize the stress and strife training and racing can bring, the better off you sometimes perform.  There are many ways to juggle it all, that is another blog! But don’t let excuses get in the way of accomplishing things, and recognize when those are valid excuses!.  Go to complete..then if you like it, then train to compete,  just so you still improve. It may take you longer, so take your time. You may not get to do as much as you wanted, but that is better than none at all, plus you get to stay in shape in the process.  Maybe you cant ride as much, so hit the weights for 20-30’ instead.  There is always a way..but if it just isnt something you want to do…then OK!


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