Monday, April 28, 2014

Rule Number II: Trust the program

For you nerds out there, this is from "Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade."
Huge nerd points for getting that. 

Training and nutrition are very much like religion. We know where we want to go; the guidelines that we should follow; the "rights" and "wrongs" of training. We practice our devotion daily and trust (or have faith, hence the picture) that what we are doing will get us closer to our goals even though there is NO guarantee that we will get there in the planned time or the planed same path. There is no perfect trajectory to the end; anything could happen and when it does we have to accept it as part of the process. 

To make things even more frustrating, none of us are on the same path. All these paths might converge at the end, but my path is completely different from yours. Meaning your training is and should be different from mine. This can be aggravating because there is always that voice of doubt in our mind slyly asking us "Are you sure you are doing the right thing?" 

My second law therefore is to "trust the process." Like my first rule of training, I have to remind myself almost daily to do so. Especially when I may have had a bad workout or am fed up with my numbers or, like recently, get injured, I have to throw up my hands and say to myself: "It may not look like it right now, but I am on the right path. Something will happen if I keep on working."

The end result is still unknown, but I can only pray that I will arrive in the "promised" land. It is that self doubt that will get me off the path. If I start thinking another path is better or will be faster, I start to stray from the path, but...that is just my two watts.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

My Five Rules of Training: Rule 1: Never Compare

I am hardly a definite source of training, racing, nutrition, education, love, relationships (definitely on this one), happiness or pretty much any topic except maybe 90's kids movies and sitcoms (think Boy Meets World, Family Matters, Rookie of the Year, Angels in the Outfield, and The Pagemaster to name only a few).

However, I have developed my own rules of training that I hope you can find helpful. These are rules that I have to remind myself every so often to keep me, my ego, and mind in check and prevent them from sabotaging what really matters.
Most things are apples to oranges. I am more of an apple guy

It is hard when training to not do this; it's hard in life too! I am not sure about you, but I have a horrible tendency to look at a workout and beat myself up that my normalized power was less, or I was not going as fast as I did last week or last year. The thing is though that mental commentary and criticism is pointless and does nothing. 

The world changes too quickly to compare yourself to anything in your past because you are not the same person that you were yesterday let alone last workout. There are so many different variables to consider that comparing yourself becomes futile. You may be more tired, the conditions could be worse, your coffee could have been weaker; your work/life/relationship stress could have stressed you out. The list of effects are endless, so forget the comparisons and focus on giving your best on the day for that particular workout; if that workout happens to be worse than one in the past then give what you got. Not every workout is going to be perfect.  

(Note: This is not to say that data is pointless; it is actually quite valuable. What is more important though is not the individual workouts but the overall trends.)    

It is even harder not to do compare yourself when you are training and some jerk completely decked out in an Ironman race kit (note that they do not stitch your place or time on these kits) comes racing by you when you, exhausted after 5 hours of intervals and hill repeats, are finishing up a ride, sputters "You know, just an easy zone 1 recovery ride" in between gasps of air, and then pedals off. After such encounters I usually think "Damn, he is fast; I wish I could be that..." then I catch myself. "I do not know him, nor what he has done today, nor what he has done this week in training, so it is POINTLESS to compare myself.

Then there is social media. When people post their workouts, how much they weigh, how much (or little) they ate, it is near impossible not to look and feel worthless. You may have just come in from an awesome workout where you hit all your goals then see John Shmoe-Pro (God, I hate him; he is such an ass!) did double that!  It makes me feel insignificant.

Once again I have to remind myself that this is just stupid talk. I did not think I or my workout was bad until I saw that post meaning it was my comparison that destroyed my high not the workout being bad itself. How irrational!

Overall, I need to focus on the only person I know for sure: me in this moment. I know where I have been, where I am, and a vague, blurry picture of the future, and thus am the only person who can judge.
Comparisons will not lead me to where I want to go; in fact, with all of their negativity and doubt inducing thought patterns, they might move me further away.

I think Marcus Aurelius says it pretty well:

“How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbour says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.” 
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
As well as Daisaku Ikeda: 

“I cannot say this too strongly: Do not compare [yourself] to others. Be true to who you are, and continue to learn with all your might.” 
― Daisaku Ikeda, Discussions on Youth

#word...but that is just my two watts

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

My Lenten Discipline

While I may have a lot of Catholic guilt in my psyche, I am not Catholic. I think a lot of Christians and non Christians alike use lent as an excuse to crash diet for forty days without really knowing what it means or why; then, once Lent ends they go back to their old ways. Regardless, I do like following and participating in the season of Lent, the period of 40 days and 40 night leading up to Easter in which Christians usually refrain from a certain worldly pleasure (sex, sugar, alcohol, video games, etc.) to instead refocus on God. 

Collecting dust 
To me as not a believer in God in the traditional sense, it is time to examine what habits in my life are interfering with my life and connecting with my true, centered "self" (you could also call this my "higher power" but what ever floats your boat). It is also a time to prove that I am stronger than my urges. 

The typical disciplines of giving up sweets, caffeine, or meat, were tempting to go to but these things are not hurting my life or performance. I have entered into a heavy training block right now so changing up my diet significantly would hurt my training homeostasis; I can play with my diet in the offseason. Moreover, I do not think I would learn anything from giving any of these up. 

After thinking about  this further and analyzing what bad habits I have, I settled on weighing myself and my food as well as counting calories. This may seem like a piece of cake for some  but for someone who has weighed himself and micromanaged food for years, it was and is a struggle. 

It was especially hard at first. I actually had to cannibalize the batteries for my Quarq to prevent me from cheating. I was so used to plugging in every calorie into a database and managing my macros. After about 3 days though, I began to ease up. I forgot about trying to do the math in my head and instead listened to what my body was craving. I did not have to worry about the bottom line or percentages instead could focus on what my body wanted. I also did not have to worry about recording my slipups on paper. If I had a cookie or two post workout, I did not have to see it glaring back at me in my log after. 

Weighing myself too was tough but once I got used to it,  my mind stopped focusing on the number and instead strictly on my performance. The number on the power meter mattered more than one on the scale. 

I have only had a couple slip ups: one when I had to get my DEXA scan done, once time during my heavy training week when I wanted to see how much water weight I lost during  long ride, and once when I had to track my calories for my nutritionist but besides that I have stepped away from the scales completely. In doing so, I have felt that the scales have tilted in my favor. 

Overall my anxiety is down; I am enjoying myself more; I am listening to my body and what it needs. With just under two weeks to go to Easter I know that I can finish this challenge strong. I am not sure yet whether I will give it up completely but this experiment has been a good thing as I continue to move forward on this journey.