Wednesday, August 6, 2014


I am in constant tension. Training is the issue. Every time I do the Heart O' Dixie Triathlon, I vow to train differently over the upcoming year. Specifically, I need to ride the bike more, do high quality work when I do, and push running off the bike. But that resolution, made on the run to the Neshoba County fair, fades over time and I return to default mode: swimming a lot, and running a bunch of slow miles.

The same tension applies to my running, and I usually resolve, after a tough battle with a fat lady at the 300 Oaks 10K, to run more high quality miles and do lots of leg work in the back yard gym. That resolution, like the New Year's kind, also fades as my legs default into their old-man plodding day after day. A couple of reasons for the plodding make a lot of sense because they include pleasure and pain. Specifically, I enjoy long, slow runs. That kind of training fires up my neurotransmitters and makes me happy. Also, I have learned the hard way over the years that too much pushing the pace in training inevitably leads me to injury. Injury means no running at all and no running means I am a hard-to-live-with man. My wife deserves better.

I have the same issues with swimming. Hammering tough sets in the pool all alone can be less than fun. In fact it can be difficult even impossible at times. I rather swim long and leisurely and rack up impressive weekly yardage totals. But I know that if I want to be able to perform (which mostly means finishing the Chicot Challenge and beating Randy Beets at Swim the Suck) I have to swim hard, at least some of the time.

I also have tensions in the gym. By "gym" I mean my back yard masterpiece that I will write about in the near future. I need to do a lot more leg work, but that  throws me into conflict with how much I can run. I also don't really like leg work so it doesn't take much for me to talk myself out of it.

All in all it is a tension between pleasure and pain, between having the will to train and having the will to train properly. My general stance on exercise is to find and do things you enjoy. If you don't enjoy it, you won't do it year after year.

Did you notice?

I am mixing terms and that itself is reflective of my tension. I have been using "excercise" and "training" as synonyms and properly they are not. I guess that is what I face daily when I think about my workout for the day. Am I going to exercise or train? It's a real tension for me. In my mind there is a heirarchy in all of this. In order of importance with "1" being the most important, I rank things thusly:

1. Health (exercise)
2. Enjoyment (exercise)
3. Athletic performance (training)

In actual practice, I sometimes get the order differently. That creates problems.

Age is another factor in all of this. I have been struggling with my running because I keep getting slower. I hate that and I have not been able to admit, even to myself, that age has anything to do with my declining performances. I blame it on "the tension." If I can just stay healthy (the tension has something to do with that) long enough, I will get it back, maybe even better that when I wore a young man's running shoes.

As I have grown older the tension has become more pronounced because there is one byproduct of my age that I have been able to admit to myself and that involves recovery. I just can't structure a running week that has three hard workouts in it, and I need four. My legs just won't stand for it. So I have a further tension of what workouts to do. I need to cycle them, that's one answer, because there are at least four types I need to do, and I can only do two per week. I need a long run, a tempo run, a vVo2 max run, and some strength work. But for some reason, I can't bear to go two weeks without a long run. I need the long run, for mental reasons as well as physiological ones, once per week.

And then there are the tensions brought on by races. If I taper for a race and try to cycle my hard workouts, things get all out of wack. If I don't taper, the fat lady always beats me and that is devastating to my ego. More tension.

There are huge tensions with food. At my age, it is getting more and more easy to gain weight. Athletic performance demands I get and stay light. I am, by the way, still overweight from the stress fracture last December. It's not just athletic performance that calls for me to stay lean. I am literally and metaphorically running and swimming away from diabetes. It runs in my family. I have seen how bad that condition is. Controlling body weight is a huge risk factor with Type 2 Diabetes. To lose weight, however, one must go into a negative calorie balance. That puts one on a razors edge if one is doing endurance training. Go too low and you bonk on your next workout, which takes the pleasure principle out of the equation and well as the quality principle of training. Go too high and you just stay fat. Nutrition is a constant tension of mine.

Recently, I changed my lifting routine. I am speaking upper body here. I split my upper body from one huge workout to three smaller ones. The split allows me to hit specific body parts even harder than before and the sessions aren't nearly as long. However, the reprcussion I am bumping up against is the way I feel in the pool after lifting hard. During the winter, I swim twice per week and lift on the off days. Now I am hitting the water the same day as hitting the weights. The jury is still out on this one.

Tension. How to train? What to do today?

One of these days,  I'm going to figure it all out. By then, however, I will be too old to do anything with my vast, hard-won knowledge. Maybe when that day arrives some young guy or gal will come along who has big goals and needs a coach to help him or her get there.

That would be great.