Taking Time to Reflect, Rest and Rejuvenate

We all think of New Year’s Day as the time to start off on the right foot, adopt healthier strategies for eating and exercise and approaching our day with a more positive mindset. Well, why not do the same today, on Labor Day? Perhaps the kids have already gone back to school; if not, they’ll be heading there before too long, leading to schedule changes both for them and you as you add on driving them to after school activities, sports and practices to the mix of the already hectic day. For me, today is almost like an extra weekend day. Half working, half relaxing after a long weekend of training, so why not seize the chance to get ahead of tasks left unfinished and start the week strong tomorrow feeling organized, motivated and ready to go? With Kona now less than 5 weeks away, I’m taking advantage of each moment not only to train, to hit my goal wattage, my run speed and nail those few seconds of rest when my coach gives us another set of fast 100s. But I’m also no longer doing something I did for years: ignoring the need to rest, recharge and rejuvenate. I never thought of my self as super human, yet somehow I poo-pooed the idea that I should stretch, take a day off from training now and then or (gasp) allocate time on a regular basis to meditate! Chalk it up to maturity, sustaining a few mild injuries or simply being ready to delve deeper inside in order to not only be able to race from a stronger, more soulful perspective, but to live that way as well. I can honestly say that for years, while I enjoyed every race I competed in, it was primarily driven by fear. Fear of not accomplishing what I felt I was capable of. Fear that something might go wrong during the race (including things far beyond my control.. like how windy it might be heading out to Hawi on any given day in Kona) and I suppose, ultimately, fear of failing. Now, after having implemented a completely different mindset and strategy, I’m realizing the benefits are many and deep. Not only do I feel more focused during day to day work and activity, but it’s flowing beautifully into training and racing. I’m learning the ability to dig deeper but not from an aggressive or angry perspective. In other words, it’s not about checking to see which girls are showing up in my age group, researching what their recent times were and figuring out if and where they’re going to pose the most threat. As an age group athlete, sure, those things are interesting to take note of, but at the end of the day, it’s me against me. Am I pushing myself as hard as I can, during the race? If at any moment the answer to that question is no, I’ve got to go a little deeper. Of course, knowing there’s an athlete a few minutes back certainly adds fuel to the fire, but it’s still got to come from within. Am I feeling uncomfortable? Sure- in terms of higher heart rate, increased respiration and generally pushing the envelope, yes, that’s great.. which is far different from sustaining an injury and trying to convince yourself to push through a torn muscle. Most importantly, am I enjoying myself? I race as a hobby, for fun. I choose to do this. It’s something I’m incredibly grateful to have the chance to take part in. Which is why, if you see me smile during a race, no matter what pace I’m trying to push, you can rest assured it’s genuine. Admittedly, there have been times when it was actually a grimace, but hey- they look the same, and often, even in the heat of the moment when the muscles are screaming and your head’s telling you to stop, changing the dynamic of the energy you’re putting out there makes all the difference in the world. In a race, the crowd feels it. Smile, get smiles back and cheers and support. Be a grump and guess what happens? You get even grumpier. We’ve all been there, whether during an average day or during an event but the point is this: just as in everything else we do, we’ve always got a choice. Maybe we’ve been stuck in a rut about something. This doesn’t mean we’ll always be there! Assess what you’ve been doing, which has not been working and take a new path. It’ll feel risky and it’ll feel new, but guess what? The path you were taking wasn’t working for you, so even though you know it and it’s comfortable, where has it led you? And yet there we all go, again and again down the same path, leading to the same less than stellar result. Sure, today may be just another Monday, but it’s also an opportunity to grow. So whether it’s how you’re going to handle even more chaos in an already hectic schedule now that the kids’ activity load has tripled or how you can possibly fit in regular exercise, let alone shopping and cooking, what better time than now to action whatever it is in your life that needs to be changed for the better. I’m going it! The old me would have looked at my training plan from my coach and seen an off day, shrugged my shoulders and added in a bonus ride. But I rode hard for five and half hours on Saturday, ran off the bike and then put in a three hour run at pace yesterday. So I’m going to the gym. To stretch, take a sauna and meditate. I’ll be refreshed tomorrow for the start of the last few weeks of build into Kona and ready for my work week as well. How about you? What are your goals for the fall season? Think about them, write them, set them, achieve them. Oh, and psst…. one last piece of advice: get out of your own way. (Something I have to remind myself of quite often!). Happy Labor Day!