…..and NO, that doesn’t mean that I’m taking today off from work, sitting in the wonderful air conditioning, watching DVDs and ordering a pizza from Dean’s. All it means is that I refrain from exercising today in preparation for Saturday morning’s long run. From speaking with coaches and reading some marathon training books, one message always rings true: resting your body from time to time is really important in order to reduce the risk of injury and optimize ongoing performance. To me, taking a day off from running makes me…..well…..nutso. Why? Because each Friday I wake up craving the same amount of calories that I do for any day that has a scheduled workout on the calendar. Knowing that I’m not running or hitting the gym, I am forced to curb my hunger for really tasty, not-so-good-for-me treats. And that……….makes……..me………….CRANKY.
In order to properly combat these Friday cravings for Oreos & cold milk (a balanced breakfast), two slices from Bari’s Pizza (the lunch of champions), 4 cans of Diet Coke (need the caffiene rush), and an order of Kung Po chicken & mushu pork for dinner (mmmmmmm…..say it with me: MSG!), I am trying something new. Each Friday, I try to really focus on my diet more than any other day of the week. every time I say NO to that Oreo (with tears in my eyes – crap those things are good), I think of it as a form of exercising. And saying NO to those little black & white pieces of heaven is a heck of a lot harder for me to do than finishing a 5 mile tempo run. Why, you might ask? Because I am not disciplined. AT ALL.
I have been battling my weight all my life. I have never looked or felt the way I always wanted to. Once in a while I’d go on a workout tear, completely overdo it, eat heavily while in the midst of it with the rationalization that my body needed the extra fuel……….and then, one day, I’d be too tired to hit the gym and work out – so I’d rest. And then the next day, I wouldn’t feel like going to the gym either – so I would take another day off. Two days off turns into 5. Which turns into 2 weeks. Now all positive momentum is killed on the exercise front – but I’m still eating as if my body needed that extra fuel. Within 2 weeks of ending my exercise kick, I will usually have weighed MORE than when I started. It was a long, ugly process. letting myself gain weight in such a fashion affected my self-image and my confidence, and it is my belief that it was one of the contributing factors to me falling slowly into the darkest period of my life.
(Now I won’t be delving into that dark period in this blog. Instead, I am documenting that period of my life as well as how I reclaimed my life in my upcoming book, entitled For My Sins. I’ll let everyone know when it becomes available.)
So how did I break the vicious cycle? Well, I found a goal – running a marathon. With a large goal dangling in front of me several months away, I began to develop and follow a longer-term training schedule, and I stayed focused on my exercise regimen for a much longer, effective period of time. The end result was obvious to myself – my self-confidence returned and physical changes were obvious (based on the funhouse mirror I had installed in my bedroom). Now for you readers, I am not suggesting that your first goal should be a marathon. It could be anything – a local 5k race, a 25 bike race, a local swim meet – anything at all. But in my humble, uneducated opinion, having a clear goal (one that doesn’t appear to be very easy – one that would take some real effort to accomplish) really helps keep a person stay focused and contributes to long-term results.
So as I accomplished that first goal of running a marathon, the emotional lift and thorough sense of accomplishment I enjoyed made my immediately crave more. I upped the ante as far as goals were concerned, always trying to go bigger and better. Thinking longer term, that’s something you all can do, once you have attained your first goal / objective…..immediately set another one. One that’s slightly bigger / more challenging. That way you don’t rest on your laurels and fall right back into a prior routine that wasn’t as healthy as the one you just enjoyed.
To illustrate how my goals have grown since I began distance running in 2005, I’ll just very quickly compare my 2009 -2010 marathon goals to the ones I have set for myself for the 2010 – 2011 marathon season. In the 2009 – 2010 season, I ran the Goofy Race & A Half Challenge in Orlando (which is a half marathon on Saturday followed by a full marathon the next day) in January. Then I prepared myself all summer for a very difficult goal: finishing 3 full marathons in a month. I ran the Hartford Marathon in early October. 2 weeks later I was in D.C. for the Marine Corps. Marathon. The very next Sunday was the race that I plan my whole year around: the ING New York City Marathon. I was able to complete this difficult goal, and it left me still hungry for more. So this marathon season I have a slightly broader list of goals to attain. I may start my year in Canada, running in a marathon in Alberta. About six weeks later, I begin a series of races that will push me harder then last year, with marathons in Hartford (October), New York City (November), Philadelphia (November), Vegas (December), Goofy’s Race & A Half Challenge (January), Miami (January), and Ft. Lauderdale (February). I am not looking any further down the road than February, because I think that list will test my threshhold pretty well.
(The reason I just listed my 2010 – 2011 goals is because now I’ve put it out there for others to see. That makes it much harder for me to blow my goal off, and will futher help me focus on the tasks at hand.)
If I am going to attain this year’s goals, I have to follow my training schedule and the advice of the experts – my coaches. They all say I need to rest each Friday – let the body heal. All I can say is….yes sir. So…..where did I leave my remote control? Until tomorrow!!
“pressure is nothing more than the shadow of great opportunity.” – Michael Johnson