This post was originally featured on Waterfi.com
Since Ironman, I’ve kind of been in a funk when it comes to training and racing. Ok, a full-on “I don’t ever want to do another Ironman!” funk.
After a month of recovering/sleeping in, enough was enough. So I made some changes, and got my fitness groove back.
On some level, we’ve all been there. Everyone gets in a fitness funk after doing the same workouts, classes, and routes for any extended period of time, so give yourself a break… and then break out of it!
1. BE A CHEERLEADER
Several of my teammates signed up for the Lake George Triathlon, scheduled for Labor Day weekend. On the last day of online registration, I did something uncharacteristic. I closed my laptop and got out my cowbell. Cheer instead of tri? Would I regret it as I watched my friends race?! Not in the least! I had a blast being THAT girl on the sidelines. I lost my voice. I wore a tutu. And most of all, the tenacity of the friends and strangers that I was cheering for inspired me to get moving. Being a spectator at any race will have that effect on you. So even if you don’t know a single athlete doing the 5k in your neighborhood, stop by and cheer your heart out!
2. HIT THE TRAILS
After a summer of riding and running on the same safe, paved roads, my husband and I took a risk and signed up for the Oak Mountain Trail Run. And because that wasn’t far enough outside my comfort zone, I passed on the 5k, and signed up for the 10k, with 1849 feet of elevation gain.
It was rainy, the trails were muddy, and it was intimidating being one of the only girls running through the woods with all those bearded, camelbak-wearing dudes. I ran through overgrown fields, barely able to make out the arrows marking the course.
My heart rate skyrocketed as I tried to run, then resolved to walk up the side of the mountain – but only for 30 seconds. Then it was back to climbing up the steepest hill imaginable, grasping for tree branches to pull myself up. And I loved it! Especially the half mile or so when I was just charging through the woods, past pine trees wrapped in the mist.
On the second loop I struggled to get my footing in the mud and tried to stay on the trail despite the switchbacks. I was passed by all the guys on the downhills, as I gingerly picked my way over slippery rocks and roots all the way back down to the ski lodge and across the Finish Line. And I won! WHAT?!!!
If you always wear a watch that tells you your heart rate, speed, and distance, leave it at home. I did a few rides after Ironman completely unplugged and it put me in a mindset where I had to find my motivation in something beyond the numbers. That might look different depending on what you are accustomed to. If you always listen to music when you workout, try listening to your breathing instead. If you never listen to music, put on some tunes and change your pace depending on the beat of the song. The point is to let something drive you that is a little foreign, at least once.
4. CHALLENGE YOURSELF
Over the past few months, I noticed that no matter how hard I pushed (and screamed), my bike pace got slower (not faster). You’d think that with SO much room for improvement, riding could still be a fun and engaging challenge. It wasn’t.
Could it be that I was just burned out on the SAME challenge?! My husband thought so. And he was right (there, I said it)! So last week, we headed off to Maine for a week of camping and the only bikes we brought on the trip were our mountain bikes. The ones that haven’t seen the sun since about 2008.
Jeremiah found a great spot to ride, up in Sebago Lake, on the Mountain Division Trail. “It’s supposed to be ideal for beginners” he informed me.
I wasn’t so sure. I gripped my brakes as we pedaled down a road littered with gravel the size of grapefruits. Until… I let go, delighted to find that unlike my road bike, my mt. bike actually bounced off of rocks! I took the corners a little faster. I pushed a little harder on the uphills. We took trails with names like Turkey Run and Moose Pass. We followed single track until it dumped us out at stunning Half Moon Pond.
I pedaled as hard as I could up the short but steep climbs, until my bike started rolling backward and I had to get off. I spent a lot of time pushing my bike instead of riding it, and surprisingly, this didn’t frustrate me.
Yes, I was terrified out there on a trail designed for 12 year old’s to ride after school. But by the end, I was launching that bike off roots instead of dodging them. Instead of riding the brakes, I was barreling back down that single track, inches away from oak trees. If I failed to jump a log, I would back up and have another go at it until I finally made it over without taking a header.
Not once did it occur to me to check my speed. Even if I did, the numbers would be meaningless. I had no previous ride speed to compare it to. It didn’t matter! What counts is that I had accepted a challenge to push beyond my limits… and my love for riding was rekindled.
5. HAVE A DESTINATION
I mean it. Literally, set out on a walk, run, hike, or ride with a destination in mind. For me it was running on the beach in Maine, all the way to the Old Orchard Beach boardwalk where we startled the snowbirds setting up their beach chairs under the weathered boards.
On a routine day, I run a loop that starts and ends at my house. Umm, guess what…my home is not exactly a thrilling destination. So looking forward to a scenic end point was refreshing!
Ok, maybe you only have one hour on a Sunday afternoon for your workout. Get all high tech and check out Google maps. I bet you’ll find a pond to walk to or a park to run around.
Nothing but blacktop and concrete in your neck of the woods? Have your friends or family pick a diner where you can meet them for brunch. This absolutely counts as a destination. Just be sure to leave plenty of time to run there. And have someone bring you clean clothes to change into. 🙂
6. TRY SOMETHING …OLD
You don’t always have to jump on board the latest trend in fitness to make it fun. Sometimes you just need to revisit an old activity, dust off the old swing set.
While we were in Maine, we took my brother to see the Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse and the Portland Head Lighthouse, which is just one side of picturesque Fort Williams Park. On the other side, separated by boulders that plunge down to the bay, is the abandoned Goddard Mansion and of course the actual Fort!
Disregarding my poor choice of footwear (flip flops), we inched our way down a dark and narrow alley in the ancient Fort. We ventured into the woods behind the mansion, hoping to find a hole in the fence so we could get a closer look.
When we were younger, we used to ramble up stony paths and over crumbling walls all the time. Now here we were in Maine, scrambling across jagged rocks that stretched from the bay out into the Atlantic below us. And flying a robot kite. And tossing a frisbee on the beach. Just like the good old days, when we were carefree kids!
Sometimes I get so caught up in logging miles and racing against the timing clock. Sometimes I just need to run barefoot and race after a $4 plastic flying saucer, diving into the sand to catch it before some seagull does.
7. GET IN SYNC
Otherwise, I am syncing my workouts to my friends’ training. Whether it’s swimming at a different YMCA with Grace, running after work (instead of before) with Cheryl, or moving my 12 miler from the weekend to Tuesday so I can run with Nikki, I’ve found that being open to different days, times, and routes has turned those humdrum workouts into an adventure. Bonus: Training with friends pretty much guarantees the demise of a fitness funk!
8. FIND A CAUSE
From the sidelines to beach side, I am relieved to have crawled out of my fitness funk at last! Eventually I may just SOAR above it and take on another Ironman. If I ever do Ironman again, I’ll need some rocket fuel and I want to use it to make a difference. To give back.
This is just a sampling of the zillions of charities and fundraising opportunities that will give anyone a reason to get moving. www.active.com/running/articles/join-an-endurance-charity-program Because a sure fire way to leave behind your days in funk-land is to have a cause!