My whirlwind Squamish race weekend has come and gone, but I am still working through the lessons I learned from this race.
Sometimes in life, we are thrust into situations that we don’t like; maybe they make us feel out of control or uncomfortable, we don’t like when there is an unknown or uncertainty about an outcome. That is how I felt going into the Squamish race, I was unsure that I could complete it. Just like most people, I have dreams & goals. Big ones. However, sometimes there is something standing in the way that is bigger than what I want to accomplish, and that is FEAR- Fear of being uncomfortable and out of control. I have never been a risk taker. I have zero desire to jump out of a plane or swim with sharks (that’s just crazy) I like my comfortable life, in my comfortable town, with my predictable day.
That is… until I get that quiet little nudge that I could do, be, and achieve some of those lofty goals of mine, but there is a cost. In order to reach some of those goals, it would require me to be vulnerable. What if I fail? Everyone will know and they will all laugh. Let’s just forget about it and keep on chugging along with my predictable day....... <<Insert the fear of Squamish race weekend here>> ;)
Squamish is an event that I've wanted to do for a while now due to its acclaimed difficulty and location. This race has a few climbs that are steep and (for me) relentless as it winds through some mountain trail. There are a few distances to chose from, I was taking on the 23k distance. It would present quite a challenge for me coming from these here flat lands. Did I mention it takes place in B E A U T I F U L British Colombia, Canada! Seriously, I couldn't stop "ohh-ing and Ahh-ing" of the beauty!
Over the last several months my life has been in a constant transition and I felt like It was a brand new me starting this race. I had no idea what my mind, let alone body, was capable of anymore. It may as well have been my first race. I was already getting things wrong, I was trying to keep others in view who I knew were going too fast for me in these conditions and hoping that I wouldn't end up paying for it later on. Then there was the fact that I hadn't taken enough water and ran out of fluid by mile 4 and had about another 5 before I would see an aid station. I panickingly drank from a creek. (hoping I don't pay for that one either) As the miles went on, I found myself running alone with no runners in view and that's when I realized that I was running way slower than I thought. I tried to keep a relative perspective on it, I have overtaken about 7 people in the first half, if I could keep them at bay and somehow make sure only speedy 50k runners passed me, but the feeling of defeat was winning the mind game.
I kept repeating to myself the very thing I was afraid of saying- If I just finish I can derive satisfaction from “another finish”- but that was exactly what I DIDN’T want. I didn't want "just another finish", I wanted to feel accomplished that I went into an incredibly hard race and finished near whatever my goal in my mind was and I didn't get that. But the most valuable lesson I learned is knowing that I had to become something different in order to get to the end, that somehow I became an improved human who learned to power through the suck and can take that improvement forward in my life.
I usually aim to have a sprint finish for the last mile, not this time. I was too exhausted. Run, scream, whine, slow-shuffle, repeat until I got about a quarter mile from the finish and saw a familiar face- Mike had come out to run me in. I had pulled out my phone at some point and told him I had already given up on myself, this was not my race, I couldn't do it. He wouldn't let me quit on myself.
The finish line eventually came into view and I was so thankful. As I crossed the finish line I had a moment of relief that I was done but I was also very upset with myself that this race didn’t have the outcome that I had sent my mind on in the months, weeks and days coming into this. There was a release of knowing that the discomfort had ended, but I didn't immediately have the swell of pride in my own strength as this shiny new beautiful medal hung heavy round my humbled, tired and broken body. As I looked through every post I had made about this race, I noted that they all lacked my usual ‘I’m proud/happy/excited etc about this finish’. I might not be happy about my finish time, but in the days since the race I have found some sort of pride in the fact that I finished an incredibly hard race course, even when I wanted to quit, that I somehow held onto myself just enough to muddle through it. I know what this course is all about now, and believe me when I say I'm already planning on coming back in 2017 and I'm gonna train harder and get that feeling of accomplishment with a shiny new course PR-no matter how many races and training runs it takes me, I will never give up. I will never stop. No matter how difficult or how painful, I will run. I can do anything and run anywhere.
I’m sure it’s pretty clear that I love working out and staying active. Quite honestly, in addition to bettering myself, this has become how I stay sane and centered. BUT, I couldn’t do it all on my own. I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t really know ALL of the benefits of working with a personal trainer until I started working with on myself. While some people may think of having a personal trainer as a luxury, it’s actually a great way to maximize your time in the gym and (in my opinion) get the most out of what you spend on fitness. And there’s so much more to it than you’d think. Let me explain …If you're like me, then you've walked into a gym, looked around at all of the equipment, felt overwhelmed and wanted to crawl into a corner. Or maybe you're that girl whose gotten ready for her at-home workout only to get lost in the thousands of YouTube videos that target everything but your eyebrows
In both of these scenarios, you've probably ended up doing something quick, random, ineffective, or maybe nothing at all, because you just weren't sure where to start. Having a workout plan will not only make your time spent working out more effective, it will make it easier for you to workout on a consistent basis.
1. A WORKOUT PROGRAM TAILORED JUST FOR YOU.
There’s no comparison to having a certified fitness professional giving you individual attention for an hour at a time. Your trainer will do some sort of full assessment on your body, natural movement patterns, goals, needs, overall health & wellness and design a workout program that is tailored specifically to you and there’s no better way for it to be. In order to be certified to be a personal trainer, you have to learn, understand and master a number of health and science principles, which you use to put together plans to help clients. A training session is not just a few exercise moves thrown together to make you sweat, a real workout program is designed with things you want to do and things you should do, based on your overall fitness and needs. Therefore, if you have a goal in mind, a personal trainer can give you a science-backed way to do it and will also maximize your time in the gym. While there is nothing wrong with working out at home or on your own (I do it, too), online plans can never replace the advice of a professional and personal hands-on assistance a few times a week- keeping you on track to achieve something. And remember, no goal is too small.
2. NOT HAVING TO THINK ABOUT WHAT’S NEXT OR WHAT TO DO THAT DAY.
One of the many things I love about working with that trainer guy is that I don’t have to think at all. I show up to the gym and just listen to his instructions. It’s awesome. A good trainer will have a program on hand for you each day, as well as offer you recommendations for things you should be doing on other days of the week (I swear I’m going to take that darn Pilates class!).
3. GETTING OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE.
Change only happens when you make the effort. Even though I’m pretty good lately about keeping up my workout routine and going to the gym, I don’t always get out of my comfort zone or try totally new things. While I love group fitness, to be totally honest, the motions are always similar and my body craves diversity and doesn’t always get it. When I work with that trainer guy, I want anything that I wouldn’t do in my group workouts. That means I get enough of the plyo (gag me) workouts in my group and I crave something a little more individually challenging. And for the first time in my life, someone showed me how to incorporate weights into my workout, as well as some ridiculously hard core & upper-body exercise moves on the TRX. It’s never easy, but that’s exactly the point. Plus I’m always up for the challenge and I look forward to the workout of the day and feel so good after I’ve completed something that was very hard for me, regardless if I may not have been good at.
4. HAVING A PROFESSIONAL NITPICK MY FORM.
We are human, we may think we know what we’re doing in the gym, but maybe just like me, you're making unknown mistakes. I’ve found that people tend to have less body awareness than they know. A personal trainer can help you achieve (near) perfect form. Trust me, I'm always asking that trainer guy "is this right, I'm not sure I'm feeling what I'm supposed to be feeling etc" Proper form not only helps you avoid injury, but it'll help you achieve your goals faster if you're doing the exercise correctly vs incorrectly. Do you have good mobility in your hips? Do you really know what it means to “brace your abs”? Are you able to focus on proper breathing patterns or fully engage your glute muscles? Maybe, maybe-not, but even for a casual exerciser, these are essential techniques to master and I sure am learning them.
5. A PERSONAL TRAINER WILL ASK YOU HARD QUESTIONS.
There are so many habits that we have that are unhealthy for us, and we just choose not to talk about them. But when you work with a personal trainer, they’re probably going to ask you if you got any sleep, did you remember to eat breakfast, What did you do this weekend, what are your short term & long term goals. And they’ll be asking that, because they know so many things play into an overall healthy lifestyle. Would you benefit from an extra little voice sitting on your shoulder devoted to whispering healthy motivation in your ear? I do!
6. BEING MOTIVATED BY SOMEONE WHO MAKES ME FEEL LIKE HE WANTS ME TO SUCCEED.
Nine times out of ten, I’m my own motivator when it comes to getting my butt to the gym. But when I work with that trainer guy, he wants me to lift heavier, run faster, finish the last rep with great form and go harder in all the things. When I want to give up on myself, he pushes me to give him just two more (I’m convinced 2 is his favorite number). It feels good to have someone (seemingly) in my corner, and it sure makes me want to do a good job. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to be bad at things or new at things. But that’s life. Working with that trainer guy has humbled me and reminded me what it’s like for people who do something for the very first time or trying to find my way back into something I once loved. It’s not easy. You aren’t always sure of what you’re doing and that makes you second guess yourself, but having that trainer guy reassure me that I am making forward progress helps tons.
Give it a shot, just to see what you learn about yourself. Sometimes just eight weeks with a trainer can really be a game-changer for your health and wellness. It’s okay to stumble and fall when you take on something new, because you’re still lapping those who are on the couch. I honestly think that personal training can work for anyone, whether you’re in shape, out of shape, an athlete, totally sedentary or anything in between. Yes, it does cost money to train in a one-on-one setting, but it’s an investment in one of the most important things in the world — your health.
Keep at it.
Talk to me during a training cycle for a race and I doubt myself A LOT. It is not something I am proud of, but being more cognizant about it and trying to turn those thoughts around has helped me a ton. I doubt I can run at a certain pace, I doubt I can finish a tough tempo workout, I doubt I can get through a long run, I doubt, I doubt, I doubt. But, working on my confidence has helped me to gain mental strength in running. Running is mostly physical, but it is also extremely mental. Your legs can only do so much while running before your brain has to kick in to help you in a run. Over the past few years... errr... more like- months of running, I have had to improve my running mental game if I wanted to improve my overall running.
At this point I have run 7? half-marathons. It is not a ton, but it is enough to know where I struggle and what I can do to get myself to the finish line. Through experience I have learned how my body handles certain speeds, certain distances, etc. and what I can do to get through discomfort.
Long runs have been huge for me in improving my running mental game because that’s usually where I struggle. Running a longer distance once a week has helped not only my body get used to running longer distances again, but it has helped my mind a lot. I can train my brain to push past boredom or any negative quity thoughts. I remember last year when I was regularly knocking out 10++ milers almost every weekend and my mental game to push past any barriers was at its height. I began to get to the point when 10 miles did not seem like anything crazy, other than just a Saturday morning run around the ole neighborhood… until I talked to a friend about it and they called me crazy. ;)
CELEBRATE THE SMALL THINGS- Instead of always just thinking about the end goal of a particular race, celebrating the small things has helped me to keep going in my training and not give up. Even if it is just the fact that I woke up and ran on a particularly tough day is a reason to celebrate. It is telling myself that I did it. I pushed through a tough run, I made it to the track on a rainy day, or whatever. Celebrating the small things keeps me going day after day, and makes the end goals a cause for an even bigger celebration.
I have run half-marathons faster than I thought I would when I started this whole running thing and that has given me the confidence to know that I can get through a tough workout, I can get through a long run, I can run a half marathon at a certain pace.
It is not going to be easy, but I CAN DO IT.
You hear about the importance of core work for runners preached repeatedly.
In all honesty, I am somebody who would rather run two extra miles than take 20 minutes to work on my core strength. I know, I know, not the same thing. Lately I've been focused on becoming a better- stronger runner and I don’t like to do things half-assed; I want to pursue excellence in the areas of my life that mean the most to me. My workouts have changed significantly this year from having a singular focus on running, to incorporating a lot more swimming and cycling in there as well. The one thing that has improved significantly (thanks to help from that trainer guy) is my strength training routine and a little more focus on core work is a major part of it, because like most of the world, I have under-developed core strength. You can add core exercises into a total body strength training routine or do them as their own workout. Ideally, I try to do 2-4 core workouts per week. I like to do a few shorter core workouts on my own and then let that trainer guy incorporate core-focused exercises into my weekly strength training workouts.
Here are just a few of my favorites lately....
1. Flutter Kicks I always feel like I can do this one for days. I think I really just like things that allow me to lay on the floor and fully engage my core for the movement. haha I aim for 3-4 rounds of 45-60 seconds of this movement.
2. Planks. Despite my deep hatred of planks and all things that require significant strength, planks admittedly work my core like no other. They require core for stability, making them a great move.
3. Bicycle crunches. Yeah, I know, you were expecting that I’d know of some revolutionary core workout that didn't involve crunches, but I honestly love bicycle crunches. Once again I go for 3-4 rounds of 10-15.