I'm in week two of my training, and I'm loving it. I love being a perfectionist about my food, measuring my portions, and logging it all in my www.fitday.com profile. I love knowing that each workout will bring some new challenge, and that I will spend the remainder of the day unable to walk up stairs or move my arms or laugh, because I am so sore.
Well, last week the fun came to a screeching halt. My training partner and I were idly chatting about nothing when we were informed that for the next six weeks, our workouts would include a challenge neither of us were up for: a cardio marathon. For the next six weeks, we would do only cardio on Wednesdays. That's an hour. Of cardio. I hate cardio.
Sure, I like endorphins as much as the next girl. I like running outside in the cold and doing interval training on the treadmill. I'll swim laps at lunch and get on the elliptical when I'm feeling rebellious. But for a whole hour? Usually after twenty or thirty minutes tops, I am bored and restless, ready to move on to something else. Now I was facing 60 minutes of what I forsaw as mindless cardio, and more importantly, an entire day without weights...and then he really threw the book at us - at least 20 minutes of it had to be intense. We grimaced at each other, but we knew he was right.
I had been in a rut with my cardio for a while. I run a couple of miles, then get on the treadmill, crank up the incline, and power walk. It's hard, and my heart-rate monitor tells me I am in the zone. But I know that if I really want to perform, I need to crank it up. And I want to perform.
Naturally, the next day was Wednesday. I spent most of Tuesday psyching myself up. I came up with a schedule of changing things up often enough so I didn't get bored. Tuesday night, I loaded up my iPod with new songs. I was ready. When Wednesday morning arrived, I felt as if the guillotine hung over my head. I didn't want to do it. I hoped he forgot. He didn't.
I started with my usual outside 2-mile jaunt through the neighborhood. I paced myself; I didn't want to overdose on endorphins and stop having fun with 30 minutes left to go. And I reminded myself that this wasn't exactly a marathon. I was going to move my body for sixty consecutive minutes, no biggie. As I jogged down the sidewalk, I wondered what Lance Armstrong would do in this situation, but I already knew the answer. He would quit bitching and keep running.
After my run, I went inside for the treadmill. If I had to do 20 minutes of intense cardio, this was where it would happen: interval training. I cranked up the intensity, started running again, then played around with the incline. It was hard. Really hard. I wanted to stop/throw up/kill myself/lie on the floor in a big sweaty heap and sulk. But I didn't do any of those things. I glanced over at the next person on the treadmill and thought to myself, I do exactly two levels higher than her.
You see, in situations like these, I have to rely on my old standby of mental competition. If I think I can't do something, or even if I just don't want to, I look for someone else who is already doing it and then do it better. It's a habit I picked up in high school when I started pitting myself against the other girls in my theatre group. It was a game to me; they didn't know it, but we were racing, and if I didn't win then I used that lesson to be smarter and better the next time. Its how I operate, and it works for me every time. When in self-doubt, I use the success of others as fuel for my next set.
So I fueled my fire and banged out my cardio that day. As I enviously observed my friends doing their weights and my legs turned to jelly, I watched the seconds on the clock move towards the end of my hour. And then, because I could, I did 10 more minutes. Because after all, if I want to perform, I have to crank it up. And I want to perform.