Monday, August 31, 2009

Goal Fatigue. I Got it Bad, Man.

I've been hit! I'm down! I've fallen and I can't get up!

Or rather, I can't muster the energy to care to get up. Because, to be completely honest, I am sick of this bull crap.

No, I'm not sick of working out or training or doing my whole "Healthy Heather" thing. I'm tired of my goal being so far in the future that just thinking about it makes me tired. When I started training for this course, a year and a half ago, I planned to knock it out in nine months and move on to something new. But then, life happened. My knee happened. To make a long and boring story short and less boring, I pushed it back, pushed it back, waaaaaay back.

And now, I just want to get this *&^%$ thing over with. I am ready to move on! I want to see other workouts. I guess you could say I want to try having an open relationship with my course training. I mean, if I want to run once in a while or do a 5k here and there, who does that really hurt? I think we're ready for that; I think our relationship can handle it.

I keep plugging away, jumping over my hurdle and building my strength and doing all of my agility workouts. But I have noticed myself looking forward to the day after the event, when I can finally just workout again.

I have goal fatigue.

At least, that's what my wise friend E told me last week as I bitched and moaned to her about all of this on our dueling treadmills at the church gym. As soon as she said it, I knew exactly what she meant. I heard friends talking about training for triathlons and wished I could join them. I saw people out for a run and remembered the days when I could just cardio my day away with reckless abandon. Cutting back on cardio and focusing on strength was bumming me out in a major way.

My goal fatigue manifested itself in other ways, as well. I've been reclusive. I've been stressed. I've been...not very nice to people that I really like and care about. I've been drinking more wine than I used to. I'm acting as if I have failed, when really it's just that I haven't yet had a chance to see if I can succeed.

So, the solution is pretty straight-forward: stop this crazy train! Go for a run already! Stop being such an obsessive weirdo and just workout, silly! And when I snapped on my headphones one Saturday morning and hit the pavement to the tune of "Do What You Want," it was like the song was written just for me. Cheesy, yeah, I know. Sometimes I'm cheesy.

Okay, so problem solved, right? Ha! No, I still have this course looming ahead of me. I want to tackle it, I want to be good at it, and I want to be done with it so I can move on. But I can't help but wonder if part of the reason I have been reclusive, stressed, and not very nice is because I still have doubts as to my ability to actually achieve it.

Eh, screw it. I'm not thinking about that today. Let's just work it out.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Lowering the Bar

You know, sometimes it amazes me how long it takes for something to get through my thick skull. Each morning I wake up, spring out of bed (yes I am one of those morning people), and assume that everything I attempt to do will just happen. I will be able to do it. No doubt. Easy.

And then I actually set out to do these things and am shocked - SHOCKED! - when it isn't quite that easy.

Case in point: who was it that said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? I should have thought of that before I took another charge at my hurdle and crashed into it. Again. And again. It turns out that determination doesn't directly translate into ability.

So I decided to change the rules. I brought my hurdle to my husband and said, "fix this." If I couldn't jump over the hurdle just by trying over and over again, I would jump over it by making it shorter. Eleven inches shorter, to be exact. He hemmed and hawed over whether I was taking too much off, but I was firm. Cut this sucker down.

The next day, I set up my new trainer-wheel hurdle and sailed over it time and time again. I was a running and leaping fool, having a great time. It felt so good to accomplish something -- even if it was a watered-down something -- after so many failed attempts.

That was a week ago. So, this week I am off to Lowe's to get some more PVC do-hickeys. I'll raise it three inches and go for another week. Then, raise it again. Lather, rinse, repeat, until I can clear it at regulation height. By my calculations I should meet this goal exactly one week after my fitness challenge in November. :)

I'm not good at adjusting my expectations, of others or of myself. I feel that each of us has an obligation to give every day our best shot at being incredible. If you're not doing that, then what are you doing? Resting? For what? More nothing? Last week I bemoaned my new training schedule, which allows for more rest and rehabilitation between workouts. I felt like a slacker, I felt lame. I heard myself say, "I just enjoy life more when I am exhausted," and felt everyone in the gym turn and look at me with incredulous expressions on their faces. But I stand by that - I feel best when I am used up, worn out, completely spent. I give every day my best shot at being incredible, and if I have energy left at the end of the day, I don't really feel like I have done that.

I know. There is medication for people like me.

But training for my hurdles with a "you will submit to me" mentality was not being incredible. It was being stupid. So, I grit my teeth and took the advice of that wise old sage, Bart Simpson: when in doubt, lower your expectations. And yes, I do realize this is the second week in a row that I have quoted Bart Simpson.

I hated lowering the bar, but I have to admit...jumping over that hurdle, however low, felt pretty incredible. I look forward to the day when I can clear it without training wheels, but for now I am content to lower my expectations.

For now.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Last week Captain Awesome accused me of sandbagging. I knew what he meant - I was dragging. Like I wrote on Friday, I had lost some of my mojo during my hectic six weeks of travel. But unfortunately I found something else. Thirteen something elses, to be exact.

Yep, I have gained 13 lbs. And no, it's not all muscle. Well, some of it is; my body fat percentage has stayed the same. And a lot of it is water. But some of it is sandbags.

I feel miserable. I look even worse. I'm used to feeling lean, streamlined, fluid, and strong. But lately, I feel like, well, a pile of sandbags. I'm puffy and jetlagged and to be honest, sick of complaining about it. Damn travel! Damn you back-to-back travel!

So this morning, I smiled as I stepped out into the humid rain to head out to the gym. I couldn't wait to take out my hurdle and cones and do my little psychotic routine. I was drenched by the time Awesome opened the door. We did biceps, chest, and hamstrings, and I headed home to stretch. I already felt a million times better.

This morning I packed my lunchbag with my favorite staples - spinach, turkey, water, more veggies, berries, and almonds. I can feel the stress of being on the road and out of my routine start to melt away as I face a much-needed month ahead of me with no work-week travel. Finally I can shake these sandbags.

In two weeks, I am headed back to the course to practice. Over the next three months headed up to the big event, I will practice on the course three or four times so I can fine-tune my workouts and really prepare. Also, to memorize the steps and movements and begin the mental preparation, as well. I'm excited but also nervous. I wonder how far I have come.

I knew going into this training that I would undergo a transformation that may not always be comfortable, and have confidently said that I was prepared to sacrifice asthetics for function. But man, when it actually starts to happen, it sucks. To quote Bart Simpson as Tom Sawyer, it powerful sucks.

Hey, it's all par for the course. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. In a month when both Lance Armstrong and Tiger Woods are finding themselves in the latter category, I figure I'm in pretty good company. :)

That being said, today is not going to suck. I shed one sandbag this morning, and will continue to do so every day until I am back to lean and mean. In the coming weeks, if there is anything Awesome can accuse me of, sandbagging won't be one of them!

Friday, August 14, 2009

One With the Spirit

Yeah yeah yeah, I'm like four days overdue on updating this blog. I know. I'm sorry.

I've been on the road. Halfway across the country and back, to be specific, in a car. I went to Omaha, NE, which required overnight stays in three hotels and a lot more time sitting on my butt than I really wanted. But, I did get in one really great workout (thank you Hampton Inn at Arbor Plaza for the fantabulous gym with HGTV) and ate okay. Yeah, just okay. There was wine.

So to say I was itching to get back to the gym would be an understatement. With all of the traveling I've been doing since the beginning of July, really good workouts have been few and far between. I am jonesing to get back in my groove. Thankfully, I have a nice long stretch of homebodiness ahead of me.

But while I was gone, I wandered into the Strategic Air and Space Museum outside of Omaha. We looked at old fighter jets and bombers and space modules, as well as some old junk stacked up against a wall that looked like it was about to be turned into a fabulous new exhibit that would be assembled after we were long gone. And near that, I spied something interesting.

It was a display commemorating the squadrons of the Royal Air Force that apparently spent some time at Offutt Air Force Base from 1958 through 1982. Each squadron had a motto, and one caught my eye. It read, "I change my body, not my spirit."

I had no idea what changing our bodies had to do with being in the air force, or why someone thought you could only change one of them at a time. But regardless, it got me thinking about whether it was possible to change your body without changing your spirit, or vice verse.

When I (finally) arrived back in the gym Wednesday morning, I still hadn't decided. I was too preoccupied with the feeling that somewhere between Florida and Nebraska, I had become completely out of shape. Everything was difficult, and I was dragging myself around like a sack of potatoes trying to get back in gear. I'm sure the wine had nothing to do with it; it was all tidal flows or karma or something completely unrelated to wine.

So ANYWAY, its Friday now and I am just starting to feel like myself again. And this morning as I was hopping around the gym on one foot (don't was calf day and Awesome was feeling particularly puckish) I laughed as I felt my groove start to kick back in. I knew my answer: the Royal Air Force had it wrong. We can't change our bodies without changing our spirits. Without a fundamental change in the way we think, the way we act, and the way we react, we will not take the actions necessary to change our bodies.

I am soooooo glad that the next few months don't require travel during the work week. And I am sooooo glad that I am back in the gym training again. And I am so so so so so glad that my spirit is glad.

Welcome back to me!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Survival of the Fittest? Not....really.....

So last week I was at the Ritz Carlton enjoying a respite from my daily grind and playing with all of the new and fancy workout equipment in the hotel gym. I did yoga and pilates, went for some good runs, did some nice heavy lifting, and generally took advantage of having a lot of time to myself.

And when I wasn't working out, I attended a conference for work where I sat in meeting rooms and listened to consultants, nodding appreciatively at their wisdom and taking copious notes like the good teacher's pet that I am. Except for a few general sessions, in which I doodled a plan for the next morning's back/tricep/hamstring workout.

As you probably know, every PowerPoint presentation worth its salt these days has at least a few good motivational quotes thrown in to make the consultant look smart. And you know I love me some motivational quotes! But when I saw an old Darwin standard, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change,” the rusty old gears in my head started to lurch and groan. I immediately started thinking about cross-training.

I've always maintained that a key to fitness is consistent variety. Going for the same run every day, doing the same weight routine, or even doing the same types of exercise day in and day out are great for the biological clock, but not so much for achieving total fitness. Our bodies are so adaptable that after just a few days or weeks, what was once challenging becomes easy. Some might see this is a light at the end of the tunnel, but in my eyes it is more like a dead-end. When your body adapts, it doesn't work as hard. When it doesn't work as hard, it doesn't change. When it doesn't change, well, it stays the same. I don't know many people who work out because they want to stay the same. Even people in maintenance strive to improve.

So, I cross-train. Some days I do some moderate elliptical cardio and heavy weights, others I do sprint intervals and lighter weights. Some days I get on the bike, and then follow up with Pilates at lunch. Sometimes I want to go for a nice long run, other days I need to stretch and work on plyometrics. I'm deliberate in my spontaneity, but try to keep my body guessing a little bit.

So, I might challenge Darwin that it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives, but the one that is the least adaptable to change. By adapting too quickly, we atrophy. By maintaining a constant state of muscle confusion, we grow.

Now naturally, I am applying this coffee-house logic to one tiny aspect of life - the gym. But I know for sure that I do not want my body to become adaptable to change. As soon as it starts expecting it, I'm in trouble.

I'm not always perfect at this; I have my favorite workouts and am a creature of habit. I like my routine and enjoy knowing what to expect from the day. Ritualistic exercise can be therapeutic, and I know plenty of people who's days cannot start until they have completed that ritualistic run. But while we may have a specific block of time set aside for exercise, I challenge us to fill it with something different each day. Don't adapt, don't look for opportunities to make exercises easier. Stay in that challenging zone as long as you can to remind your body that sometimes, being unfit has its advantages.

Have a healthy week!