Challenge Melbourne represented my last race for the 2015/2016 tri season and my coach instructed to me to take some time off after the race to get the body ready for the huge build we have planned leading into the 2016 World Championships. After a big 12 months of training, travelling and racing I have been really looking forward to the break. So once I get into my scheduled time off training do you think before I started to miss it? I reckon it took me 3 days before I started getting the itch to do some training again. Since then I have started to get moving again. There is no structure to my training and I am definitely not following a plan or anything. I am simply trying to stay active. I just find it funny that while you are in the middle of a big period of training all you want is a break and then when you get it, all you want is to train! There are probably people reading this who never have this issue and I imagine there are some people who either have never gotten to a point when they want to get back into training or wish that they could make training such a part of their life that they need a break. But what it comes down to is that all of us, whatever our level of fitness, have some sort of love/hate relationship with exercise.
So why do people 'hate' to train. I think the main reasons for this is that it can be hard. When you are starting to get active your body is not used to the load and while we know that you should ease into any form of activity, most people will go too hard too quickly. This combined with the fact that the majority of people have imperfect technique regardless of their chosen activity can lead to injury, pain and will ultimately mean that exercise becomes associated with pain or discomfort. An ideal example of this is running. When people have an epiphany that they want to run a marathon or a 10km race do they think about laying the appropriate foundation in their fitness, strength and technique before they start to pound the pavement? I would guess the answer is no. One of the first things I try to teach people who want to start running is the basics of run mechanics. As always, I do not pretend to be an expert in this field but you do not need to be a World Champion runner to know the basics of running. The other thing you often find with people starting exercise is that they are not aware of their weight being a limiting factor. This can go both ways. Some people do not believe that the extra kilos will impact on their ability to train and can actually mean certain types of exercise become dangerous. There are also others who use it as an excuse. The whole 'I am too fat' excuse can have some merit, but it does not apply to every training session out there. There is always something that you can do to start getting active.
Another reason why I think people can see exercise as a negative thing is simply because of ego. Ego does not have to mean that we want to think that we are the best but there are lots of people who I know who do not want to train because they are worried about looking stupid. I guarantee you that in your own circle of friends you will know a person who does not want to train at a gym because they feel intimidated. They are worried that they will look stupid or ugly when they are sweating. One of the things that absolutely bamboozles me is when I see women wearing makeup to a race or training session or when blokes do their hair with gel. I have a friend who used to do his hair before a soccer match and refused to head the ball because he didn't want to ruin his "fresh look". Apart from the physical idea of ego there is also the competitive side of ego which comes back to injury. People who need to win. Have you ever been running, lifting, swimming and had a person next to you speed up to either pass you, outfit you or not let you pass them? EGO! When you are starting out training it is critical to master technique which means that the load has to be less. When I tell people they either have to focus on a low heart rate or adopt a walk run strategy I always have to couple the instruction with a dire warning, "Leave your ego at home". When I was first introduced to low heart rate running by my coach he told me the exact same thing and it is true. I could be 'running' along at a pace which allowed my heart rate to stay below 130 and be overtaken by a group of elderly runners jogging past talking about the latest episode of the Bold and the Beautiful. It became frustrating and annoying. Eventually I started to see the benefit and make improvement but man, my ego took a beating.
The other big issue I see why people often grow to hate training or exercise is the idea that you need to go hard or go home. People will train so hard all the time. Pushing the red line is important sometimes but there is now a significant volume of research which promotes the 80/20 split. 80% of your training should be easy and 20% should be moderate to intense. This is even more true when talking about beginners. One of the biggest limiting factors for people getting to the start line of a race in good shape is not because they have not trained hard enough. It is because they have trained too hard. If you are a person who is always racing injured I suggest you either look at your intensity, make sure your technique is sorted or fire your coach or trainer. My Dad is a funny example of this and I know he will get a kick out of this because I know he reads. I had no idea but my Dad would go out and do every run as hard as he could. It wasn't until after Christmas we did the Bay Run (An iconic 7km run around one of the inlets in Sydney Harbour) where I ran with my brother at a good pace and Dad ran with his friend Stephen at a relaxed pace. Dad went away after that run and the next time he ran he felt amazing. In a complete shock my dear sweet father actually turned to me for some advice. I laughed at him. I could not believe that he did not know this. Of course the easy runs are important. One of the key sayings is train slow to race hard!
So that is some of the reasons why I think people can have a negative experience when it comes to training. February is the month of love and this weekend it is Valentines Day (I think it is impossible to miss this fact unfortunately) so I better talk about why people can love exercise. The first and most obvious answer is the endorphins. the feeling post exercise is amazing. You feel like a million dollars and you know that you have done something good for yourself. that feeling of positivity can flow into your personal life as well as work. When I used to be stuck on an issue I would go for a run with no music or anything and just think. After my exercise I would come back and be able to get stuck into whatever issue I was facing. Exercise can also be an incredibly social event. I love to see groups of like minded people join together to start healthy habits. You do not need to be athletes either. I much prefer doing PT sessions with 2 people instead of 1. I am able to instil a sense of teamwork and camaraderie. I might even sometimes introduce an element of competition between them. But if you can get together a group of people you will often start training together, then get coffee together and before you know it, this group of people becomes a key part of your social life.
The other reason why I think people learn to love exercise is because of the benefits associated with it. In this day and age it is a sad thing to assume that there are far less people who regularly exercise than those who do not. If you are lucky enough to be one of the people who has successfully managed to overcome the hurdles and barriers to this healthy lifestyle then you also get to reap the benefits. Some of those benefits include looking good and having clothes that fit you well. But the other benefits may include self-confidence. Not because you think you look good but for me I am no longer daunted by tasks which may appear hard or difficult. Losing 50kgs was insanely difficult but now that I have done it I think that I am able to have a crack at most things. These other benefits will be different from person to person but more often than not there will be lessons which can be applied to other areas of your life. Patience, perseverance, compromise and time management are all skills which will need to be mastered to ensure a successful exercise lifestyle.
So while there are many reasons why people may have a hate relationship with exercise and training there is no real issue which with some help or hard work can not be overcome. There are a plethora of resources out there which will help people to make smart choices whatever your goal maybe. Once you are able to accept that there will be times when you hate the hard work you will be able to get through it. One of my favourite running quotes is that it is the hardest thing to start doing. But once you have started, it is the hardest thing to stop. So next time you are having an internal debate as to whether you should or should not get active, focus on the positives. You have two choices, the easy way or the right way. Then after a while you may be in a situation where all you want is a well earned break from training only to get three days in and realise you miss it!
That will do for this week. I am not trying to preach to anyone here and in fact this blog kind of changed while I was writing it. However I think the message is true. As to me, I will continue to struggle through my training break with the occasional swim or run. I have been trying to do some strength work in the gym as well. You gym junkies out there! I take my hat off to you! It is hard man.
Train, train, then train again and remember to TRI!