Monday, February 24, 2014

Why do I do this? No, really...

There are days I doubt myself as a swimmer, triathlete...and athlete in general. This was just such a day. It should come as no surprise that I am struck with these doubts while in the water (yes, it hits me most often in the water...I mean my prior post was all about my having to drag myself to swim since its not something I'm good at...but trust me, that doubt monkey resides on my back during any activity in the day). That moment when I ask myself "what the hell am I doing this for?!"  Rapidly followed by "this is just killing me", "I'm never gonna be a pro" or "it's not like I'm any good at this anyway".
Self discovery can often be found while trying not to drown...
It should also not come as a surprise that I get this feeling during the cold, dark, snowy (more so than normal this year) offseason here in New England. It's just hard to stay motivated to train when it'd be much easier (and a lot more fun) to sit around the house enjoying a big bowl of Doritos or a German Chocolate cake...or two (hmmmm, cake) than drag myself to workout. And yes, I know we all go through the training "blahs" but this year seems worst than most. 

Yes, I work very hard at staying positive and I'm a great "coach" to get other people over the hump when they're having down days or a bad training session...but much like a psychiatrist who needs their own psychiatrist because "treating yourself" with the words you use for others sounds like garbage after a positivity falls on deaf ears when directed to me. And...I'm my own worst critic when it comes to my "athletic" successes (or lack thereof) and failures. I know this is something everyone deals with and contrary to popular belief, I am not immune. I focus on those crusher workouts and drag-my-tongue-across-the-finish-line races because the effort and pain helps to keep the doubt monkey at bay...but sometimes he jumps right on my back and kicks my ass.

Friday, February 14, 2014

What makes you think I love it?!

You know, its funny. I get friends and errant people all the time telling me that running and/or cycling is wearing them out and they can't find a way to recover or they want to find some type of cross training to give their legs a break but balk at the suggestion of swimming and say "I have no time to swim" or "I hate swimming" or my personal favorite..."I'm just no good at swimming". Compound that with follow up statement "I'd really love to do a triathlon...but the swimming..." normally solicits a series of eye rolls from me.

So you don't want to swim because you don't know how to...or you're not good at it? I hope that sounds ridiculous to you too when I say it out loud. I am by NO means a "swimmer". I have always wanted to do an Ironman and knew that I could put together the bike and run but I had to crack the swimming nut. Now I'm a firm believer that people that grow up as swimmers have a HUGE LEG up on the rest of us. Swimming is not "natural" for humans. Once you're taught proper form as a kid...and it sticks (it's really no different than learning a language as a kid) its always there and you can recall it. To learn swimming as an adult (essentially a new language) is terribly difficult.

Moment of truth? The first time I got in a pool to train: I hopped in to share a lane without asking, got my ass chewed out by the swimmer already in the lane, I struggled and muscled my way through the length (yes I said length NOT lap), got right out at other end, went into the locker room and sobbed to myself that I'll never be a triathlete...much less an Ironman. Ya, not a good day at all. But rather then let the water best me, I had to do two things I hate: admit defeat and ask for help. I got a friend who was a collegiate swimmer to teach me how to swim, put my ego in check and listened to the critiquing and worked steadily to better myself. Am I a good swimmer? No. Am I decent and no longer experiencing "controlled drowning" every time I swim? Do my swim times come down at every race (and subsequently put me on a podium now)? Yes. Can I hang with real swimmers? Not a chance...but I do enjoy catching most of them on the bike (its all about the small victories).

Do I look forward to going to the pool now? Um...I try to be positive and focus on the task at hand. But, at no point in the water am I laid back and just "swimming". I always think to myself: head down, strong shallow kick, proper hand entry, rock side to side, strong pull...followed by...oh crap breathe, breathe! the end of the day, I have no intention of letting the water beat me. I will get better every swim session. I will get through that 2.4 mile Ironman swim (with plenty of gas in the tank for that 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run) and I will earn the title "Ironman". Ya, I don't love the swim...but I'm warming up to it with every stroke. I do look forward to the swim at races now because its a chance to bring my swim times down with every race. So....what's your excuse for not at least trying?!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Topo Athletic RX...the gym shoes let me grip it and rip it!

I was lucky enough to get a package in the mail the other day from Topo Athletic. It included their "RX"
training shoe...specifically designed for the challenge of dynamic gym exercises and/or "crossfit like" workouts.

At first glance the shoes are a little crazy looking with the split toe design but after sliding them on (with the provided pair of spilt toe socks made by Injinji), you barely notice it at all. The shoe is wicked light weight and very breathable and really feels almost sock-like instead of a traditional "shoe". The shoes are zero drop with great support but little cushioning, which I thought would translate well to getting traction and power in the gym...and then hit the gym...

I figured it was high time I got back into dynamic lifting in the gym so it was a session of deadlifts, squats, single leg presses, bent over barbell rows, clean and jerks, box jumps, standing military press. I wanted to try all the exercises I'd avoided because I never felt comfortable because I never felt like I had solid "anchor footing" (you know, when you squat or lunge and watch your feet do that wobble in your shoes as they trying to get settled?)...until now...holy sh*t these shoes awesome!!!

For the first time in memory I felt like I had a solid base to grip and rip from through all of these exercises. Thats due in part to the split toe design (I could actually feel my toes "open" to grip the floor), the mid-foot strap for lateral stability and partly from the great arch support with no cushion (which lead me to the sensation of being "connected" right to the ground for stability). That translated to jumping rope and cone agility skills training too. Because of these shoes I'm happily back the three gym/lift sessions a week.

I have to admit I had my reservations about the shoe and its design and whether or not I'd like it. I dont like it...I LOVE IT!!! You got to get a pair for yourself and try them out. Now I gotta go build some go sticks...