Do you hear a repetitive dialog in your head going something like, “I know I should do [insert idea here], so maybe I’ll start [tomorrow, next week]…” So something like, “I know I should stop eating donuts for breakfast, so maybe I’ll start eating healthy tomorrow.” Or, perhaps something like, “I know I should work out more, so next week I’ll start using that gym membership that has been unused for the past three years.” When I get in these ruts I always wonder what it is that has me stuck. I honestly think it’s just a case of self sabotage being done subconsciously. Maybe it all it takes is thinking about the situation from a slightly different perspective to get the ball rolling towards doing rather than wishing you had done it already.
As much as I’d like to say I arrived at this conclusion by being proactive, this is more of a learning lessons from hindsight. Many people believe that training for a marathon is just a question of running. A lot of running, but essentially getting out and running week after week until you run long enough to run a marathon. There is truth in that because the core of your exercise is going to be running 3-5 days a week, depending on the training plan you choose. However an equally important part of the running training is something called cross training.
Cross training is the process of doing exercises other than running in order to make sure all your muscles are properly stimulated and that you aren’t creating range of motion problems. Running doesn’t really build muscle strength that well, cross training does. If you’ve watched joggers or long distance runners move you can see how their legs and arms aren’t going through a full range of motion. Cross training is what makes their bodies do that. Without doing this cross training you are substantially increasing your risks of injury, either a chronic problem like joint problems or an acute one like a muscle pull. Since I know all that, you’d think that I would be absolutely sure that I do my cross training. Sadly, just like last year it had fallen by the wayside.
Cross training for running can be basically any sort of exercise that isn’t running. The list is quite wide: weight lifting, cycling, swimming, yoga, tennis, rock climbing, et cetera. In fact it’s best to make cross training be a sample of various different exercises. Back when I started this whole training ramp up back in June I had decided I was going to make swimming one of my big workouts each week. I hadn’t been swimming regularly for a while so I went out and got a new suit, made sure I had my goggles and looked into getting a watch that worked in the water as well as on the road. I had every intention of going gangbusters with swimming_** **at least_ ********one day a week. I packed up all my stuff in my duffel bag intending to head over to the gym after work, but work got the best of me and I didn’t go.
The next day was running, so there was no workout, but the next day I was going to get over there to get that swim in. Something else came up, so maybe it will be next week. The next week I thought about heading to the gym to start getting serious about my cross training. Swimming or something else like weight lifting? Neither sounded appealing, but both were what I wanted to make the alternating workouts. Which did I choose? None, I was kind of busy anyway so maybe the next training day I’d get it in. Guess what happened on the next training day? Exactly!
Fast forward to the end of last week. Three months after being all raring to go to get my swimming and weight lifting cross training I had done it exactly zero times. I did jump in the pool with my suit one time, well a friend threw me in, but that wasn’t exactly a workout. I still have yet to do the weights at all, but I did look at a whole bunch of home training videos that could maybe be interesting! It’s the rut I talked about above and as much as I complained to myself about constantly procrastinating about it I was doing nothing about it. I even thought the only way out was to hire a trainer to track my ass and keep me honest! Everything changed last week though and not by any conscious decision.
I did my usual “easy run” on Monday night just to get the lead out. The busy week had me wiped out after work so I skipped my cross training on Tuesday (of course). Wednesday was supposed to be another run day but I bailed on that figuring I’d just do it on Thursday instead of the cross training that I knew I was going to skip. That didn’t happen either. So we come to Friday and I haven’t moved at all since Monday. I didn’t have time to do my long run (11 miles) that day so I was going to be doing it on Saturday. I felt I needed to do something, but running two days in a row is not something I like to do. I was in the middle of psyching myself out about swimming again when I decided to just say screw it and head to the gym to get a brief workout on the stationary bike. All I wanted to do was get my legs moving a little and get my heart rate up a little. It’s not hard to do, I could listen to my podcast while I do it. I didn’t have to worry about the cold pool I’d be diving into or getting exhausted five laps in. I didn’t have to worry about the serious weight training woman next to me lifting more weights than I did or her hulk-like partner looking irritated that I was getting in the way of his view in the mirror. I could just sit on the bike, be in my own little world like when I’m running and just bang it out. That is exactly what I did, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
Along with the benefits of the workout I swear it made my legs feel faster the next day. You want your legs to move faster, then do training to make them faster. Spinning on a bike at 80-90 RPM is a lot faster than my running, so mission accomplished. I enjoyed it so much that I was actually looking forward to doing it again this morning, and looking forward to making it a workout later this week too. After months of hand wringing about not doing my cross training I am in a cross training groove. If I had decided to just blow off the idea of psyching myself up for doing stuff I hate rather than finding something equivalent that I enjoy to get me in the groove I’d probably be a lot further along in my training and a lot happier having not had three months of mentally beating myself up.
I’m going to practice this concept everytime I see myself doing some other avoidance maneuver. Am I avoiding the activity or is it some preconceived notion about the activity that I’m throwing up as a mental road block instead? If the latter, it’s easy enough to just think about doing something different to accomplish the same goal so i can get out of my own way.