Saturday, August 4, 2012

Getting older, being lazy, or none of the above?

I'm not sure about the spot that I'm in currently regarding my competitive athletic career.  As I've mentioned here on my blog numerous times, I've been out of the competitive loop for about a year now.  In fact, the last race I did, The Wilderness 101, was a exactly a year and a week ago today.  In this time of non-competition, I've still ridden my bike nearly every day, exercised and stayed healthy.  Nothing mystifies me more than when an athlete stops competing and goes to mush almost over night.  I don't know if I'll ever compete again as seriously as I once did, but I do know that I will continue to be considerably fit no matter what life brings me.

So, today, in keeping with the habit of lifting more that I developed while overseas, I got back at it with a great kettle bell workout.  I've got a new appreciation for the types of things you can do with the bells,  and I've found more and more that they (and the movements involved) produce sheer strength and fitness that actually carries over to almost any activity.  As I learn more and more about them, I'm able to diversify my own workouts and focus on functional strength, the same I would use while on my mountain bike.

In addition, they're just plain fun.  I can remember the days of doing endless sets of bicep curls, bench press, triceps extensions, and the like.  I was building a body that was generally good at only doing those things.  With the types of things and focus that I now have as a result of using the kettle bells, I'm able to not only ride my bike more effectively, but work out in the yard more effectively, pick up any old heavy object more effectively, and just generally be more of a complete human being-not just an athlete doing exercises just for their one particular sport.

I suppose where I'm going with all of this is in the last sentence I just wrote.  Being a "complete human being" is something that, I believe, has been developed as a concept in my head as I've gotten older and more mentally mature.  When you're competing at a high level in any sport, you become consumed by it, taking all of your attention and all of your efforts to be the best that you can be.  I don't care who you are, when you're trying to be the absolute best at whatever it is you do, you have to be this way.  And, if you're not this way and you're still successful, you're a freak!  Of course I mean this all in the best and more respectful of ways, I'm only trying to convey the point that to be the best you need to engulf yourself in your sport.

For me, no matter what sport I played, I was always in it with everything I had.  I was the kid that slept with his hockey skates on; the kid that put oil in his baseball glove, wrapped it with a rubber band and put it under his pillow; and, I was the kid that woke up at 2am to head to the ice rink to get in 4 hours of practice before school.  I was never the "best" but I was good.  I was the best that I could have ever been, and I like to think that no matter what sport I attempted, I sold out for it.

At this point of my life, I'm entering a bit of a different mode.  I'm now more concerned with having fun.  I'm concerned with enjoying the time I spend doing what I'm doing, and getting a positive boost both mentally and physically because of it.  The aspect of serious competition, to me, was fun for a while, but when it became anything but that, I knew it was time to move on.

In all of this, the point is that getting older has not made me want to stop competing (in the traditional, "my body ain't what it used to be" sense), and being lazy isn't the answer either.  For me, the change in my view of what competing means to me has changed as a result of just wanting to smile, wanting to be fee, and wanting to allow the holistic aspects of what I do to shine through.  I don't want to stick to a schedule and I don't want to expect a certain outcome because of the schedule that has been adhered to.

I believe some people come to exercise (and endurance sports in particular) out of the need for control in their lives.  It's obvious that they can control their workouts and training sessions, and because of that and the fact that they may not be able to control other aspects in their lives, they become addicted to it.  It turns out in the end to be more of an enjoyment of being able to keep an aspect of their lives under their thumbs than being able to actually excel at their given sport.  They'll deny it, but an objective look at their lives would reveal it as clear as day from night.

I'm a control freak too.  The only difference between the control I seek now and the control I sought then is my new desire to control being out of control.  Let me explain.  When I was so dead set on competing and doing my best at all the sports I played, it was the obvious case of what I just explained in the last paragraph.  Now, differently, I want to have the control in my life to say, "I don't need  to go for that ride today, so I won't."  Instead, I want to say, "I don't need  to go for that ride today, but I love riding my bike and today is nice, so I'll ride."  It's all about not feeling the guilt, and it's all about doing what feels right.  There's probably no worse feeling than the guilt you get when you skip a workout that's on your schedule.  Nobody needs that in this life.  You should not feel bad for missing something that you do out of what should be nothing but pure enjoyment.  Life is simply too short.

So today, like yesterday, the day before, and the weeks and months before that, I trained what I wanted to train how I wanted to train.  No plan, no rhyme, and no reason.  Just move, enjoy it, and feel better for it at the end.  Simple.  Tomorrow will be more of the same.  I'll let life and my own "human development" develop my next competition.

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