“Always do what you are afraid to do” –Emerson
Most people have that one form of cardio that works for them. No matter how tired, stressed out, or lazy they might find themselves, they can jump in a pool, on a bike, or on a rower and mindlessly churn out minutes.
That’s always been running for me. Over the years I’ve followed a pretty simple style of training. I’ve never really lifted, swam, rode a bike, or even gone to a gym.
Nope, I’ve only ever run.
When I began to do OCR I was shocked by all the different styles of training out there. Most, though, shared a similarity- they relied on circuit style training based upon alternative forms of cardio for much of their training. Row machines and stationary bikes seemed more popular than treadmills or trails.
Coming from a running background, I couldn’t believe that mileage took a backseat to other styles of training. Take a simple look at your average sprint or super and you’ll see that 80-90% of the race is running. My personal opinion on the matter was that you could work on getting quicker on an obstacle all day, but if you couldn’t run between those obstacles quickly, you’d have no chance in a competitive race.
But some of the top racers like Hunter, Hobie, and Isaiah weren’t high mileage guys. They were doing mileage I’d done in high school, but unlike me they had the endurance to run well over a 13 mile course.
Ideas flirted through my mind, but I did my best to shut them out. Running was the only way to succeed at the sport, I told myself. I just needed to get in better shape. If I could get a solid year of fitness in, I’d be able to compete with the top guys.
Then I started getting injured. I broke a toe this December, and then sustained a high ankle sprain in March. I haven’t run since. In fact, since December, I’ve probably run a dozen times.
This winter was miserable. Like I said, I’ve only ever run. So the idea of cross-training was never an option. I sat on my butt for two months before I finally decided that something had to be done. I had just signed a Spartan contract, and had some big stadium sprints coming up in spring that I couldn’t just not show up to.
It was time to diversify my fitness options.
One evening mid-March (and with the help of a 6-pack of Guinness) I finally sat down and took a hard look at myself. My thought process went roughly as follows:
“I put off graduating in order to chase this sport. And I’ve accomplished nothing. My goal at the time was to become the best “athlete” in the world. So what am I currently doing to achieve that? I’m sitting around playing video games while my brother works out.
….But at the same time, I showed up to Dubai out of shape and still almost won. And I was in position to pull off a huge race in the Bahamas before missing the spear. And I won the Hawaii Stadium Race* without doing any training for the weeks before it. Everyone else is doing everything perfect- eating, recovery, multiple workouts, etc, and here I am, doing my usual thing- eating Taco Bell, going to bed at 5 am, not running, lifting or cross training, and I can still compete with them.”
I’m sure it’s obvious to you, but you know what I finally realized this egotistical thought pattern really was? Excuses.
I was scared that if I did everything right, and failed to be the best, that I’d no longer have any excuses for my lack of success. Fear is strange- it can take many forms, and this happened to be how it manifested itself with me. Fear can also be paralyzing. In my case it kept me from becoming the racer and person that I should have been striving towards.
This radical change of viewpoint forced me to make some substantial physical changes overnight.
1. Diet. – Why do I eat poorly? There’s absolutely no reason to intentionally handicap myself like this. Since that day my meals have consisted of leafy greens, fruits, veggies, and nuts.
2. Cardio– I need to hit 1 1/2 to 3 hours of cardio per day. No excuses. I went that next morning and bought a YMCA membership. Every day since I’ve swam, rowed, and spun.
3. Body– If fitness is your job, then your body is in some sense your sales pitch. What does your body say about you? What does it reveal about your dedication and work ethic? Are your figure-related insecurities holding you back in one way or another?
I’ve had two situations in the past year that have stuck with me and have influenced my decision to begin spending time in the weight room.
A. Its August, and I’m at the Wisconsin Dells for a bachelor party. As we’re walking to a water park an SUV stops next to us. A high school kid pokes his head out the window and stares at me with a mischievous grin on his face. But it appears he’s forgotten what he was going to say. I can see him struggling to think. Finally, his buddy grows impatient and hits the gas. As the SUV squeals away, the kid in the back seat pokes his head back out and yells, “Your chest is so little!” I look down at my chest, and think, as I always do, “Jeez, he’s right you know, your pecs are embarrassingly tiny.”
B. Spartan Combine- Hunter, who’s standing behind me, casually remarks that I remind him of Braden. Braden is Brakken’s 2-year-old son. Strangely enough, I know what he means. I tend to slouch badly. With my shirt off its very obvious. I’m also pretty soft after a winter of essentially no physical activity. There’s certainly some semblance there. Dammit, Hunter!
I waffled on including those examples. After all, they are incredibly superficial. And it’s a dangerous road to go down, thinking “If I only fix this about myself, things will be better…” while ignoring the real issues. But I think there’s something to be said for acknowledging insecurities. And I know I’m not the only one who is critical with how they view their body.
Well the good news is that all of this stuff is easy to fix, and I’ll be doing so in the coming months.
And finally, can you race well without including running in your training?
I was curious to know the answer to this, so last week I taped up my ankle, threw on a brace, and headed to a local track. After a brief warm-up I attempted a 5k tempo, my first run in a long, long time.
My final time? 16:45*
Looks like alternative forms of training aren’t so bad after all.
* Shortly after winning the Aloha Stadium Sprint, I found out I’d been disqualified for making a wrong turn (as directed to by a volunteer).
**That being said, to be in peak racing shape this fall I’ll need to be around 25 seconds faster per mile.