Bricks Not Straw
I recently bit off a pretty big bite in my long list of goals and one that’s been looming for a very long time.
Ironman, as many friends know is the omega of triathlon unless you consider extreme iron distance races or ultras. The name or brand most people recognize is Ironman. No, it is not the one in Hawai’i that’s on TV. Anyone who has ever done one knows how demanding it is. But it is less the race and more the training. Hours upon hours of training for months to get your body to a point where it can sustain 12-17 hours (depending on your level of competitiveness) of continued intense movement. This also means you have to take a lot of other things into account. What do you eat? How do you stay motivated? That’s a long time to be inside your own head with no tunes and little to no crowd support. What if I crash? What if I fall? What if I FAIL?? These are all questions that are (or should be) answered in training and is a big part of what training is for. You can teach the body the physical, but the mental is just as hard if not harder to conquer. To some, it is seeing a finish line in their heads and never letting go. To others it is a daunting beacon they doubt they will ever reach, yet continue to pursue.
Substitute Ironman for any big goal: a promotion, a degree, a different physical feat, an illness, whatever you like. All things that can be set on a pedestal to reach. Regardless of how slow you chip away at the mountain that separates you from the goal, it is getting smaller. Some days you move grains of sand while others you move boulders. I promise you, it IS getting smaller. With every step, every breath, every thought in effort that you WILL succeed, it is getting smaller.
But you have to believe.
If you convince yourself the mountain is too high, too great a thing and too overshadowing, you have already quit. You can’t quit. Then you’re quitting yourself. Some days that mountain, even when it’s chipped away to rocks, will still seem so massive and you will be so exhausted, the rocks will blind the light of your goal. But the goal is still there. See that’s the thing...goals don’t just get up and walk away. They may seem further and there will be setbacks (I promise you there will be unrelenting, frustrating setbacks). What you do in those moments and how you react to those setbacks is what matters and shapes, not only the course of your journey, but your character as well. Character comes from setbacks, pitfalls and misfires. Provided you learn from them, you are made stronger by them. I mentioned all this in my introductory blog explaining the folding of steel https://www.foldingmetal.com/about/
The body will do what the mind tells it to do. Even seemingly impossible things. But you must care for it, strengthen it and fuel it along the way. Drink plenty of water, keep your electrolyte levels up, make sure you have a well balanced, well rounded diet that doesn’t come out of a box, eat lots of protein and indulge in a craving once a month. That’s right. ONCE A MONTH! Not once a damn week or every fucking day. I don’t give a fuck how rigorous your workout was, how high the climb was or what other stressors are at play. You don’t deserve it. You hear me?
YOU DON’T FUCKING DESERVE IT!
I had a conversation a couple years ago with a dear friend. One I will never forget. On our triathlon team we all have nicknames (maybe it’s juvenile, IDGAF, I love it!) and I was talking to Coach Tax Slayer. We were having a very similar conversation about rewards and such and I remember him saying specifically, “I hate it when people say they deserve it. You don’t deserve it…” The conversation continued and we both agreed people “reward” themselves too much. You work hard, you train hard, you race hard, you play hard. But this bullshit that you get a “reward” every time you do something difficult or outside your comfort zone is ridiculous. Don’t leave spin class and go get a frappe because your heart rate went up or you broke a sweat. You don’t get a fucking treat because you gave some extra effort. This is prime time to give your body what it needs. Not what you want. Every time you give that big effort and push beyond your comfort zone, you are breaking yourself down. With exercise you are literally hurting your body from the inside. Muscle is breaking down and bone is weakening. But the body is an incredible thing. It is so efficient at regulating itself, it will pull from all over the place to get what it needs. Whether its bricks, sticks or straw. Bricks meaning exactly what it needs after a heavy effort (protein, phyto- and micronutrients), sticks meaning ok foods but not perfect, and straw being complete garbage.
Rebuild your body with bricks, not straw.
In a separate post, I will attempt to include some recipes I really like. For training, for every day and for recovery. I will not go on a long diatribe about how my new summer hairstyle gave me the inspiration for a new culinary vision. Reading an entire new blog to get to a recipe is stupid. YOU HEAR ME PALEO BLOGGERS?! NO ONE CARES!!!! Alas, I follow them and read them anyway. The blog and the recipe. I’m a sucker for a good story, what can I say? Anyway, keep protein on hand. Anyone who knows me knows I have a perpetual pantry in my car for such reasons. I always have a peanut free nut mix, date bars (store bought or homemade), banana and either some other type of fruit or whole food bar (one that I can read and decipher every bloody ingredient on the list). I always have a hydration mix or drink (not fucking gatorade). These things are easy to acquire, relatively cheap and portable. Keep food and snacks on hand for post workout eating. My favorites after a long day are watermelon (seasonal obviously), EPIC bars (if you’re unfamiliar, look em up) or Rx bars (great if you’re vegetarian but not vegan), my peanut free trail mix, and peanut butter pretzels (perfect for if you bonk and need quick calories. Yes, I realize this is not a clean food but I also understand the emergency of the body needing fuel and there are worse options. No, I do not snack on them regularly but my kids do and I like having them for emergencies. I’m not fucking perfect. Sue me). Pack extra water. But not just water. There is a fine array of hydration powders and mixes out there. Find one you like and keep it on hand.
Remember the 6 P’s: Proper preparedness prevents piss poor performance. This is true in life and in training. Endurance or strength. Prep! Do it. Fucking DO IT!!! Worth it every time. Fuel your body. Don’t just feed it. Learn what works, what you like, what you can tolerate and keep it as clean as possible. Clean up your fucking act!