Mental Fatigue

The hard work is worth it when I can experience days like these...

The hard work is worth it when I can experience days like these…

Now I know why only less than one percent of the world’s population has completed an Ironman (70.3 or 140.6… and I am talking the distance, not just the IM brand).  I don’t really know how accurate that percentage is since I really just googled it, but I have a feeling it is pretty close to accurate.  I mean, I do live in Colorado (supposedley the fittest state… think I read that on the internet too) and I was out riding in an area well-known for cycling.  I encountered about 100 cyclists during my 3.5 hour ride.  I was the only one on a triathlon bike.  Not sure if it is because I am the only crazy one training for a triathlon that is held in May or what the deal is.  Maybe that’s it.  Whenever I mention that my triathlon is in May (in Colorado) people assume that I must be completing the swim portion in an indoor pool.  I didn’t think it was such a crazy idea when I signed up back in December because I figured that it would stop snowing by the end of February so I would have plenty of time to train outside.  That blew back in my face.  It is April 22nd and it is currently snowing.

It is really hard (and very boring) to complete 4 hours on a bike trainer.  Even if I am watching a movie (or two).  And I don’t really push myself (since I am supposed to be relaxing while watching a movie, right??).  Sure, I can run outside regardless of the conditions, but there comes a point when you become tired of running in below freezing temperatures.  It takes way to much effort to get dressed in all of that gear.  Somehow I managed to do okay and make it through the winter months of training.  Wait, I am still in the winter months of training.  My mind is starting to deteriorate.  When I hear the weather report I just feel like curling up into a ball and crying my eyes out.  Once in a great while I manage to get out on a day where it is near perfect.  If you call 45 degrees perfect (which I don’t, especially while riding a bike with the wind chill of below freezing).  Last weekend was a rough ride because I was so cold that I couldn’t feel my fingers and toes.  It was hard for me to eat because I kept dropping the food as I attempted to bring it to my mouth while steering the bike.  The temperatures were slightly warmer this past weekend, but nature had to bring me wind to contend with.  Okay, I know that conditions aren’t always perfect, but come on, cut me some slack here!   I’m still somehow disciplined to do it, but I don’t know for how much longer.

My workouts are only getting longer as I reach the peak before the taper to event day.  I have my plan and I stick to it (for the most part).  I work out 6 days a week and rejoice when the rest day is here.   I still manage to go to work, take care of the kids and keep my house in order (okay, I may have sacrificed in that department just a little, but the kids are always fed, wearing clean clothes and smell like roses).  Sometimes I just want to turn off my alarm and hide under the blankets.  Other times I want to just drop off the kids at school/daycare and just go get a haircut.  I spent the past month trying to figure out a time when I could go buy a new pair of running shoes… it finally happened, but came at the cost of dealing with rush hour traffic.  My hair is another story.  That will have to wait.

I don’t give in because I want to succeed.  I want to be ready to finish that 70.3.  I want to finish it in good form.  I want to cross that finish line and still be able to drive home.  I am getting tired (mentally and physically), but I do see the end in sight.  Wait, is there an end?  Maybe I don’t want an end.  What will I do without my crazy routine?  Get a haircut maybe?

My mind can start to play tricks on me when it is in fatigue mode.  I often put things in places where they do not belong and I forget to do things that need my attention (fortunately my kids are smart enough to remind me that I need to fasten their seatbelts before we start moving).  I consider just throwing my phone across the room when the alarm goes off or driving to a place where I can just walk.  Then my senses kick back in and I am off in overdrive again.

Maybe I should do one of those fitness apps where you can get paid for completing your workouts.  Wouldn’t I be rich by now?

Even if this race is the crappiest race ever because I nearly drown, get a flat tire, acquire some road rash or finish in last place, I will still be able to say that I have succeeded.  With all of these training hours, I have already done at least 10 Ironmans (or close enough).  I am proud of the fact that I DO wake up early to go workout, that I DO stay on my bike for 3 hours, that I DO keep running on tired legs, and that I DO swim countless boring laps in the pool.  Why DO I DO it?  Well, because I secretly love it.  And, above all else, it has given me strength to persevere through the mental and physical fatigue.  That strength will be required later on down the road and I will be ready.

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Discipline

I have no willpower when it comes to coffee!

Discipline is something most of us learn at an early age.  I am only saying “most” because I think there are a few kids (and adults!) out there who have learned absolutely nothing about discipline, but that is a different story for a different day.  Discipline drives every thing we do in life.  If we don’t have the discipline to get out of bed when our alarm goes off then the kids will start screaming, we will be late to work and we will become a member of the unproductive population.  If we don’t have the discipline to brush our teeth or wash our hair then hygiene issues will arise and we will no longer have any friends.  I guess you could conclude that laziness is the opposite of anything related to discipline.  Or, it could be that when you don’t have discipline then you have a loss of willpower.

We are all (oh, wait… I mean most) disciplined in some things and nowhere near to being disciplined in a handful of other things.  It’s true and I will admit my failures when it comes to discipline.  For one thing, I would not have enough discipline to banish coffee and scones.  I might be able to get by one day, but that might be the extent of my willpower.  Oh, here’s a good one that I think everyone can relate to:  I would not be able to go an entire day without getting on the internet!  Okay, if this is your discipline then please stand up and show us the way out of this technological madhouse!  Right, no one is standing up.  Figures.  We are lost to the computers and phones and ipads.

Most people tend to relate discipline to exercise and dieting.  We have learned that human beings feel better when they eat what they want and sit around to enjoy the process of digestion.  But, that is about the extent of feeling better.  We soon realize that the food doesn’t really make us feel better after we have eaten it and we end up not liking how we look because we ate too much of the stuff that tasted way too good.  Then we just sit around feeling depressed because we can only last 10 minutes on the treadmill before we feel like we might collapse.  Exercise feels good, but it takes a lot of work.  It is much easier to take a seat on the couch and watch a movie or two.

What is it about exercise that is so hard?  Waking up early?  Finding time to squeeze it in during your busy day?  Not knowing what to do and how to do it?  You think sweat is stinky and unattractive?  Feeling selfish because you took time out of the day to take care of yourself?  You are just not interested or don’t give a rat’s crap?

Well, it does take work and it does take time.  After a few years, I can finally say that I am pretty disciplined when it comes to exercise.  I will jump (okay, maybe it is more of a roll) out of bed as soon as my alarm goes off even though I would much rather be sleeping.  I make time for exercise, whether that means getting up extra early, taking the kids with me to the gym, pushing a jogging stroller, running on the treadmill during naptime, catching a class at my work or scheduling a workout around my husband’s schedule.  Give me any day and I will find time for a workout.  Sure, I didn’t know how to run when I started… said no one ever.  How could anyone not know how to run?  Or even walk for that matter because walking is exercise too!  Sure, you might not have the best runner’s form, but not even I know what that is.  If you say that you don’t know how to weight train, then I will understand.  However, it is not hard to find someone to show you how.  Sweat is wonderful and it means that you worked your rear off!  If you don’t sweat, then there is a problem.

The taking care of yourself part is a hard one for most women to grasp.  It is common knowledge that women feel a strong urge to put everyone else’s needs above their own.  It is a tough instinct to fight, but there is one clear way to look at it:  if you don’t take care of yourself, then how can you take care of everyone else?  Do you want more energy so you can keep up with your kids?  Exercise gives you energy (as long as you don’t get too crazy and overdo it).  Do you want to set a good example and inspire others around you?  Set a goal and achieve it!  Do you want to live longer so you can spend more quality time with your family and friends?  Well, you won’t live longer if you don’t stay active or eat healthy.  Of course there are no guarantees, but you sure as heck can up your chances.

This discipline thing will not work if you are just not interested.  Do you prefer to sit on the couch?  Or is it just easier?  If you prefer the couch, then I guess couch discipline is the only thing for you.  Now, if it is just easier to  sit on the couch, then you can be molded.  Life shouldn’t be so easy.  Things don’t end on a good note when life is too easy.  Being successful means taking on challenges and pushing yourself to new limits.

The only way to get rewarded is through discipline.  This can apply in many areas of our lives, not just diet and exercise.  However, when I have discipline in one area of my life, it tends to creep into other areas.  If I am willing to get up early for a run, then I am more willing to cook a healthy meal or spend extra playtime with my kids.  If I wake up already defeated, then I tend to be unproductive for the rest of the day.

It is not easy.  Not at all.  But that sounds like a challenge to me and I love challenges.  How about you?