Intuitive Exercise - My Life Without Racing
After eight months of training 9 sessions a week, I decided not to race the half Ironman in Puerto Rico. Two months before race day, Puerto Rico was put under a travel advisory for the Zika virus. At that point, many of the symptoms were unknown, and although I am not pregnant - which is the biggest risk when it comes to Zika - I knew that I would return with many mosquito bites whether or not they were carrying Zika. It was a personal risk analysis, and I decided there were too many unknowns. I cancelled the trip. I know veteran triathletes will scoff at this choice, but I made a decision. I would not be able to live with myself knowing that I put myself and possibly a future family at risk for a silly race. I am also confident in knowing that after eight months of training, I could have completed a half Ironman. Yes, I was incredibly disappointed, but the more shocking and unexpected part was the realization that moving forward, I had nothing to train for.
I've spent my entire life training for 5ks, half-marathons, cross-country races, lacrosse seasons, and triathlons. I can't even think back to a time when there wasn't a race or competition on my horizon. The night I cancelled all of my reservations, I remember sitting at my desk utterly confused about what my workouts should be for the rest of the week.
I guess I could keep swimming, biking, and running, I thought. However, my visceral response was nearly disgust at the idea of clocking any more time in the pool or on the trails. Eight months of intensive training can do that to you. Then, I considered other races. Should I find a half-marathon or 10k? I found a few online, but nothing really excited me. I was at a loss. How do you train when there is nothing to train for?
In the spirit of my new intuitive lifestyle, I decided to just go with it. I spent my morning workout time trying out my old strength training routines and various cardio machines. I started just playing. For a serious athlete, I felt a little ridiculous. I once spent a morning doing knee injury prevention strength on a random curb that I skipped too. Skipped. So that was probably the worst of it, but I did get to try and learn a lot of new things.
I tried a couple different group exercise classes including piloxing barre (pilates + boxing + barre), yoga, and FlyWheel. I added some rock climbing and hiking to be outdoors more. I slowed down on my running and increased my strength training. Through it all, I paid very close attention to my body's reaction to each activity.
Which activities made me feel strong, proud, and happy and which activities made me feel bored, angry, and annoyed. I decided that I actually like the random workout style while keeping a base routine of running and lifting. The versatility is exciting and keeps me motivated to see the functionality of my training beyond just racing.
I craft my strength training regimen and run for pleasure. I feel great and look forward to my workouts. Isn't that the goal in the first place? Yes, racing can be incredibly rewarding. Trust me, I know. But there is something very empowering about trusting myself to exercise for me - not my appearance or a specific time or distance. I work out because I love the way it makes my body feel. I love feeling strong and active but not feeling tied to getting in my 50 miles for the week.
As I have explained before, this is a journey. I am still being playful and trying new activities. In fact, I will have to get even more creative soon as I will be spending 3 months traveling in Europe this summer. That means play. Just more opportunities to move and play.