In my first post, I wrote about how the drive to better myself is what initially sparked my interest in the nutrition and fitness world. So it’s not surprising that when I was introduced to the world of triathlon, it wasn’t long before I was hooked. This was a sport that offered familiarity in each of its individual events, but that I had zero experience in. There was nowhere to go but up.
When I moved to Toronto, one of the first things I did was join a gym. This particular gym had a fantastic spin studio, and I was soon a regular two or three times a week. I loved that it was something structured that I could rely on and that it offered me a consistent challenge. After a few months of spinning, I met my now-fiancé, Dave. Dave and I have always been very lucky to share many common interests and values. Although he didn’t spin in a studio, he did own a road bike and had completed his first triathlon the previous summer. After seeing Dave on his bike and doing a little digging of my own into the triathlon world, I quickly came to the conclusion that I too needed to own a road bike. And when I set my mind on something, I’m fairly relentless towards making it happen. So I found a great bike, used, from a local cycling shop and hit the pavement. I was clipped into the pedals for my first ride, which I decided I could conquer solo, so I use this term both figuratively and literally. Introduction lesson recommended. A large ego is not.
Nothing motived me more to register for my first race than being the proud owner of a new (old) bike. So, under the recommendation of a woman I worked with at the time (shout out to Sherri, if you’re reading this), I signed up for a try-a-tri in Milton, which she was completing as well. Although the term “triathlon” can be a bit daunting to some, a try-a-tri is a short race that can be easily completed in under an hour. It’s really for those wanting to get their feet wet (no pun intended) and give the sport a go. The distances aren’t overwhelming whatsoever, but you get to experience transitions and how it feels to run with bricks as legs, post-bike.
If people have any reservations about completing a triathlon, it tends to be around the swim. Swimming in open water with people surrounding you on all sides can be a little scary at times if the sport isn’t your strong suit. Fortunately, I have always been comfortable in the water. The run was always my area of weakness, and required quite a bit of training focus on my part. I am, by no means, a natural runner. It took me two years of structured and conscious training to see any improvement. I went from being a fairly poor runner, constantly battling aches and pains, to being an average runner, which, quite honestly, I’m pretty happy about.
After completing the try-a-tri, I was hooked and signed up for a few more races, but at the sprint distance. It depends on the specific race, but typically that includes a 750m swim, 20km bike, and a 5km run. Olympic distance is another popular choice, and is usually double in length. Although I may try an Olympic distance in the future, I enjoy the sprint. It’s a different type of racing that requires a different training style (shorter distances at high intensity).
Dave and I, post-race
Last year was the first summer in five years that I didn’t complete a triathlon. I found the motivation lacking from that area of my life. I was so used to spending my summers swimming, biking and running, and although I was still participating in those activities, the intention just wasn’t there. Eventually, feeling like I was running out of time and not wanting to end the summer in regret, I signed up for a race nearing the end of the season. As usual, the reality that an actual race was on the horizon was enough to kick my butt in gear. However, soon after, I experienced a hip injury from over-use that forced me to drop out. It was far more important that I let myself heal. I knew that working through the injury would result in further complications (a lesson that I have only recently begun applying to my life). Hence, I finished the summer without competing at all. I didn’t feel great about it, but a part of me was relieved. I was thankful that my injury held me back. The spark for triathlon that I had experienced in previous years just was not there. And nothing seemed to be igniting it.
Fast forward to January 2015. Dave had signed up for a winter base training program at our local spin studio, CYKL, and asked if I was interested in joining. I loved spinning, and had become a regular at CYKL, but wasn’t quite sure about this commitment. The program ran for 12 weeks every Sunday from 12-2. Two hours? That seemed like a ridiculous amount of time to spend on a bike that doesn’t actually take you anywhere. I could already see myself panicking after 60 minutes—not because I couldn’t handle the workout, but because I would be ready to pack it in and move on to the next activity. However, the thought of Dave spinning every Sunday and me sitting at home didn’t leave a great taste in my mouth. Yup, I had a bad case of FOMO: fear of missing out. So, with days to spare, I grabbed the last spot in the class and decided to go for it.
The program required that each participant wear a heart rate monitor. That was almost reason enough to join, because who doesn’t love a new toy? I hopped on Amazon and ordered mine immediately. I love anything that can be measured in the world of sport, so I instantly fell in love with my HRM. Stats are my friend. We completed a lactic threshold test during our first spin class, at which time our instructor, Kim, set our personal heart rate zones. This was necessary for the remainder of the program, as each class was designed with target heart rate zones in mind. We were constantly checking to ensure we were working in the required zone (which, of course, is different for everyone), in an effort to increase our fitness and endurance levels. It was all about using our muscles and energy sources efficiently.
The first time we were on the bike for two hours, I was not surprised by my reaction: although, physically, I could keep going without an issue, mentally, my brain told me that two hours was obviously some cruel, practical joke and that it was time to leave. I had to dig deep to push through that mental barrier and commit myself to 120 minutes. After about three weeks, this feeling began to fade. I was able to focus on the goals of the class, and stopped worrying about how long we had been biking for. This was the biggest advantage the program could have offered me; I made huge mental strides that I would not have accomplished through my own training program. Our last session required us to bike in zone four and aim to hit threshold for a cumulative of 40 minutes. If you don’t have a good basis for understanding what this means, zone four is equivalent to “kill me now,” in my opinion. On the road, I would never have pushed myself to those levels for that length of time. Physically, my fitness improved, particularly as it relates to endurance work. I am active, usually five or six times a week, but I can guarantee that when I hop on my bike this spring, I will be starting the season off stronger than I ever have before.
12 weeks of winter cycling has allowed me to rediscover my motivation for triathlon. I am excited to sign up for a couple of races this summer (I mean, I am also getting married somewhere in there, so I’ll have to keep it reasonable). Without CYKL, I don’t think I would possess the drive that I do right now.
As ready as I am to dive back into the world of racing, I am also reflective of why my motivation was lacking, and I think it centers on goals. Last summer, I allowed the fact that I hadn’t raced to leave me with guilt. It was as if I was expected to be a triathlete (I use that term loosely), so that’s what I should be doing. But, over the past 12 months, my interests have lay primarily in the gym. I have truly enjoyed my workout regime this year, and have really developed my skills as an athlete in that area. I have done a ton of learning, and am stronger than I ever have been before. This is due to my dedication to strength training. It will be interesting to see how that development will support my endurance training. I really think the two will compliment each other well.
I think it’s important to recognize that change is ok. Your goals will adjust, and it’s important to let things go when you need to, and pick things up when you’re ready. Being hyper focused on one activity for several years doesn’t mean that you aren’t allowed to commit yourself to new activities. Tap into and focus your energy on your true areas of interest, and allow those interests to be fluid in nature. And no matter what, keep learning. This is what helps us to become well-rounded and multi-talented individuals.
My happy place