All I want to do is drink beer and train like an animal.
- Rod Dixon

I'm feeling rough. I'm feeling raw. I'm in the prime of my life.
- MGMT


The Lifestyle: Some Hard Questions

"An unexamined life is not worth living"
 - Socrates

"Just because you're hungry doesn't mean that you're lean"
 - LCD Soundsystem

[I wrote this a few weeks ago in the middle of the night. I sat on it for a little while to make sure it wasn't too melodramatic.]

Last week I trained less then I have all year: 2 hours and 10 minutes. Less than during the blizzards. Granted I was out of town but now this week has gotten off to a slow start with cool and rainy temps and I just feel ... out of sorts. Training makes me feel good but not training has also made me feel BAD. My sleep, eating and energy patterns are all out of whack. My schedule is disorganized. I ended up having to take a day off today because of thunderstorms. I tried to get a little extra sleep because I felt I was fighting off a cold and now I'm wide awake at midnight.

As good a time as any for a little introspection so I started thinking about why I train.

Sure, racing is fun. Being in shape is good for you. Spending time outside and with your friends is all well and good. But these are things you can get from being a weekend warrior. And the similarities between that and what I (and most of my friends do) stops there.

I own enough bikes and equipment to ride or race over any terrain in any conditions and repair anything that might happen along the way. I train everyday. Everyday. Snow, rain, heat, cold, mornings, afternoons, evenings. I train through holidays, happy hours, big football/baseball/etc games, BBQs and parties. I think about training when I make plans to eat, travel, have guests and go out. I still do all these other things but they work around my training schedule. It's embarrassing for me to admit this since I am not nearly as good a cyclist as I feel my lifestyle would imply -- but these are the facts.

So returning to the question: why do I train? Concepts like "motivated" and "focused" seem to oversimplify things while "obsessive" seems too damning. The answer is more complicated and not one I fully grasp.

In kicking this around I came to some hard questions about my training. I have no real "answers" - these are things to continue to think about. One of those "personal growth" type things. These questions apply to the range of sports I've dedicated myself to going all the way back to soccer in middle school through to my aspirations of studying Brazilian Jujitsu in the fall.

Here they are:
  1. Training makes me feel good but do I NEED to train to feel good about myself?
  2. Do I know how to feel good, and good about myself, without training?
  3. When in the last 6 months have I felt good about myself in a way that was not directly a result of training or racing?
  4. Training takes up most of my time but do I enjoy the shelter of that familiar routine where no decisions need to be made about social and other commitments and the perceived implications of those commitments (read: when the last time I went to happy hour, a vacation w/friends or a date)?
  5. If I train for self-improvement what does that say about me if I am uncomfortable NOT training? Do I train because I'm perpetually not happy with myself as I am? 
  6. Is the need to train something I'll grow out of? Do I need to?
  7. Do I use training to distract myself from the rest of life and avoid dealing more directly with other areas of my life such as relationships or my career - maybe areas where progress is less measurable? 
  8. Do I make any progress towards other goals in my life outside of training? 
  9. Do I have an identity outside of cycling/sports. Am I comfortable with this identity?
I don't want to sound melodramatic but I think these are legitimate concerns. I mean it's only mid-May and I've already spent almost 200 hours and 2,500+ miles training this year so I think it's worthwhile to spend a little time thinking about why.

In the end, who knows? I can't pick apart every nuance of why I do anything I do but it's healthy to think about it a little bit.

What do you think?

Thanks for reading,
a

Posted via email from alcovia's posterous

3 comments:

  1. I thought a lot about these things, too, especially last year when I was thinking about what I might give up for Lent and I realized that running is my most deeply-seated vice. Although I like the drink, I'm not nearly as attached to it. I can't stand it when a non-professional runner beats me, and I consider that to be a handicap as a person more than it is an advantage as a competitor. However, I'm somewhat of a narcissist in my perspective on life, and I know that in my pursuit of pleasure, sometimes nothing is better than cracking a few skulls, taking a few names. And for that, I had to make sacrifices.

    In the end, you have to ask yourself if you have enjoyed yourself, and that's all that matters.

    -Brian G
    (from work)

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  2. i think about these same questions a LOT. i know i am a considerably crankier,less motivated, not fun to be around person when i'm not training. it took me a few weeks after boston to realize that the reason i was vaguely depressed was not because i had had a shitty race...but because i no longer had anything to train for.

    i think this quote that i have on my corkboard sums it up best for me. i believe it's from an article on johnny kelley from an old runner's world: "the things we do should consume us, otherwise our lives won't have any meaning"

    if being the best runner i can be is the best way to give my life meaning, then damn, i'm going to go at it with all i've got. you should too. 99.9% of the world doesn't get what we're after, but if that's your passion who cares?

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  3. Anonymous4:40 PM

    Just an old friend that happened to run across your blog. I too have struggled with those very same questions. Here an essay (from a former Runners World contributor) that is, well, relevant. Let me know what you think!

    http://www.georgesheehan.com/essays/essay24.html

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