Mental Game

Note: a not so introspective post this one but still very important to me. I like to think I’m multidimensional ­čśë

On Monday night, I had a plan: go for a run (~10km) from work to home, shower/nom and then meet up with my friend to check out the Fringe festival. Making sure that I have a fully active but also fully social life is something that I constantly strive for, especially during the busy racing/training season aka the ~5 months before the weather goes to the poo. However, my plan didn’t quite go as planned. As soon as I started my run, I didn’t want to be there. Things got a bit better when I found myself running on a trail amongst the trees but I couldn’t mentally focus. When it comes to athletics, I view myself as two separate but connected entities: mind and body. Usually one kind of waffles a bit but the other pushes through. It is amazing when both are like boooooyah! let’s play!! Which actually happens more often than not. But when are both like uh no; screw you, I know that I’m done. So 5km into my run, that’s exactly what happened. Not because my body couldn’t push forward; it didn’t want to and nor did my brain. So I had to ask myself: what do I have to prove? Nothing. Then why do I still feel the need to train my tired, sodden and uninterested mind and body into oblivion? I had always told my mates that as soon as you’re no longer having fun whatever activity it is that you’re doing, it’s time to step back and re-evaluate. Don’t get me wrong; there’s a lot of ‘suffering’ when it comes to training, racing or just pushing your limit but there’s still a strong element of having fun. After a tough whatever, I’m usually still all smiles.

Case in point (aka story time): we had our last ultimate frisbee game yesterday but man, we were down people. As in, we didn’t have the minimum number of girls and had 5 boys. Thankfully the other team was awesome and let us play a 5man-2women line but that did mean that we would be playing the entire game. But, I love it. I love playing ultimate even though half the time I feel like I’m not exactly sure what’s going on lol so I just try to make good cuts and anticipate where the disc may be going ­čÖé We were so pumped that we were finally syncing and playing well. There’s a defensive strategy called ‘zone’ where there is a ‘cup’ made up of three people that follow the disc and try to prevent/channel passes to a very limited area where your mids are covering. However, being part of the cup means that as soon as the disc is initially hucked, the cup has to book it down the field. So partially because I suck at mid lol but also because I just love to run and have a decent handle on what to do in the cup, I often volunteer to be part of the cup. Despite our shortage of (wo)man power, I was only out of the cup for a couple shifts but man I loved it. I always feel like a puppy when I play ultimate, just so happy to run all out and chase this plastic disc thing. So…I’ve totally digressed but the moral of the story is that though we were soooo tired aka keeled over at the end of each point, we were having such a blast. Mind and body were like boo-friggin’-yeah; well, maybe mind a bit more than body but you know lol.

So I guess for me, this post is about checking in on yourself – both your physical and mental well-being. The mental game is arguably more important than the physical. You will hear endurance athletes often say that they’ve gotten very good at tuning out the body’s moans and groans to push forward. Granted, there’s also a limit to that too…body combustion is bad. But when you know your body is still good to go, it is all up to your mental fortitude to make it. But when you can’t figure out why it is that you want to keep pushing, going forward or if your brain and body is like eff you; we’ve hit the limit (wo)man, it may be time to, I don’t know, rest like a sane person ­čÖé …I’m still struggling with it lol. I’m taking an unprecedented two whole days in a row off :O who wuhhhh. Stoked lol. But there’s a little part of me that’s like we could still go climbing indoors today since it’s cloudy/rainy outside. No self! Rest! Rest is not just for the body, but mind and soul. To be successful at anything, including our chosen play time activities, rest is that integral piece that we often seem to overlook because we think more more more! training will lead to our success. We need to know our limits and adhere to them. It’s hard, make no mistake about it. It is difficult to strike that continually moving balance point between pushing our limits but pushing past our limit. It doesn’t matter where yours is compared to the balance point of others even though it can be difficult not to compare ourselves to where others are. Last year, I did two sprint triathlons and pretty much zero climbing for 6 months. That was my max point. This year, it’s very different because I’ve built up a base and went back to climbing during the off (race) season; all the events I had chosen to be part of/compete in all pushed my limits. I’m also really happy that I spaced them out accordingly to allow for maximum training but also necessary taper and recovery time. But now, I’m done. Reached my limit. So even though that Banff triathlon would be a blast, I need to say no…even though it would ┬áfit so nicely before my friend’s wedding in the mountains (pretty sure┬ásane people don’t think like this!). After my body somewhat failed to hold up to a half marathon, part of me wants to see if I could do the distance better but no…There’s a part of me that still wants to test my mettle but I’m learning how to be mature (sigh) and in my case, understand where to push and where to not.

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Sport and Purpose

Generally, I’ve always separated the sports I did and my purpose into two categories with little overlap. Sports were something I did because I felt that it brought me closer to God in terms of having that freedom to fly and enjoy the outdoors but it was something akin to enjoying life. My purpose on the other hand was the driving force behind what I did for work and volunteering. The two things balanced my life between enjoying life and pursuing this purpose that could be riddled with challenges and perhaps sacrifices of the more comfortable things in life. However, I’m beginning to realize that I can’t separate the two, that they bleed into one another and this is actually a great thing. The two sports I have been primarily focused on (rock climbing and triathlon) are individual sports and in a way, focused on self-fulfillment but I’m beginning to see how my commitment to them has also opened doors in my area of purpose that wouldn’t have otherwise been available. Later today, I will be meeting with the YMCA about a volunteer position I applied for. The YMCA is an organization known to promote healthy living and some also run social programs; the volunteer position I applied for was to sit on a council to promote the involvement of young adults in the community. If I wasn’t active member in my triathlon club and involved in other sporting activities, I think it would be a bit odd to volunteer with an organization that prioritizes that. What’s more, being involved in sports also places me in a position to interact and build relationships with amazing friends that are committed to their sport but many of which are also interested and want to give back to the community. Sometimes, I get too narrow-minded and see ‘giving back to the community’ in ways that don’t involve activity/sports, for example building affordable housing. However, when I sit down and think a bit more, sport is probably one of the greatest avenues to meet people, opportunity to grow in ways beyond physical development and to overcome barriers that otherwise would remain.

These thoughts have been popping up into my head every now and then but really came to head ┬áthis morning. Earlier today, M sent me a public survey that had been launched by the provincial government that will allow the public to express what they believe are priorities are in sport funding. Initially, I had chosen all of them and grossly surpassed the points allotted. The first couple of sections dealt with physical education and introduction to sports, primarily with youth; one of the last ones outlined was development. Now, I knew that if I was to ever have children, that I would want them active, to dabble in a number of sports from an early age. I wanted them learn how to swim and bike because these were great life skills to have. I wanted to get them outdoors so they could not only frolic in the woods, play with leaves, branches and roll in ┬áthe mud (though I think I will delegate the hubby to cleaning them…;)) but so that they would grow up with the same appreciation that my parents instilled in me for the gorgeous outdoor playground and natural beauty of this world. For this survey, development was defined along the lines of engaging people, including children, who were severely challenged in other areas of their life and often, have no where else to turn but to other things that would further detriment their lives. Given my background and my own desired area of focus, it is no surprise that I would allocate points to this area.

However, it was not my own revelations that made me excited this morning. No, it was what M revealed. When M and I started dating, he expressed his concerns over his lack of community involvement and how he wasn’t sure what to do about it. He is extremely talented and skilled in a number of areas that seemingly have little connection but his biggest thing is sports. It is this shared passion that was one of the reasons he and I really clicked. For some reason, it never clicked with me until now that it is this area where I could see and potentially, where he could see, himself giving back to the community. Giving back isn’t always a grand gesture. When he was younger, he was competitively involved in a number of sports, all of which he has kept ties with. I can imagine him coaching kids in these sports and providing the right balance of support, motivation and challenge for the kids on his team. Time and time again, we hear stories about coaches being that role model and motivation for athletes to not just better themselves out on the field but also to pursue success in other areas of their life. What’s more, these kids grow up to be role model themselves and there we have it, the ripple effect.┬áSo that’s one revelation by M; the other revelation was how much he loved how sports brought people together. In my own head, this also means the breaking down of barriers. There is a fantastic Ted Talk┬áthat talks about organizing an annual marathon in Beirut, a city of which resides in a country torn apart by political and religious differences. Yet this marathon, this pursuit of running and running well, brought people together like nothing else; no policy, no strategy, no political action could ever have such success. I told M about this Ted Talk and it looks like it’ll be the next bed time video we’ll be watching next.

This shared excitement, this shared passion has taken the next step in my life and I think his too. Butterflies are flying in my stomach because I get to share this with him. That I get to grow but I also get to see him grow. Sports has always had an important place in each of our own lives. Yet coming together not only in playing a sport but perhaps doing something more is pretty awesome. Here’s to hoping ­čÖé

Infectious Laughter/Fitness Junkie

I’ve always been a relatively active kid; my awesome mom and dad saw to that by enrolling my brother and I into a multitude of sports when we were kids. Before I started rock climbing, I was dedicated to badminton; swimming came after in spurts after I came back from HK. But really, it was rock climbing that opened up the world of the ‘fitness junkie’ for me. A lot of people who are involved in an outdoor sport are also involved in other outdoorsy activities or at the very least, are open to trying something new as long as whatever their doing gets them to the natural playground they love so dearly. In addition to rock climbing, I do a multitude of other things. It’s not so much for the pursuit of getting lean and mean or performance training although those are secondary reasons but mainly because I have a blast at doing whatever I’m doing. I love pushing my body and seeing the improvement and I love the people that I get to meet through the avenue of sport. There’s also a sort of freedom that comes from cutting through the trees on your own two feet, on a ┬ábike or being one with a mountain.

Recently, I began swimming again with a local triathlon club called Athletes in Action (AiA). Although the particular group I swim with is geared towards triathletes, AiA is an international organization that sees and values the avenue of sport and the community it cultivates as a way to share God’s love with others. It makes complete sense in my mind especially in consideration of the fact that you do build deep bonds with the people/team mates you train with. The triathletes I know/have met spend a lot of their ‘free time’ (outside of work) training so ultimately, you also end up spending a lot of time with the people you train with. It’s like having what we Christians call fellowship…but without calling it fellowship. So since I’ve been hanging with AiA, it’s hard not to get excited/consider doing at least a sprint triathlon. I played with the idea a couple years ago but decided against it because I wasn’t sure if I was really up for it and to be honest, a couple years ago I probably wouldn’t have been fit enough to consider a sprint tri. Even now, it’s going to take some time to really pull myself up to a level where I would feel comfortable (but not really…I can only imagine the pre-race jitters) to register for a race even if my goal (which it most certainly would be) to finish the damn thing. Another major factor that held me back from triathlons or the like is the time commitment I knew that would come with training for races. I wasn’t sure and still am not sure as to whether or not I want to commit so much time to it. Or perhaps, the better question is, if I am, what am I willing to sacrifice to run, swim, bike and strength train? Looking at my summer schedule punctuated with a couple runs and sprint tri, my climbing time has been nibbled at. But perhaps even more telling is the schedule I’ve developed for the next couple of weeks. A few months ago, I realized that it was hard to keep all the different activities I pursued in line in my head as I used to so I started mapping them out on my calendar. Holy batman, my entire calendar turned green (green being the colour code for ‘outdoor/activity’ on my calendar). And here I was, looking at my triathlete buddies and thinking that they were nuts and hyper version of myself…maybe not so much. Granted, they are much more fitter than I am (I am newb sauce in comparison).

I was talking with one of my new AiA friends about the cross fit training he dragged me to the day before (and the day right after a long swim/core workout) and he told me that I was ‘intense’ just like the rest of them. Oddly, I didn’t take this as a compliment…it actually got me thinking a bit worried. The general sentiment I get nowadays is that people in general don’t exercise enough and that is most likely very true but I have the opposite problem. You must wonder, what could be so bad about getting super active? The biggest concern for me is that I would begin once again to skew my priorities to all the activities I am involved in instead of the other more important things in my life such as my faith and people in my life. That I would begin idolizing rock climbing (again) or running/biking/swimming and have those things as my main priority. It is always a fight to pursue the delicate balance between these things and the rest of my life.

Then, it makes me wonder about the characteristic I would look for in a potential partner. I’ve always imagined or knew that I would like to be with someone who was (hyper) active in addition to being a man of God. I could not imagine myself being the ranting spouse about how much time he would be spending running or whatever just because I would probably be doing the same thing. But then, is that ┬áhealthy for a relationship? Sure, you can train together and that’s awesome but is that all there would be to the relationship? I immensely treasure the time when I can just lounge in the sun be it alone or with someone else. I’m terribly at ‘being still’ but when I manage to do it even if it’s just for 10 minutes, it’s amazing. Would being with someone who was just as, if not more, inclined to be hyper active disrupt the balance I’m constantly trying to pursue and achieve? An immense amount of self-discipline and leadership would be needed to be that voice that says: ‘relax and be still, seriously’.

So not to end this post on a seemingly serious note because after all, going out and play is really about having fun..you must be wondering what the connection is between laughter and fitness. There is one! Kind of. Not really but the common theme I find between them is that if someone is genuinely excited (or stoked in everyday lingo), that excitement infects others. I love it. I was doing yoga yesterday with a friend of mine that climbs and he started going off about how awesome the sport was. I must admit, even though I wrote an entire post about the awesomeness of climbing a while back, I wasn’t quite feeling it yet. There is a slight apprehension associated with my return to the sport…but that was before talking with my friend. His excitement has most certainly been passed onto me. I think it’s the same deal with triathlon; again, I have reservations about trying it out but the enthusiasm that my friends have for it is just so real.