Monday, February 1, 2010


Training Outside of Your Emotions......By Bonnie Siegel

We all have times in our lives during which we face adversity, struggle or setbacks. Sometimes it's easy to let our training suffer because we lose focus, we lose sight of who we are and what we are meant to do. We let our emotional or mental anguish ebb away at our resolve for consistency, for perseverance. We need to know we're not alone, that there is light coming our way, and that this too shall pass.

A few seasons ago I had been having a pretty tough time. Life had brought unexpected change, none of which in the immediate light looked like good things. Not then and not looking forward from that point with my limited vision of tomorrow.

Thursday: 4:15am. I woke up to feel my heart sink in my chest. The blunt force of the realities of the day greeting me and knocking me back down onto the pillow. My drive and desire to train dwindling quickly like the last piece of chocolate cake. A groan made it's way beyond my lips and into the darkness. I sent my Coach a text message: "Coach, I can't train with a broken heart." and then stared into the darkness.

Five minutes passed. I turned over on my side. My eyes opened and I found my mind going through the training. Within 10 minutes I was dressing and beginning to prepare myself for my brick training day: Swim/Bike/Run.

I knew I needed to take my mind beyond my emotions. Set my focus. Concentrate. To fail to do so for me would only bring further decay. Later in the day I would have the added sense of letting myself down. That would only compound my stress and not bring me the emotional, mental and physical strengthening that I so desperately needed.

I arrived at the gym. One of the first there. The pool looked like Lake Placid and I imagined an eery mist rising from it. Not a sound in the building compounded the loneliness I felt. I did a check of my things for each training set and tried to focus. I didn't feel like doing any of those things. I felt like doing nothing. Still, I struggled to push those thoughts of compromise out of my mind. To remember who I am and what I am about.

I jumped in the pool and it felt like someone forgot to turn on the heat. I heard a voice say, "Ugh! I hate this!" and realized I was the only one there. I closed my eyes and breathed evenly, imagining what my coach may say to encourage me if he was there. I reminded myself how much I wanted this. About the big picture in life. Off I went, gliding through the water.

My warm up set felt harder than anything I had ever done and I had to take more than my normal allotment of extended rests just to catch my breath and calm my labored breathing. Funny how emotions drain you. Just one week prior I had swam 1600 meters feeling unstoppable (my longest distance at that time) and yet there I was, drained at 75m.

Swells of emotion rose and fell throughout the training session hitting me again on the bike. Again while running. I pushed forward. I knew I was not the only one struggling. I considered other people dealing with similar issues and pushing forward. I reminded myself that self pity is like a drain that is wide enough to suck everything down into it's depths and I used mental fortitude to push the plug in over and over again. I knew I would get through the training and I knew that I would reap the many benefits of my hard work even if it wasn't a stellar effort that day. I had to set my mind to succeed. I hoped and waited for the chemical release of endorphins to ease my pain.

And then I finished. I took inventory and honestly I didn't feel a whole lot better. I felt tired. Drained. But deep within me I felt a small sense of satisfaction. Of knowledge that I did myself a favor. That I did what I needed to do.

The next day was very much the same. I needed to run 2 minute hill sprints. I was cold, the blasts of wind from the passing traffic were blowing against me and I was weary. I tucked my head down and ran into the wind and up the hill. I knew that like the passing of a terrible storm that the rainbow of my accomplishments and efforts will be a beautiful thing in my sight and a reminder that the rain of sorrow or despair would never fully drown me.

If you are going through a hard time and you don't feel like training, remember this: Your training can be your stronghold. Your training can be what actually carries you. Don't let your feelings control your actions. Train outside of your emotions. Training based in whole or in part on emotions can lead to inconsistency, discouragement, overexertion, injury and every other evil under the exercise sun. Level yourself. Clear your mind. Leave your emotions in your locker, in your tri bag, at home. Remember who you are. Remember what you were meant to do. And remember, you're not alone.