Q+A: Why Tri?

The other day, a friend of mine asked me — “Why triathlon?”

Good question…and deserving of a blog post.

The simple and short of it all is that I’m trying to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Training for a triathlon takes a lot of time and dedication. It takes a certain amount of willpower to commit to a training and nutrition plan. It cuts into things like lazy weekends, roadtrips home, going to dinners and sometimes going to happy hour…and I’ve learned from first-hand experience that even your closest friends and family won’t be okay with this. (Most friends and family feel threatened by newfound willpower/commitment and actually try to sabotage your efforts.) In this case, being comfortable with change means that you’ll learn to back off at the appropriate times and do what’s best for you, no matter who is barking up your tree.

Most of my training is done alone, which is conducive to a lot of self-reflection, pushing, and thinking. About 10% of conscious thought is focused on technique. Another 10% is focused on intention. The rest of it is really in a state of meditation. It doesn’t mean that my mind is empty, but I’m generally concentrating on something that’s been bothering me, a problem I want to solve, or some uncomfortable part of my day that I’m trying to dissect. I spend anywhere between 5 and 10+ hours a week training, so admittedly that’s been a lot of time for me to work through those issues. In that time I’ve been able to make difficult decisions and come to terms with a lot of things that have happened to me in my life.

I’m fairly young but have lived through a lot of difficult instances — some that should have killed me, some that should’ve scarred me for life, and some that should have left me questioning my existence. Living through those experiences really just means that I’ve managed to survive and thrive despite them. I think that focusing my energy and efforts on something that requires more commitment than I’ve ever really put forth towards anything else will help me build character and gives me the chance to help others along the way. (I truly believe that the best way to improve yourself or your condition is to focus on helping other people.) I don’t think I’ve ever done anything this consistently for this long, but I’m very motivated.

If that answer didn’t suffice, here are some that I usually blurt out depending on my mood:

  • I want to prove to myself that I could achieve what I used to think was impossible.
  • I want to show other people that they can commit and achieve their goals too.
  • I want to eat as many burritos, pizzas, and hot dogs as I feel like and never feel guilty.
  • I need an energy outlet that doesn’t require me to think (too much).
  • I don’t want to die a fat, unhealthy, technological sloth.
  • I decided I needed a hobby outside of my career.
  • It was something new that I haven’t tried before.
  • I wanted to travel to different places, but with a purpose.
  • I wanted to stop worrying about how I looked and focus more on how I feel.
  • I wanted to save money on “lazy” entertainment, like booze and movies.
  • I’m taking a break from grad school and needed something worthwhile to do.

Everyone has different motivations. It doesn’t make you any more or less an athlete…but it sure will effect how sustainable your goals and methodologies really are.

Only 92 days to go until the LA Triathlon!

My Theory on Excuses

I spent the summer after my high school graduation with my face in lots of geese poop in a very humid and steamy New England. Most of the time I was getting yelled at — not because I was doing anything wrong, but mainly because I wasn’t doing anything right. I was a cadet candidate at the US Coast Guard Academy and I was looking for an easy way out of paying for college. Big mistake!

Didn’t look forward to much during those eight weeks. I made a few friends and learned a lot about myself and the power of persuasion. On the days where I mentally fought back and made excuses for why I was slipping up, they were infinitely tougher. On days where I just accepted my shortcomings and strategized on how to improve, I felt more in control of my situation.

But, one thing I learned from the indoctrination experience was that there are “no excuses” — meaning, that for whatever you slipped up on, there was no real, viable reason why you should’ve done or reacted the way you did. Having to bite my tongue whenever I was called out on a really daft move to say “No excuse, sir” was really just a mental exercise in asking myself the deeper question of “Why on earth did I do that?”

People give themselves a lot of excuses as to why they can’t achieve their goals. Sometimes it’s because they don’t have enough time or willpower to see it through. Sometimes they are terrified of success. Other times their friends or family are sabotaging their efforts. When people begin to realize that “Done is better than perfect” and that “every excuse of a choice to fail,” it will help put their decisions into a real perspective. Even though I’m getting ready for a morning run, I probably won’t do as good as I’d like to do. I can make excuses — I had a hard day at work yesterday…my legs are still sore from the night before…I didn’t get enough rest — or I can realize that getting myself out the door and being consistent has its rewards. If I give myself the excuses to crutch my bad behavior, I’ll keep repeating said bad behavior. Thus, it’s more beneficial for me to take a “no excuses” approach and to answer to the person I’m most trying to compete with — me.

On the other hand, perhaps I should’ve gone to bed earlier.

What’s your theory on excuses? What do you do to combat your own excuses?

Featured in Fitbie!

Check out the original article here

Over the weekend, Fitbie.com published a neat article on my recent journey. It’s been great but it’s certainly not over! I still have a long way to go in terms of training for the triathlon (mainly getting myself INTO the water, which I have failed at the last two weeks and counting) and training for the marathon (only 145 more days)…but hey, it still feels nice to be able to help more people with their journey too.

If you’re looking to ask any questions about this journey, what I did, etc., feel free to submit it via Formspring and I’ll do my best to keep up with them here on my blog.

Q+A: "Why Running?"

I’ve been getting some of the same questions over and over again, so I’ve decided to just blog about some of these typical questions I get. First and foremost a lot of people have questioned (in a good way!) why I chose running as opposed to some other sport.

So…”Why running?”

Well, I chose running for a few reasons.

1. The barrier to entry is pretty low. All you need are some decent workout clothes — preferably the sweat-wicking kind, and some shoes to go for a run. With other sports you need equipment, some training, some prep time, but most humans are equipped with everything they’ll ever need to run.

2. I can do it anytime I want. In theory, you can do whatever you want at anytime you want. With running specifically, I can put on my shoes and leave for a run whenever I feel like. I don’t have to arrive an hour early to put my name on a wait list for a class to start — like the spin class at the gym — and I don’t have to rely on a teammate to work out with. The minute I feel like doing it, I can go about my business on my own. It works out pretty nicely since I have a tendency to be a bit sporadic with the times of day that I feel like running. I also like to vary my distance, and not everyone’s schedule can accomodate such fleeting desires. Thus, when I chose running, I knew that I’d be able to be flexible enough with my own schedule where I’d be able to do it whenever I felt like it.

3. I needed very little training to get started. Running seems almost instinctual. I mean, you can read up on running tips, best stretches, how to better your stride, etc., but for the most part you are born with a body that can fine tune itself. Nature has built our bodies in such a way that we run as efficiently as possible (for us at least). We can improve upon it with training but we are born with the tools, at the very least, to get started on our own.

4. I could feel results from it quickly. After one run I felt accomplished. After a few runs I began noticing changes in my body. By the time I logged 100 I felt like a different person. I have a tendency to be impatient — who isn’t? — so running was the quickest way to satiate my desire for change.

5. I have people in my life who are runners. When I decided to take up running, I knew of a few people who ran regularly. One of my clients had finished the San Francisco triathlon…I had a friend who was training for the LA marathon, and another friend who seemed to run pretty regularly. I admired these three people since they seemed to have their life figured out — they were organized, upbeat, positive, and I wanted to be like them. I figured that imitation was the best form of flattery, so instead of picking their brains I just copied their lifestyle and began running. Apparently it works!

So, I suppose I can ask you the same question — “Why running?” If you’re not yet a runner, what’s holding you back?

Long Weekends, Long Runs

Hope you all had a fantastic Memorial Day weekend! I spent my time off balancing pure relaxation and pushing my limits. All in all it was pretty fun!

 

I’ve found that double digit runs have been very intimidating for me personally, even though I’ve done a few of them already. There’s reticence on my end since I usually have to prep a bit for it. A 3, 4, 5, or 6 mile run requires nothing more than staying hydrated beforehand and then eating immediately afterwards…and usually sunscreen 20 minutes before I leave.

However, when a run goes into 10, 11, 12, 13+ mile range, I usually load up my hydration pack and a few portable snacks since I get hungry pretty easily. Then comes the lag. I take forever to get dressed. I walk circles around my apartment — even though it’s pretty small — and make excuses and procrastinate. I start flipping through magazines or organizing my desk, cleaning out the fridge, fix my hair…pretty much anything except get myself out of the door. The last bit of procrastination usually includes me laying down on my couch for a bit and visualizing my run. I never really know what gets me up off that couch and out the door but it does and I get on with it.

It’s not so much the dread of feeling tired, or getting sweaty, or whatever other excuse I can come up with, that gets in the way. For some strange reason I’m always paranoid that I won’t finish my run. It sounds ridiculous because all I have to do is choose to end it — I can cut it short, I can take a detour, I can stop and enjoy a park, or I can extend it — so really, “finishing” is relative. Finishing a run is not really the same as finishing school, finishing a project, or finishing the course of a relationship. Or perhaps it really is the same, since we are all in control of our choices, our happiness, and how we manage the things that effect us.

There’s almost an invisible amount of pressure on me that I’ve really just fabricated. Being enrolled in a marathon training class is a little pressure, but it’s really the good kind. I’ve enjoyed it thus far but what I’ve missed the most lately is running just for the sake of running — not to train for something, not to qualify for a race, not to check in or check out, but just for the sheer fun of it.

Today I decided to take a different mental approach and re-run a very difficult course with the mentality that I was just running for fun. (I of course checked in to it!) I focused on a few things: 1) keeping my composure, 2) smiling a bit more at strangers, 3) enjoying the scenery and 4) maintaining a consistent pace. I ran through Miracle Mile, Hancock Park, Sunset Blvd/The Sunset Strip, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and back to Miracle Mile. With that attitude, my run was an absolute breeze!! I enjoyed a beautiful sunset along the Sunset Strip, and enjoyed magic hour in Beverly Hills. It was night by the time I made my way though WeHo and back towards my home and when I ran through the final streetlight, I didn’t feel a bit tired. My knees were a bit achy, but my breathing wasn’t labored and my energy wasn’t shot. Los Angeles is so beautiful, especially on the tail end of a long weekend that vacates the city. With the wind this weekend, the skies were clean and clear. For once I felt like I had the city all to myself…and I treasured every minute of it.

Now that I’ve taken this route a second time, I’ve kept my eyes peeled for some interesting photos. Next time I run this same route, I’ll create a photo album so that you guys get to see what I see! After this weekend I feel confident that I will be able to successfully take on the 15K in Santa Barbara on July 4th without a problem. I’m so excited to make my way back to Santa Barbara again…I am positive that the course will be absolutely stunning.

To end an otherwise great weekend, I received this nugget of genius in my email box just a few minutes ago…

Believe that you’re young enough, old enough, strong enough, and so on to accomplish everything you want to do. Don’t let worn out beliefs stop you from moving beyond yourself. -John Bingham

Recent Read: Born To Run

I started this book today waiting for the Metro to take me home from my just-completed 13 mile point-to-point run from my apartment to the ocean. It came highly recommended by a client who also happens to be a triathlete.

I’m about halfway through it so far and I’m impressed — it’s linear insomuch that it reconstructs the chronology of particular chance encounters but also spins off into sub-chapters explaining the characteristics that each of the ultrarunners bring to the game. I’ve excerpted a few of my favorite passages below.

(Update: I’ve finished the book and it was great! I loved the storytelling aspect as the writer follows many different runners on their journey. The only part I didn’t like was that there was one small portion where the author was hypocritical: he makes a mention of an unsaid runners code of ethics, but then manages to slam another professional runner a few pages later. I wonder why the editor let that one slide by!)

Pick it up! My rating: 8/10

* * *

“Lesson two….think easy, light, smooth, and fast. You start with easy, because if that’s all you get, that’s not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless, like you don’t give a shit how high the hill is or how far you’ve got to go. When you’ve practiced that so long that you forget you’re practicing, you work on making it smooth. You don’t have to worry about the last one — you get those three, and you’ll be fast.”

* * *

Was Zatopek a great man who happen to run, or a great man because he ran? Vigil couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but his gut kept telling him that there was some kind of connection between the capacity to love and the capacity to love running. The engineering was certainly the same: both depended on loosening your grip on your own desires, putting aside what you wanted and appreciating what you got, being patient and forgiving and undemanding. Sex and speed — haven’t they been symbiotic for most of our existence, as intertwined as the strands of DNA? We wouldn’t be alive without love; we wouldn’t have survived without running; maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that getting better at one could make you better at the other.”

* * *

That fall, a photo appeared in UltraRunning Magazine. It shows Jenn finishing a 30-mile race somewhere in the backwoods of Virginia. There’s nothing amazing about her performance (third place), or her getup (basic black shorts, basic black sports bra), or even the camera work (dimly let, crudely cropped). Jenn isn’t battling a rival to the bitter end, or striding across a mountaintop with the steel-jawed majesty of a Nike model, or gasping toward glory with a grimace of heartbreaking determination. All she’s doing is…running. Running, and smiling. But that smile is strangely stirring. You can tell she’s having an absolute blast, as if there’s nothing on earth she’d rather be doing and nowhere on earth she’d rather be doing it than here, on this lost trail in the middle of the Appalachian wilderness. Even though she’s just run four miles further than a marathon, she looks light-footed and carefree, her eyes twinkling, her ponytail swinging around her head like a shirt in the fist of a triumphant Brazilian soccer player. Her naked delight is unmistakable; it forces a smile to her lips that’s so honest and unguarded, you feel she’s lost in the grip of artistic inspiration.

* * *

Ann liked to tell her friends that running huge miles in the mountains was “very romantic.” But yeah, Ann insisted, running was romantic; and no, of course her friends didn’t get it because they’d never broken through. For them, running was a miserable two miles motivated solely by size 6 jeans: get on the scale, get depressed, get your headphones on, and get it over with. But you can’t muscle through a five-hour run that way; you have to relax into it, like easing your body into a hot bath, until it no longer resists the shock and begins to enjoy it.

Relax enough, and your body becomes so familiar with the cradle-rocking rhythm that you almost forget that you’re moving. And once you break through that soft, half-levitating flow, that’s when the moonlight and champagne show up.

* * *

 

Finding Inspiration When You Need It Most

When I find that I am low on patience and inspiration, I usually head towards the water. It’s humbling to be surrounded by something so majestic and grand as the Pacific Ocean. After all, the oceans covers 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and contains 97 percent of the planet’s water. And, at any moment it can swallow me up whole and make me disappear into nothingness.

If you are finding yourself low on inspiration, I find that these usually help:

  • A change in environment: Sometimes you just need to change your location. There might be something in your current surroundings that is stifling your ability to think. Either address it or change it, but don’t ignore it — this type of frustration will fester.
  • A change in perspective: You might have unnecessarily pigeonholed yourself. Try to see the problem from a different angle and your perspective should change. If you’re a designer, put on your photographer hat. If you’re a service provider, try seeing it from a client’s point of view. Be honest and don’t include your own projections. Truly try to see it from the other side.
  • A change in activity: Some of the best ideas percolate while you’re doing something else. Give it a rest and refresh yourself. Chances are you will find some inspiration in something completely unrelated.

It’s sometimes difficult to put our problems into perspective. Just remember that you are one small piece of a very, very large puzzle…and that things are never really as troublesome as they seem. Don’t get caught up in the minutia of life! Just enjoy it and go along for the ride.

“And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”

I don’t remember when I came across this poem but I’ve always found it to uplift me in times of despair and ground me in times of greatness.

Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser
persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Returning to Nature – It's Just Perspective, People!

I am a true believer that most of our problems can be solved by returning to nature.

We face a lot of complex issues everyday. Maybe someone at work is under-performing. Perhaps you are feeling conflicted about a loved one. Maybe the external pressures you feel are just too much to bear. When things get rough, consider taking a step back and consider returning to your natural roots for a little bit. You don’t have to go completely Walden on us — a short walk, hike, bike ride, or ocean appreciation lunch break will do — but most of the time, giving yourself a change in environment can reframe your perspective.

Nature has a perfect order about her. Completely self-correcting and forgiving, the great outdoors can stand to teach you a lot about balance and harmony. Nature is not possessive or emotional; it reacts on both metaphysical and chemical logic that transcends human rationalization. There are no shades of gray really, just an endless array of possibilities that come in all shapes and sizes…if you know where to look.

On the other hand, Nature knows when to work on a problem and when to obliterate it as well. Admittedly we’re humans, and therefore emotional, so we can’t completely devoid our behavior and rationalization from said emotion. But again, if we could take a step back to reframe our perspective and understand a problem for what it actually is — not what we think it might be based on how we are feeling today, or how someone is telling us how to feel —  we might actually be able to solve some of our problems.

Give it a try!