On an ordinary week, my Wednesday’s start off with a 5:30 am track workout. It is always a great workout put on by Tri Scottsdale and led by a local pro triathlete, Lewis Elliot. They are always hard workouts and definitely push you to your mental and physical limits.
As any athlete can tell you, there are good days and bad days. There are those days when you feel like completely focused and like you can go forever without getting tired, and days where you struggle to just get out of bed. This particular Wednesday, July 6th, was one of those days where it took a monumental effort to roll out of bed and put on my running shoes.
By the time I arrived at the track, my mind had already attempted to convince me that I should be doing anything else but preparing to run who knows how many painful intervals on the track. I should have slept in. I need to catch up on sleep, don’t I? It’s too hot already at 5:00 am to be outside running. I could be watching Netflix at home, taking it easy and just doing some light stretching or foam rolling before work. I could be doing anything else in the world other than getting warmed up for track.
My mile jog to warm-up didn’t make things much easier. My mind still tried to convince me that I should just go home, that I’m too tired to run this morning. The workout today was going to be 9 x 800 meters leaving on 5 minutes. After these intervals, the workout finished up with a mile run for time. The thought of doing these intervals made me wish I had never decided to get into the sport of triathlon. After all, I am essentially choosing to do this. I am the one making myself get up at 4:00 in the morning for track. I am the one that is pushing myself to get better. I have some help along the way, but I am ultimately the one that decides to put myself through this.
With the beginning of each 800-meter interval came the inevitable pain and discomfort. Today, this pain was not a welcome guest. I kept imagining the second when I was able to stop. My mind kept wandering to the moment when it was all over and when the pain in my lungs and legs would stop. I’m not one that normally likes to back off or take it easy, which can sometimes work against me when I am actually supposed to be taking it easy to recover. On this particular day, however, the goal is to push myself into a place where I am uncomfortable. I am supposed to be in pain on each of these intervals. It’s how I am going to get faster.
Once I let me my mind focus on this aspect of the workout, the purpose of the workout, I began to settle in. The first few intervals passed. My mind stopped wandering. A few more intervals passed. Now I was beginning to feel a little bit of anticipation and excitement before each interval. I was beginning to look forward to pushing myself to be just a little bit faster on the next interval than I was on the one before. The distracting thoughts that once consumed my mind earlier were now no longer attempting to convince me that I made a mistake getting out of bed today. My thoughts were now working for me and pushing me onward through the workout.
The last mile came, and I ran it in 5:45. Not bad considering I had just run 4.5 miles of intervals beforehand. I was absolutely exhausted when I finished those last few meters. I could do nothing more than drop down to my knees in order to gather my sense of lucidity before I hobbled along to my car to drive home. As I was letting my mind and body absorb what it had just been through, I felt an incredible sense of accomplishment, but not because I did anything particularly special. I was simply a guy in Scottsdale, Arizona that managed to get through a few miles of intervals on an ordinary Wednesday morning. I walked back to my car with my head held up high knowing that I pushed myself just as hard as I would have pushed myself on a day in which my mind wasn’t trying to convince me to take the easy way out. I didn’t let my mind and my emotions hold me back from getting everything I could out of that workout.
This made me think about all of the opportunities that I have in my daily life to hold back and to take it easy just because I’m having an off day. I completely appreciate the necessity of balancing out work with recovery, but it is just so easy to give into the temptation of the mind telling us that it is okay to take the easy road and to avoid any amount of discomfort. A certain level of discomfort, balanced out with sufficient mental and physical recovery, is necessary in order to experience growth in any area of life, not just as an athlete. That track workout on July 6th, although just another ordinary Wednesday workout, served to remind me that I am physically and mentally capable of much more than I often give me credit for. Incredible accomplishments are built upon a foundation of daily sacrifice and commitment, even on the days when we don’t feel like sticking to these commitments. I truly believe this and know that these tough days will eventually lead me to success. It is because of moments like these, in which I learn such important life lessons, that I am grateful for this sport and all that it has brought into my life.