As a physical therapist and coach, I've heard it more than once throughout the years: "I'm so out of shape because of this injury, all I can do is sit on the couch and (insert favorite time-wasting activity here), and now I'm overweight and feel like shit and my life is a wreck." Or something to that effect. Yikes.
It doesn't have to be this way.
Your body has many parts. Just because one part is out of commission doesn't mean every part has to suffer. If you have an injured shoulder, you can take steps to keep your lower body and your core fit and strong. If you have an injured knee, you can hit the gym and work your upper body and core. No matter what limitations you may have in your body, you can almost always work on developing or maintaining your general fitness and your core.
When you can't do what you really love, of course it's a bummer, but time does not have to be wasted. You can focus your attention on other things: getting proper rest and nutrition so that you can heal, rehabilitating the injured part, building strength and endurance in other ways such as hiking instead of cycling, or cycling instead of running; and finding your core.
The same can be said about your life.
When circumstance takes you away from the activities and commitments you prefer to focus your time and energy on, you may suddenly find yourself with a lot of free time, and time to think. Since I haven't been able to ride my bike, I have spent a lot of time on long hikes, in rehab, training other areas of my body, and reflecting on my life and what I'm "about." For me, "finding my core" has taken on a different meaning. Your core is the center of your body and the center of your life. Where is my core?
While other aspects in your life- your passions, your career, your activities, your relationships- may change, your core remains steady. Personally, the values that are at my core, underneath everything, are about creating a life of strength and sustainability. In everything I do, I seek to build both inner and outer strength through pursuing activities and projects that challenge me physically, mentally, and emotionally. I also seek to cultivate habits that support me in making sustainable choices for my life: creating holistic health in my body, relationships, lifestyle, and also a healthy natural environment to support me in all of these things.
Furthermore, looking back at the times in my life when I most experienced unhappiness and discontent, it is likely not a coincidence that at those times I was living in a way that wasn't true to my core. At times it has been a result of losing too much of myself in a relationship; at times it has been completely my own mindless doing. When I have made choices that have turned out to be unsustainable for me, ignored my inner drive to pursue personal challenge, or not stood up for these values in my life, I have become extremely restless. I can keep it up for some time... sometimes for quite a long time... but eventually something has to give.
This isn't something I just chose last week. These are themes I have been pursuing my entire life, even when I wasn't aware of it. When I look back at the events of my life, I have always sought out experiences and chosen paths that would provide me with the opportunities to grow in the areas of strength and sustainability. And- I won't lie, it isn't easy! It has been, and will continue to be, very challenging for me. Sometimes I'm good at it; sometimes I suck. I will never be perfect or "finished," there will always be ways to improve; which is likely what intrinsically draws me to these pursuits. Just like endurance bike racing, it's the journey that is the real reward. And it's not a walk in the park.
Having these steady core values present and active in my life is what keeps me looking forward to getting out of bed in the morning, and what gives me a sense of fulfillment when I close my eyes at night; despite the inability to do some of the activities I love. It is both calming and exciting to me to know that in everything I do in my life, as long as I stay true to my core in the choices I make and in the ways I spend my time, I can't lose, because I am truly being myself.
So, I challenge you to look beneath the surface: Where is your core? What are you about, and what do you stand for? What fulfills you and sustains you in your life, in your body, and in your soul? Are you ready for the challenge of aligning your life with your core? It might be worthwhile to think about while doing a set of bicycle kicks or planks. ;)
I've been thinking a lot in the recent months about dreams, goals, and plans; the differences between these, and the best recipe for success.
It is no secret that I am incredibly driven in many areas of life, and especially where racing is concerned. My tendency is always to push harder, faster, longer, and race more, more, more. I have a lot of dreams that excite, inspire, and challenge me. But in order to effectively chase my dreams, I need achievable, measurable goals that will be my checkpoints along the way. In order to reach goals, to get me closer to dreams, I need plans. That part doesn't sound very sexy, but planning is necessary to achieve success. I have learned the hard way that just flinging myself willy-nilly in the general direction of my dreams is not very effective. Now, having more experience, I try to ask myself two questions when making choices: 1. Is this sustainable? As in, does this choice promote my sustaining a healthy body, a healthy lifestyle, and a healthy environment in which to live? Is this something I can continue for a long time, or is it going to crush me? and 2. Is this going to make me a stronger person, and a stronger athlete? Hmm. This will require a little more effort. So in come the plans.
This year, I will be racing less. But I will also be racing better: with more focus, more clarity, more detailed and disciplined preparation, more mindfulness. I am sure that I am setting myself up for success in this way: not only in results, but in resiliency and consistency throughout the season. In a very atypical fashion, I am also planning time, in June, to actually NOT race. Instead I will use this time to prepare for racing dreams and goals that are a little farther off, but will take more effort, experience, and knowledge than I have needed in racing so far.
Here are a few factors in my choices about my racing schedule and plans for this year. Maybe they'll be helpful for others to consider, maybe not. Everyone is different. But I feel good about it and I'm excited for the season to begin.
1) My recent shoulder surgery and focus on recovery is a huge factor. I expect to be well-recovered and racing strong when the season begins; however I think a less intense travel schedule will be prudent for this year. I had plans to travel abroad for a race this spring, but instead of pushing that ahead I will sit on it for one more year. I want to make sure my shoulder is strong and that my racing supports the gain of strength, not breaks it down. It takes a full year to become 100% after a major injury or surgery such as a shoulder repair. I would be an idiot to just say "oh I'm totally fine, I'm going to plow ahead as usual" and not take the healing process into consideration. I want to do this for a long time, not be out injured every other week. Patience is a virtue (that I suck at, but am getting better).
2) I have realized that the reason that I race bikes isn't just for "pure fun," it's for the challenge that makes me a better person, and for the skills I learn through racing that are applicable in the rest of my life. If I don't take those skills and go out into the world and live them, and share them, it's all wasted and my racing just becomes a frivolous pursuit of fun. There's nothing wrong with that for some people, but for me it would not be acting with integrity to my purpose and my core values. Continuing to race with more quality and focus, but with less quantity, gives me the opportunity to put some energy into taking action with the "other" parts. I am super excited for my opportunities in this area in 2014.
3) I have learned, from my own experience and from Coach AP beating it into me; that in order to race strong, I need to train strong and also REST. If I am going nonstop all of the time, and always racing, it is hard to get a good solid training block in. It's more like scrambling to play catch-up after each race instead of continuing to build. If I never recover fully, my hard training is less effective. In order to race stronger, I need to plan smarter for recovery between races.
3) In racing endurance, you dig yourself a slow, deep hole with all the effort put out over a long period of time. That hole takes longer to dig back out of than if you were doing a short XC or gravity race- which are super intense and you dig your hole more quickly, but it also takes less time to dig out. When I was a road racer focused on criterium events, I felt like I was going to die immediately during and after the hour long effort, but I was back at it quickly, often racing again the next day, weekend after weekend. 20-25 races in a season was not uncommon for me.
In switching over to mountain bike racing and now to a focus in endurance events, it has taken me awhile to learn that if I want to be successful in mountain bike racing, especially endurance, that I can't plan like a crit racer anymore. I need to cut back, focus on solid training and recovery, and go for QUALITY over quantity in my racing.
Plus, overextending yourself and getting mono is no fun. That's how I started my 2013 season. It's as if my body was warning me. I'm finally ready to listen. ;)
So here it is. Still subject to revision, but for the most part it's solid. Hope to see some of you out there on the course with me!
2014 Racing Schedule
4/24-28: Whiskey Off-Road 50 mile, Prescott AZ
5/17-18: Firebird 40 mile, Eagle CO
5/26: Gunnison Growler 64 mile, Gunnison CO
No racing planned... will spend time doing course recon for an exciting future endeavor :)
7/4: Firecracker 50, Breckenridge CO
7/12: Breck 100, Breckenridge CO
8/10-16: Breck Epic 6 day stage race, Breckenridge CO
8/29-31: Grand Junction Off-Road 40, Grand Junction CO (?) OR…
9/6-7: Vapor Trail 125, Salida CO (?)