One of the hardest parts of becoming an adult onset athlete is learning when to back off. We have become so ingrained to sit on our asses for years upon years, that when we do find the energy, the willpower, the need, to get up and start moving, the very thought of sitting back on that couch is anxiety producing. It scares us. This is a hard thing to explain to those who have never been on the “other side”, who have always been active. Taking a day off to them seems easy, and welcomed. When I have a recovery day on the schedule, especially on a weekend day like Saturday, I spend the whole day fidgety. The mere act of sitting still, relaxing, taking it easy is enough to throw me into a panic attack. I get images of scales going past the 300 pound mark again. Images of not being able to get up that hill the next day. Just sitting here typing this right now is making me antsy.
I will find reasons to prove my point as well, even if some are concocted.
“Took a day off did you? Well, you gained .6 pounds because of that, fella! Get your fat ass back on the road!!”
Our inner voices can be very insensitive at these times.
And we listen to these voices.
It never goes away.
We can look at pictures of us before and now, and see … SEE … the difference and yet it makes no difference to us in our heads. A day off is giving in to the monster, the 300 pounds beast inside me that wants, so badly, to win … at all costs.
So … when I struggled through 2014 with injury after injury, along with new and exciting medical issues erupting, and with it some MORE meds to take, I was at my wit’s end. I was not sure in December if I actually cared enough anymore to keep going. I was having a crisis of faith, in a way, and was about to give in to Rick (my inner voice has a name) and let the fat guy back out. I went from a low of 238 pounds in January 2014 back to almost 270 a few weeks ago. Rick was back. And He was angry.
I needed help and sought it out.
The first thing I need to get a grip on was my health and injuries. Normal, and I say normal in the most positive way, coaches spend time on your workouts and training plans. I needed more. I needed someone to look at what I could do, what I have done, and what I can do, and try to help me (I say “try” because I am very hard-headed at times) work through it in a logical manner. This is how I found Meghan Fanning at Zendurance Now. I had “met” Meghan through a few online groups I was part of, so when I was rambling on about what my issues were, and she started chiming in, I asked her onto the podcast to discuss injury management. Once talking to her with Andrew on the show I felt like she understood the issues I was having (as well as Jennifer) so I contacted her about coaching us, and she agreed. Meghan is up North, so the coaching is via email and weekly Skype sessions, but what I am like about her is that she tells you what she thinks, point-blank, but not to the point that she’ll tell you not to do something if you really want to do it. An example is the Disney Marathon. We knew we weren’t ready, she knew it was probably a mistake, but she gave us some pointers and told us to just take the race as it comes and don’t be afraid to pull off if we have to. The next example if the upcoming Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon in DC. On our call last night I can tell she is not a fan of us doing this, but as I explained to her that we would be taking it very easy and that we have cleared our race schedules of anything after that until May (goodbye St. Anthony’s) she was more agreeable. And that is what makes her a good coach. She may not like or agree with something, but she listens and attempts to work around the issue without getting us killed.
So, the body was taken care of, but that’s the easy part isn’t it. The mind is the hard part, because I have spent 51 years screwing my head up as much as possible without actually tipping over to insanity. I have been told a few times, and once very recently, that one of my strengths is my willingness to look inward and mess with my inner doctrines. This is not something most people can do, especially men, or so I am being told. I find it interesting to be honest, which is why my undergraduate degree is in psychology. I find the way people think fascinating, but it’s easy to look at others and find their … not faults I think … wrong word … find their roadblocks. Each of us has the capability to be great. It is there. The hard part is unlocking the barriers that prevent us from becoming great. This is where Tara Newman of Family Sport Life comes in. I met Tara through the same channels as Meghan, and once again, my first conversation with her was on the podcast. Twice in fact. As of this writing Tara is the only person that has appeared on both the old podcast (Ironman: Year One) and the new one (Back of Pack Endurance), and if I have my way she will be on many more times. Tara has always had a way of talking to me that struck a chord. She would see me posting about my struggles and would send me a terse “why Ironman John??”, which I hated because I never had an answer, and “because” was not sufficient. She made me think, which I like to do (shocking I know), so when she posted that she was starting to offer her services one-on-one and in group settings, I was in … all in. And I have not been proven wrong. the group is small, which I like, and has shown to be very supportive and insightful. It has mad me think about where I have been and where I want to go in a no-nonsense manner. The video meetings every other week have pulled me out of my comfort zone, which is an ongoing problem with me. I have no issue expounding on my “feelings” or “thoughts” in writing, or even on the podcast when it is just my voice, but being “seen” is a different issue. I am very self-conscious about how I look. I am not comfortable in my own skin, so being on camera AND expounding on what I am thinking and feeling is not normal for me. The supportive nature of the group has made me feel comfortable in doing it, though it has only been once (until tomorrow night).
So, with the help of Meghan and Tara, and Jennifer, Andrew, Kristine Cox, Dave Baldwin, and a myriad of others, I am starting to pump the brakes a bit and assessing not only where I am, but where I am going and what is the nest way to navigate to the destination. I wish I had met these guys when I was in my 20’s and not my 50’s.
If you are struggling, I whole-heartedly recommend seeking out a coach, whether it be a fitness coach or a life coach. Do your due diligence and find one that matches your personality or fills a need you have in your life. I joke a lot about how Tara asks me these blunt questions like “well, when you finish an Ironman, do you expect to be different?” … reminds me of something my grandfather would have said. My grandfather was my first “life coach”. He had his faults, as do we all, but he had this old world Italian way of looking at things that cut through the bullshit and hit the nail on the head. I have striven, in my life, to be like he was, at least in that manner. He has been gone for almost 25 years now and I have been missing that person in my life ever since. So after struggling for that long with no one, I am starting, at this advanced stage, to fill that void with Tara, and Meghan, and Jennifer, and Kristine, and Kate … the added bonus is that they are all much easier on the eyes.
Sorry Pop ….