The Frustration Threshold

Weigh-in Wednesday (except for me this happened on Friday). Up two pounds, again. I can’t bring myself to post it. Seriously?! I’ve logged my meals for a month straight, and I’ve regularly enjoyed seeing MyFitnessPal telling me just how little I’ll weigh in five weeks if I keep this up. I have done every workout as scheduled–6 days a week. Why the heck am I gaining weight? By Friday afternoon I’ve opted to forego my active recovery workout in favor of happy hour with colleagues. It’s a slippery slope.

Full disclosure, though, Thursday offered up a taco bar and lots of desserts for teacher appreciation week. And I enjoyed buttery popcorn and an ice cream sandwich at girls movie night…

But there were the two bike sessions, the two strength workouts, an easy run, and the 1150 yard swim. *sigh* (cue finger violins)

*sigh* (cue finger violins)

Saturday morning I was feeling absolutely awful about myself, regretting the drinks, feeling fat and frustrated at my lack of progress. My husband very patiently listened to my self-indulgent moping over weight gain despite all my “best” efforts. Then he went out on a bike and run.

Every day there are small difficulties that make being an athlete harder than being a couch potato. A week of cold rain puts a crimp in the long bike plans. Rescheduled practices and meetings derail afternoon workout plans. None of these complications have caused me to get down on myself, most likely because I have put a high priority on my training and have been able to call on friends and family in a pinch to help me get those workouts in.

But these two pounds, on top of the two I gained last week, felt like a punch in the gut.

I’ve been working hard, being mindful, but I’m certainly far from perfect. And while I don’t expect perfection, I do expect results. But on what metrics? Do I want to lose weight, get faster, or get stronger? I truly do not want to choose. Unfortunately, I’m slowly learning, that’s not how this deal works.

So, shall I gain muscle and weight? Boo. I could get faster and weaker…no thank you. I could slim down and lose muscle…not what I want. My Frustration Threshold is low and cannot take all the defeat. I’m going to have to prioritize my training and my nutrition goals, otherwise, I will be continually frustrated and will slide right down into complacency.

Slimming down may help me get faster, but I’m not willing to completely sacrifice the enjoyment of life’s pleasures for short-term, unsustainable weight loss. “Slow and steady” needs to be my mantra here. I am most likely forever an Athena. I am absolutely at peace with that. I would like, however, to be closer to the bottom end of the range, unable to be characterized by anyone as obese. The scale may be a bad way to measure, though. During my little “episode” (yes, there were tears), my husband suggested I use body measurements instead of weight. The fluctuating nature of my weight (both monthly and throughout the day) makes me think that I’m attaching too much importance to it, and as a result, my Frustration Threshold is suffering. Eating well will fuel my training, and logging my food definitely makes me feel accountable to myself, so I’m going to ditch the scale and celebrate nutrition instead. It’s time to get out the trusty tape measure, too.

Strength training is a joy for me, and I think those muscles will help me race better. However, I do want to improve my triathlon times. So this may become my off-season priority, but for right now, building strength is not a goal; it’s an activity.

Get faster. I don’t want to let go of this goal. My season needs to show time improvement or I will be extremely disappointed in myself. I do not want to be in a race wishing I had devoted more time or effort to training. That would thrust the the Frustrat-o-meter into the red. So, improving my speed needs to be my A-priority goal.

I’m going to try to cycle these priorities through the year. Spring-summer: tri training. Fall-winter: strength building. Year round: don’t eat like an asshole.

Each time we dust ourselves of or from a letdown, we improve that Frustration Threshold. Let’s be honest: as data obsessed as runners and triathletes tend to be, we can’t reasonably expect to see improvement on every metric every time we analyze. Logically I know this. The feelings, though, aren’t subject to reason. They are a product of the past me (you’re too old, too fat, too weak, too busy, etc.) creeping in and trying to sabotage the current me (triathlete, marathoner, weight room bad ass, mom of three, professional, wife of a very busy husband). This week the weight metric reminded me of that bad place I’ve worked really hard to crawl out of. The 210-pound, eat-crap, drink-too-much, too-tired lump that I once was.

When my husband got back, we talked more, and I put on my running gear. I went out for a Functional Threshold run. The cool, fresh air, the sunshine, and Sia (with “Alive” and “The Greatest” I can’t help but feel invincible) pushed me to a new threshold heart rate. I am getting faster. My training is working. I pushed through the funk of disappointment and ran anyway, so I also have a new Frustration Threshold. How’s that for progress?

I hope this means that next time I feel disappointed in one metric or another I will have an increased capacity for dealing with it. If not, please send supportive thoughts to my husband, and maybe buy some stock in your favorite brand of tissues.

Michelle Greenough

Mom of three, teacher, (fat, slow) triathlete, runner, dog lover, recreational poet.

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