Doing it all the hard way...

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Getting comfortable with discomfort

Evo finishing a road race and letting the hurt escape vocally !

I am transitioning from what I would characterize as “Recovery” and getting back into a real training routine.

I’ve been doing leg weights twice a week for three weeks with a focus on strengthening my knee.  I have seen some dramatic increases in strength which is rewarding.  My pathetic starting point also demonstrates how much fitness I lost and the distance of my road back to competitiveness. I’ve been steadily increasing my mileage, living in zone one, two and three. I’ve been watching my knee and ribs and proceeding with measured caution.

I’m getting to a point where I can up the intensity of my workouts as well as increasing my mileage.   Today I returned to spin class after a long hiatus. While I didn’t turn myself inside out or anything, I did find myself pushing harder than I have for some time. 

It was a strange sensation and it made me realize something that had become so normal it was hard to see during my normal training.

My friend Geoff was teaching the spin class and if I omit his instructions, the conversation in my head during one of the harder drills was something like this:

Okay pick it up now…This feels okay so far….I can feel that I’m going harder… Now I’m getting uncomfortable…I should back off…..Don’t back off….How much longer? ....I can keep this up a little longer…Hey, this is really starting to hurt….I am still recovering, I should back off…. Push it… Lactic acid is building…Shut up legs…I really want to back off…My quads are screaming!! …Embrace the pain, keep going….Geoff, this is enough…. Count down already….Man, I forgot how much this can hurt…This is all I got….A little longer…..Finally…. Time to slow down....It feels good to catch my breath….Again?.......Okay…..

It is a strange balance of listening to your body, yet at the same time ignoring some of what your body says.

It is easy to put out hard efforts in short chunks.  You’re fresh and a short burst makes your legs feel snappy.  In training as you increase your level of effort and it starts to hurt you have a decision to make.  Do you back off and get comfortable again or do you push on and live with being uncomfortable.   Then after you decide to accept a certain level of discomfort, what do you do when the hurt increases even more? 

At some point it gets ridiculous, but to be competitive you have to be willing to spend time in the pain cave.  How deep in the cave you decide to go is your decision.   There is a correlation here that goes without saying.  Except I just kind of said it…

I remember that near the end of one of my first cross races my legs were cooked and I got out of the saddle to accelerate and I had nothing left.  It took all I had not to collapse onto my top tube. I was lucky to get my butt back onto my saddle. 

As I close the door on the recovery chapter and embark on the hard training chapter I am reminded that in addition to having a willingness to invest the time and effort into training there is a toll that must be paid for racing success. That toll is a tolerance and acceptance of discomfort. 

Koobi, a company that makes some awesome saddles has a tagline: Speed = Comfort.  I would not disagree; but I would add that sustained speed is often the result of sustained discomfort.  I’m not saying we should look for pain, but I will say that if we want to be fast then when pain comes calling we can’t close the door, or turn and run.

At work later in the day I went up some stairs and almost stumbled on my first step because my legs were sore.  I just smiled.

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