We’re a couple of months into the year, one that according to the Chinese zodiac will reward the hard working. I’m embracing these bright light possibilities, with a change in training stimulus and getting psyched for the next part of the race season. Though this also gets the nerves going, and I’ve been thinking about how to make sure the finish line is a fulfilling one.
What I’ve been up to
I am still at home base in the Sunshine Coast getting in a little bit of work, and lots of training and recovery. I’ve started some slight changes in training methodologies, integrating more polarisation on a weekly scale, some days jammed full of hard sessions, and some swim only days. Also much bolder strength work, to get the muscle gains without my heart rate super high all the time which takes me longer to recover from. I’m feeling the extra ‘spark’ come through in the hard stuff which is a very nice change. The overall scheme would be defined as diligent and consistent (one of the magic ingredients I’m hoping to have long term possession of!). My Polar graph is shining green with productive instead of orange bandaid overreaching notifications, alongside my TrainingPeaks graph which is building a gradual gradient instead of a blue zigzagged art piece.
I’ve also got previous mishaps at the front of pinboard, because who has time to learn things twice! Despite my significant daily dose of Sunshine Coast vitamin D and a calcium supplement my boney heath isn’t far off with the retirement village across the road. Their Monday morning aqua aerobics classes look lovely, but for me this means: Running alternate days, some formwork, a decent load of treadmill time, wearing 4-5 different Asics shoe models to keep my feet adaptable, bodyweight and activation exercises (maybe I’ll do an Insta video because a few people have been interested), quitting contraceptive hormones (I might be a slow learner on this one but my emotional moods have reduced 10 fold), also going easy on the simple carbs and obsessive on the vegetables, hallelujah reduced inflammation.
Race day hustle
I had 3 pre-season races over December, Jan, they were thrilling, but also where I realised I’ve lost a tiny bit of race day ‘hustle’. Nothing to do with my equipment or physical training, but some sort of inner edge. Post-Bahrain bike crash I suffered some decent discomfort from a broken rib and bruising around my back and shoulder. Combined with asthma and hayfever season, breathing wasn’t as easy as it should be! The direct physical implications kind of forced me to look into strategies.
Ensuring our survival since our hunter-gather days, our fight or flight mechanism is activated so our bodies can react to the emergency - Adrenaline is released, so we can run faster. The heart speeds up to pump blood efficiently to our arms and legs. Long term bodily functions, growth, digestion and our reproductive system are shut down. The body evacuates any waste matter to be as light as possible to flee, (explains the pre-race portaloo disaster). Our skin goes clammy because blood is being pushed to our heart and muscles to reduce blood loss in case of injury. We feel butterflies as the digestive system shuts down. Our mouth goes dry because fluid is being diverted to nonessential locations. And our brain gathers as much information as possible from our senses, previous memories of similar situations as well as those we’ve experienced second hand. (1) For me, this totally recaps race morning! However, overall it's a negative response that we can’t handle too often.
In the past my ‘raceday edge’ was racing off a stressed state, using adrenaline as a primary fuel source. It was super effective for performance but less for my health. It does nothing good for hormonal balance, and I had niggles and flu type sickness every 3-4 weeks.
I’ve learnt that with physical training (unfortunately because that would be much simpler), repeating the same stuff that worked a treat for us a couple of years ago, doesn’t give us the same results now. Our bodies reach new stages and need constant adaptation. And the same goes for our mental strategies.
With last years bout of injury, I developed some aspects in favor of a stronger psychological approach. It made me refine my why, made me more determined and hungry, and made me appreciate patience. But I think I missed the race day familiarity, my minds association with positive experiences, and general confidence.
I’ve been honing in on some cross-disciplinary info (Ted talks are cool for this), on peoples whys, drivers and hows. The common denominator is that people have constant challenges and obstacles, and often something to prove. But their inner hustle is always very personal.
Though one idea that stuck with me: Calmness, a characteristic attributed to lots of top pro cyclists, being alert, yet relaxed, collected and composed. At least on the outside. Not wasting energy on anxious and negative responses. That energy can’t be destroyed, only converted from one form to another. Occasionally we wake up in a shit mood for seemingly no reason, yet have a sore lower back or tight hip flexors. The theory is that physical and mental pain is different, but to our mind, the same, both are negative energies that are transmitted to the spinal cord, then translated to the brain. So negative thoughts, feelings, memories, and muscular stresses are treated the same. The only way to get out of your shit mood is to go and do something physical. What makes it interesting is that our respiratory system governs the transportation of our pain. And explains the successfulness of mindfulness, meditation, yoga, five Tibetan rites, Wim Hof breathing techniques etc that I’ve been giving a bit of a go. (2)
My mantra-ised version: turning negative energies into positive energies. Staying calm and converting any anxious thoughts, into heat, sweat, and inertia.
I’m not yet 100% on my equation to rediscover my healthy race day hustle and finish line contentment. I don't think it's the type of thing we can force. I’ve been working on it in training, and a few opportunities coming up - Mooloolaba Tri 17th March and Ironman 70.3 Taiwan 24th March.
What’s your race day hustle?
1 Anna Black
2 Dr. Eric Goodman