This job has given me another new perspective on exercise, performance, fitness, GROUP fitness, and motivation. Everyone who is active duty in this branch (well, any branch) of the military is required to take a fitness test at least once a year. It is an interesting study of sports psychology --particularly motivation. A lot of these people's sole motivation is to keep their job and/or rank, an external reward. A large number of these people hate running. They get no internal satisfaction from getting out on the road and using their own energy to move; there's no happiness that comes from pushing past limits; they don't get that accomplished feeling from finishing a tough workout successfully. How miserable must running be to them!
I'm thankful I enjoyed running even before I found out I had to take the fitness test as a job requirement. So I'll admit to doing a few pushups and a minute or two worth of situps in the weeks leading up to the test. I even went out and ran the 1.5 mile on the track to make sure this wasn't going to be an issue. After all, the 7:10 pace I needed to run to get maximum points is significantly slower than I've run, oh, 8 and a half times that far (half marathon). It was easy. Regardless, the looming test was starting to stress me out, and I finally pinpointed why. I've spent the last year or more calming down my competitive side, which used to be key in my motivation. When you can't manage to perform at even a fraction of your previous ability, it's something you have to do. Anyway, as the test got closer, I started feeling some competitive energy from some girls who were also testing. They're in good shape for the average person, but far from competitive athletes that I'm used to getting whooped by. The pressure was on to max out the test. And for the nervousness I felt, you'd have thought it was a championship race. And I didn't like the feeling. I didn't like the competitive energy, I didn't like the pre-test jitters, and I didn't like all the talk of how I was going to "do just fine." I finally came out of my self-depreciating shell long enough to verbalize that I'd run a half marathon at a faster clip, only to get a mild ridiculing for it.
It turned out to be an easy test to max. I did a few extra pushups and situps, just for good measure, not to rub it in to the competitive girls who failed to max pushups, of course. That my scrawny little non-swimming arms could endure longer than theirs actually was a surprise to me, since they are the self-labeled group fitness "Divas." I think the mentality around these parts is that the number of group fitness classes -- in particular, spinning, body pump, and yoga -- that you can complete in a week is the barometer of fitness. Extra points if you taught them.
After being pushed into attending the body pump instructor training, I quickly realized that I am not a group fitness instructor at heart. I do love teaching spinning, but I like to teach how I ride, and it's not like an aerobics class. I have enjoyed attending body pump classes, but that's where it ends. I don't want to spend my time learning counts to a bunch of songs for body pump; this isn't making me smarter, it's just wasting my time. I think people assume that athletic types are automatically fitness fanatics. There's a big difference. I'm going to have to work on changing my label around here.
This weekend will be the first real race of the year. It's another reverse triathlon, like I ended my season with last year, but shorter. I've always considered my strength to be specifically running off the bike, which means my edge has been taken away. But that's how it goes around these dry parts. I better work on making cycling off the run my thing. I would like to forewarn the faster swimmers that contrary to what the race information suggests, I will not be stopping at the end of the pool lanes to let faster swimmers go by. I'm just not doing it. Nobody pulls over to the side of the road and lets the faster bikes go by, even when it's congested. No fair.
I'm excited to pull out the new Zipps and race gear for a real test of my fitness. I think.