Thursday, March 31, 2011

Competition Motivation

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.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Running DC

I've always been interested those running tours that you can do in big cities, so I did my own around DC. It was a really great way to see a lot of sights. Jeremy was headed out for a meeting in the District, so I went along for the ride, and to miss a few days of work. Before leaving I had planned first where to run. I found this awesome trail that goes on for about 20 miles on the Virginia side of the Potomac. It was pretty crowded on the weekend mornings, with all the "warm" weather they were having (so we heard; I don't think 45 is all that warm). But the flowers were budding and some leaves were appearing on the willows. Running right on a real river reminded me so much of Mud Island. And the river was just as dirty too.

We ended up running all around the mall, several times, by the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Washington Monument, the yet-to-bud cherry trees, the Capitol, the colorful townhouses behind the Capitol, the WWII and Vietnam War Memorials, and Arlington National Cemetery, for starters. 

And a brief word about the fuel that I ran on. When your usual dining out options include one, maybe two restaurants in town, you might get a little overwhelmed by the choices in a big city. I found every meal to be excellent, and we've even repeated a few restaurants. I'm not sure Alamogordo has heard of Indian food, so I'll be the first to open the Chipotle-style Indian restaurant like they have in DC. And the cafe in the American Indian museum we visited thrice and had different, unusual, and delicious selections every time.

I was  happy to be back home for the warm temperatures, blue skies and work that I love. I think I'll start a running tour of Alamogordo. You know they charge around $10/mi for those? I'd spend a mile talking about that burning smell that persists when it's even remotely warm out, while viewing the mountains and learning how the basin dropped between the ranges. The next mile, I'd talk about all the varieties of cacti we have. We could look for snakes the third mile. And for the hill runners, we could go up in the mountains and do some cougar and bear tracking. It's spring! Time for those baby bears to come out and play. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I have credentials

I'm finally official. That USAT test took me longer to complete that I'd planned, so I only sent it in a few weeks ago. Then I stressed that I'd made too many mistakes. And just before I emailed them to bug the poor coordinator about it, I got this.

So now I can start helping people train for triathlons, because you know, I haven't been for the last however many years. Coincidentally as I should be at the top of my training game with this nice paper in my possession (right?), I feel like I'm falling worse and worse out of shape. I think someone borrowed my lungs and forgot to give them back. We went on that group ride in the "big city" yesterday and while I kept trying to find that gear I used to have, it's long gone. And didn't I just run a marathon 6 or 7 weeks ago? 10 miles today was more than enough. Ug.

I'll stop my complaining. After talking to Damie today, I decided I'd appreciate the fact that, unlike the pros, when I'm having a bad day, there are no cameras in my face shooting the evidence. Nobody is riding their motorcycle beside me (falling over because I'm going so slow) asking me how I feel and catching the pukage as it comes out of my mouth. "So Joy, we know that you're trying to run by heart rate and going up a slight incline, but a 9:42 pace is all you got in you?" Yes. For right now it is. And call me Coach Joy.