Monthly Archives: May 2016

The Struggle for Less

Like most athletes and a good proportion of the people with whom I associate, I’m pretty Type A. I generally internalize my nature so as to avoid being a hypercompetitive d0bag, but the instincts are there. Give me a goal, however arbitrary, and I’m likely to strive for it. Show me a benchmark, however meaningless, and I’ll probably try to exceed it.

Take, for example, my the activity tracking function on my beloved Garmin Fenix 3, for which my daily step goal is dynamically adjusted based on recent activity levels–put another way, the more I’ve moved recently, the higher my goal.  It stands to reason that if I’ve been particularly active recently, I might need some rest, not more activity. Yet the goal keeps creeping upward, and I feel compelled to achieve it, however arbitrary or potentially detrimental to my athletic performance.

On any given day or week, and in addition to the aforementioned step goal, I find myself assessing and analyzing (1) time spent training (overall and by sport), (2) training stress score (daily/weekly), and (3) distance covered.  While certainly relevant, none of these metrics have any direct bearing on my co-equal goals of running faster and getting stronger, but I some part of me is inclined to fixate on them.  As a result, I sometimes lose the forest among the trees, and I focus on whether I’ve put in my 12 hours per week rather than how I performed during each of those hours.  It’s destructive.  It’s detrimental.  It’s a really hard habit to break.

Since I first started writing and thinking about this post in February, I’ve ebbed and flowed in my progress towards resolving this shortcoming.  My compulsion to do more won out more than I’d care to admit, but I think I’m finally getting it in check.  Being busy with work and thus pressed for time has proved advantageous in this respect–when I simply can’t train as much as I’d like, it’s easier to focus on results.  And, objectively, it’s about the results.  I like working out, but not as much as I love seeing improvements.

The lesson here, if there is one, is to focus on the outcomes from day one.  Don’t let yourself get caught up in the inputs–how much you’re training, how long, how far–and concentrate on the progress.  If an extra easy run impacts a key workout, skip it–they’re junk miles.  If another day of lifting makes you too sore to hit a new max, skip it–you’re just tiring yourself out.  Unless you’re truly doing it for the love of the playing (which is entirely, perfectly legitimate), sport is about results.  All that matters is who’s fastest/strongest on game day.  Unless your goal is to train more than you ever have, the time you put in is relevant to but not determinant of success.  If you don’t know why you’re doing a particular workout, if it doesn’t serve an explicit purpose, consider resting.  I’m stronger, faster, and leaner than I was when I let the compulsion take control, and that’s all the reinforcement I need.

So much for that!

Back in December, I set forth a list of goals for 2016.  The last of them involved writing a blog post every week, and yet my last was about six weeks ago.  Ironically, the next post I had planned involved checking in on my goals, which to that point had been going swimmingly.  Well, so much for that!

I’m not afraid to admit my failures, though. So let’s check in on my progress, six weeks after I meant to.

Edward’s 2016 Goals and Aspirations

  1. Run another marathon, barring injury*  Not yet, but I’m cautiously optimistic.
  2. Climb Mt. Ranier (scheduled for September!)  Still scheduled
  3. Bike the length of the C&O Canal (ideally in one day)  I’d actually forgotten about this, but it’s still conceivable.
  4. Add appreciably to my max deadlift, squat, and bench  Making progress here.  I think I could add 25%+ by year end, despite not doing a lot of heavy lifting.
  5. Read (not listen to) at least two books*  Jumped the gun on this by reading an entire book in December.  Still plenty of time, though.
  6. Develop conversational proficiency in Spanish  I was using Duolingo regularly through March, then that tailed off as work picked up.  Getting back in the habit, and making limited progress.
  7. Donate any clothing I haven’t worn in the previous six months and generally maintain a low-clutter home  Good on the clothing front, less so on the home front.  The Missus and I are making a concerted effort 
  8. Cook at least one new recipe every two weeks*  Yeah, about that… We haven’t done much cooking at all recently, and what we have cooked has been pretty slapdash.  But we were on track up until March, and I’m confident I can catch up.
  9. Create at least six recipes of my own.  Already posted two, so actually ahead of pace for once.
  10. Write at least one blog post per week (hopefully about some of those recipes)  Already discussed. If we measure by average posts/week, there’s still hope.

Has anyone else let their goals fall by the wayside?  My biggest error was not posting these somewhere visible, where I can be regularly reminded of them.  That will be fixed by tomorrow!