Beating The Ironman Blues
I would love to call what happened last week the taper blues but in reality I wasn't even in taper, close but not officially, it was just a shitty week. It could have been the weather as mother nature decided to take a dump and forget that it is supposed to be April not December, could have been fatigued, or honestly it could have just been one of those weeks. I spent the week sluggish, slow, feeling slightly sick, exhausted, unmotivated, and all around extremely negative. So negative in fact it was better that I not speak as I found I had nothing positive to say. Truthfully I am not sure what the cause of it was or why I couldn't shake myself out of it. Finally, after a day or so of trying to force myself out of it I gave in and let it ride. I knew that eventually I would snap out of it and trying to force myself out of it actually was making it worse.
With anything that we do in life there are ups and downs, moments of greatness and then moments of negativity and/or self doubt. Ironman training is no different and after spending months riding the high of an awesome and very positive five (5) month build for Ironman Texas my down just hit me harder than normal. Sometimes we can move through it quickly and other times we have to just go with it and know that we will bounce out of it.
Maneuvering our way through the mental and emotional ups and downs of training is just as tough if not more tough than the race itself. Here are some tricks I've used in the past to help me shake the "shit" of Ironman training:
Talk about how you are feeling: A lot of what Ironman training is solo. Even if you attend group sessions such as masters or cycling classes it is still your journey and only your journey, so we spend a lot of time in our heads and that can be very exhausting. It is also the tendency to constantly put out an endless stream of motivation and uplifting messages that when you feel down in the dumps it can be even more tremendous.
Rather than bottling it all up and hoping that it goes away on its own talk with someone about it; a friend, family member, another triathlete, and specifically your coach. That third party observer can be the best person to help not only bring you out of your funk but remind you of how far you've come.
Put one foot in front of the other It sounds silly but continuing on with your routine and hitting your workouts really helps. Now if you are in an extreme state of exhaustion due to the funk you are in then please take a break but if its just a funk sometimes the maintenance of the routine plus nailing a workout while feeling down can be a big boost of confidence. That boost may be exactly what you need to break the spell.
Remember your why It always comes down to your why. What goal or dream are you chasing? Why are you doing what you are doing? When its been months and months of continual training, or maybe even years, it is easy to loose sight of your why.
Remembering can be going back and reading a journal entry, writing it down again, journaling, talking with a friend, or maybe just sitting down with your eyes closed picturing that dream you've been reaching for. Go back and find what it is that gives you the goosebumps, that gets you out of bed, and makes shiver with anticipation.
Visualization You could probably combine visualization with remembering your why because you end up doing a little bit of both. But what I am really getting at here is the visualization where you close your eyes and picture yourself on the course, or crossing the finish line. Draw on old memories, or even what you think it'll be like when you cross. The more you picture yourself already completing something and completing it with strength and passion the more apt you are to have that mindset.
Read (or watch) something motivating We've all finished watching the Ironman World Championships and basically gone straight to our computer and signed up for an Ironman before our brain tricked us out of it. When you're having a moment of self doubt turn back to that thing, whether it be a tv show, a documentary, podcast, or book that motivates you and engross yourself in it. Allow yourself to fully give into the feelings you get when finishing whatever it is that does that for you.
Turn the music up When you are living in moments of doubt and lack of motivation it can be tough to get yourself out the door for your run, swim, bike, or whatever is on the schedule for the day. Even when you do get yourself it is keeping that upbeat tempo that becomes even tougher, well, just turn your music up. Listening to music that you like causes your brain to release dopamine which is a neurotransmitter that helps provide feelings of happiness.
Find something with an upbeat tempo, fast pace, or motivating words and turn it up a little bit louder than normal. Let the beat of the music push you along. Loose yourself to the music. It can make even the hardest part of a workout a little easier as the repetitive beat triggers a co-ordination and execution of repetitive muscle movements therefor you are basically stimulating your muscles to move through an outside source.
Part of what makes this journey so addicting is these ups and downs. While they are no fun while you are smack in the middle of them when you come out of it you feel so much stronger and like you can tackle the world. Just remember that when you find yourself going through a moment like this 1) it is part of the journey it will pass and 2) there are plenty of others who have gone through or are going through it right at that moment as well you are not alone, even the best of us go through it.