What's your motivation? ... A question I've had to ask myself and wrestle with quite a bit over the last couple of months.
It was a tough question for me to answer honestly.
Here's what I've come up with -- my motivation is to be healthy. Period. Seems like a reasonable motivation. One that is shared by millions of people living today.
Now let's figure out what that means.
I had always thought that I wanted to be the 65 year old beast out there beating up the younger guys on a triathlon or marathon course. To me, that was the epitome of health. You want health personified? Look at the older people lining up at the start of an endurance race -- THAT'S healthy!
I have an "end" in mind that I want to reach -- I want to dance at my grandkids weddings. I want to go on hiking trips with my GREAT grandkids. I want people to whisper behind my back -- "that guy is EIGHTY? He looks SIXTY!" I want to roll around in the flowers with puppies in 2081. OK...taking it a little too far, but you get the idea.
I had the "end" down...but I now believe that my "means" to that end were way, way off.
What answering the question of motivation has taught me is that those "old" people doing endurance races aren't necessarily healthy -- they're either lucky OR they got a late start and haven't been doing endurance races since they were in their 20s (that's more likely the case).
They're some of the few humans on Earth who have a chassis and motor built to last much longer than the average bear's. Just like there are some people who can eat 10 donuts and keep their blood sugar low and stay thin, unlike people like me who smell brownies and get an insulin spike (haha...oh wait, no, I'm serious, that actually happens to me, I've checked). But that's a different article.
Back to the "old" people. They are an extremely rare breed -- the ones who start at a young age, never rest, and are still competing into their 60s.
I've realized that the last seven years of never taking significant time to rest, and ALWAYS having a race (or five) on the schedule had completely run me into the ground -- physically, metabolically, mentally.
So what was my motivation for doing endurance training and races?
The motivation for doing my first event (Dallas Marathon '06) was because a friend asked me to do it. I had just lost a bunch of weight after hovering around 205 pounds for 6 years (post-college football days in which I topped out at 230) and was working out 6 days a week (strength training and short, intense intervals on the track). I was down around 175.
Looking back, I was almost healthy. I say 'almost' because I was still eating grains every day and many, horrifyingly terrible pounds of sugar on my "cheat" day once a week. (I would wake myself up from my Sunday afternoon nap to eat a Snickers...true story)
After that first marathon experience, my motivation was not health -- it was finishing a marathon in under 3:20. A completely valid goal which stoked the competitive fire within me. Then, when I failed the next year to break 3:20, I needed something to get my "mind right" so I did an Olympic Triathlon in 2008.
I loved that experience and signed up for another one that year, which led me into the triathlon world, which led me to put Ironman on my radar, which led to more triathlons, more training, longer training...and no rest.
I can say that, looking back, health was absolutely not my goal. To me, health was the byproduct of all the training I was doing.
So -- my motivation was twofold: LOVE of the sport & competing and the feeling of strength that comes from knowing not very many people were doing what I was doing on Saturday morning...which was typically riding my bike or running for hours and hours.
(As I sit here on a Saturday morning writing this, I'm realizing it's the first Saturday morning during football season that I haven't been out running or riding since 2005).
Now, is there anything wrong with the two motivations that fueled my training and race schedule? Absolutely not.
As Jason Seib (my new mentor and role model -- he is the knight, I am yon squire) likes to say, there's nothing wrong with playing in the NFL -- but the motivation for playing is NOT health. It's love of the game and/or money. NOT health. Don't believe him? Just watch a game this Sunday or ask any NFL player you hang out with, whichever is easier.
Same goes for endurance training/races. I'm not saying that endurance events are the devil or that they should be banned for all eternity. I'm also not saying I will never compete in another distance event (my bike is too stinkin' expensive for me to completely give it up -- correction...BIKES are too expensive).
I'm just saying that as long as health is my #1 priority, I will focus on being healthy and not running myself quite literally into the ground training and racing. And when I do another endurance event, it will be an isolated event with LOTS of rest and recovery afterwards because now I know what that kind of training does to my body. Like Jim Laird says, running for an hour for your health is basically like running from a bear for an hour -- don't think that stresses your body out???
Read the last few posts before this one and you'll get an idea of what I was going through back in June. I was advised (by Seib) to do NOTHING for 2 months and to "call him in the morning."
The end of my two months is today.
I like to read books and listen to podcasts. I HIGHLY recommend Seib and Sarah Fragoso's podcast .
Two books I've read during the last two months are Mark Sisson's Primal Blueprint and Seib's The Paleo Coach.
Sisson's book is based on the 10 laws of being as healthy a human being as you can possibly be.
The 10 Primal Blueprint laws are:
1. Eat Plants and Animals
2. Avoid Poisonous Things
3. Move Frequently at a Slow Pace
4. Lift Heavy Things
5. Sprint Once in a While
6. Get Adequate Sleep
8. Get Adequate Sunlight
9. Avoid Stupid Mistakes
10. Use Your Brain
I don't want to put words in his mouth, but Seib's "commandments" are a bit more direct: move slow, lift heavy things, get mobile (as in stretching and flexibility).
That's what I plan to do to get healthy. Over the course of the next few days/weeks, I will break down exactly what each of those things mean and how I will implement them into my daily life.
I'll also talk about how people can train for a marathon or Ironman and still have weight to lose, why calories-in calories-out is complete garbage, why dietary fat will NOT make you fat, and how you can get better sleep.
As a disclaimer, if you want to know what I believe about fitness, nutrition, meditation, etc...just go read The Paleo Coach and listen to Seib's podcast. He's way smarter than me anyway.
I don't do the Paleo "diet" and I'm not out to find the ONE THING that will make me healthy.
This is a journey. And part of my journey was 7 years doing non-stop endurance training and races (33 to be exact). That part of my journey is over. I'm a better person because of that phase. I learned a lot - just like I learned a lot through my 18-month vegan experiment. But now it's on to find the way to get to the "end" that I have imagined for myself for as long as I've cared about the future.
And I thank Mark Sisson, Jason Seib, Jim Laird, Robb Wolf, and many others in that "camp" for helping me figure out what it means to answer this question:
How can I be the healthiest human being I can possibly be?
And isn't it funny that the now large group of people who know how to be truly healthy is considered a "camp" and the men and women preaching what I have accepted as truth are "outcasts" to the eyes of conventional thinking?
Hopefully that will change soon...
So ... what's your motivation?