I quit (training)

One week has passed since I put my extensive and probably unrealistic life goals out for public consumption. In the service of good habits and sheer willpower, I vowed to write again one week later.

Thanks to lots of little notes from friends and readers and the rush that comes with getting shit done, I’ve been high on order all week. I’m so energized I’ve even had a hard time sleeping. (Or maybe that’s the red wine—I haven’t been so good with following that particular goal on these rainy, windy nights!) Mapping out and planning, box-checking and list-making…bring it on.

It was a good week overall—minus a few mornings of 4-5 am toddler wake-ups. My Panda Planner arrived, but instead of attacking it right away, I decided to spend the final days of January preparing to be organized. (Triathlon coaches often refer to the first or preparatory phase as “training to train.”) I’ll write more about the planner soon, but it’s already helped me get my head in the game.

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Kayaking with my father in law in Florida earlier this month.

As I mentioned in my last post, even if I don’t achieve all of them, I’m going to use my goals and ideals at the very least as writing prompts. Today I’m tackling the toughest one first: exercise.

I’ve realized over the past few months, through conversations with loved ones and deep dives (like last week’s) into what I want to accomplish, that something needs to change in this arena. Visitors who stayed with us in the summer asked James what I was training for. The answer was nothing, technically, I just exercise daily—isn’t that a good thing? Still, their words echoed. What was this for, in my life, right now? What purpose did it serve, besides good health, vitality, and self-care?

Getting pregnant at the beginning of 2018 was like a great sigh of relief when it came to exercise. Training had become one of those well-worn grooves in my life. Pregnancy was the permission to take the break I needed. I had spent 2017 injured, and my last two Ironman races were disappointing, to say the least. I was addicted to that invincible feeling of being fit, to the endorphin rush of a run, to jumping off my bike trainer glistening with sweat. I loved the structure workouts gave to my days, the goals, the culture. But it was time for a break. I walked, hiked, did yoga, and swam, and ate a lot of baked goods.

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Cycling in SD, or the land of never-stop-training. And one of my favorite places on earth.

After I had Felix that September, I wasn’t in a huge rush to get back at it. I had healing to do and took advice from the conservative end of the postpartum exercise spectrum. This was fairly easy, given the impending winter and our ambitious travel schedule.

When we returned, however, so did the old flame. I started getting up for 6 am Masters swims with the Whistler Tri Club. I hired a personal trainer, did a mountain bike clinic, and eased back into running, surprised at how good it felt. I did winter in Whister right: cross-country skiling at Callaghan, an afternoon of downhill, yoga, weights, an indoor cycling.

Soon enough, a version of myself I recognized began to emerge from the cocoon of childbearing.

One of many summer treks up Big Burn on Blackcomb mountain.

One of many summer treks up Big Burn on Blackcomb mountain.

One of my summer's greatest accomplishments: mountain biking up Into the Mystic with Anita. (A 4-hour, 1400 meter day!)

One of my summer’s greatest accomplishments: biking up Into the Mystic into the alpine with Anita. (A 4.5-hour day!)

When I went back to work in April, I felt priorities begin to tighten. I set a new goal of getting at least an hour a day of something, whether it be a swim across Alta Lake, a Lost Lake mtb loop, or a 45-minute trail run. Despite only racing once all year (in June), getting back into training alone was a success. I also started experimenting with intermittent fasting to help me stay disciplined. (I took most of January off, but overall the lifestyle really works for me. For anyone who’s interested, I do 14:10.)

Whistler X Triathlon. Photo by Scott Robarts

Whistler X Triathlon. Photo by Scott Robarts

In November, we moved to a new city, and I solo parented for over a month. Working out was like an old friend, always there, no matter what time of day and in what weather, holding my hand as I discovered Victoria’s trails, pools and bike lanes. I got dropped on a group ride but made some friends in the process. I joined a local spin/yoga/functional fit studio and my inner gym rat rejoiced. I started Masters swimming and even had a decent running streak.

Soon the old demons came knocking: “But you only did yoga today, you should do a real workout.” Or “So-and-so has three kids and a full-time job and cooks gourmet meals and does macrame and still does ultra marathons.” Or, come 4 pm on any given day without exercise, a desperate drive to work out that rendered me irritable and selfish.

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A frigid ocean swim in Encinitas.

I’ve done a lot of soul-searching about this over the past few months, flip-flopping between who I used to be and who I am now. This past week, after sitting down and doing the “brain dump” that the Panda Planner community recommends (and seeing just how much I want to do this year) I decided that it was time to quit training. This doesn’t mean I’m taking up aquacise—my sports and activities will always be a priority for me. It’s the approach I need to quit. If I didn’t have a family and a home that need my love or didn’t have a list of projects as long as my arm, maybe that local 70.3 I’ve been eyeing would be in the cards. But I do have these things and I want to give them more than just my leftover time.

When my Garmin crapped out I took it as humorous confirmation that my new goals were on point. (They’re replacing it, yay!) Further, this past week I made my activities on Strava private and moved the app to the last page of my screen. (I’ve used Strava religiously over the past few years to track my workouts, to spy, to stay in touch—hell, even to flirt—but I realized I was just having FOMO most of the time and nobody cared if I swam 2500 or 2700 or ran 5.9 km on Tuesday evening. Of course, I couldn’t bring myself to stop tracking completely. Baby steps, people, baby steps.)

Getting a new fit on an old steed at Oak Bay Bicycles, one of

Getting a new fit on an old steed at Oak Bay Bicycles, one of my bike team’s generous sponsors.

The week behind me looked and felt different, but it was a happy one. A long family walk on Sunday. A spin class at Oak Bay Fitness on Monday. Running to pick up Felix with the stroller on Tuesday. On Wednesday, as it became apparent that I wasn’t going to get one of my usual activities in, I noticed irritation creep in. I recognized my inflexibility, determination that can veer toward the obsessive. I took Felix for a long walk in the rain to get groceries (and buy myself a new, inky black pen to use in my Panda Planer) and took another hard look at the picture. I came home feeling renewed. This is what worked with my day and my family and it was OK. I didn’t spontaneously combust. The next day, it was business as usual. Swims. Weights. Runs. More walks.

I’ve loosened up since that rainy Wednesday, which served as a proverbial stake in the ground. I’ve noticed a change in myself, and I think those around me have, too. I’ve by no means nailed it—it’s going to be a process that will likely get harder as the weather improves. I know I’ll have to revisit this topic often. And I still plan on working out as much as possible. But in that word lies the rub. I’ve taken steps toward redefining what possible looks like—steps toward backing off—and I feel freer and lighter already. If not in pounds, then in spirit.

For those of you trying to summon the resolve to quit something, I enjoyed reading the New York Times’ recent collection of stories on quitting here.