Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Company Time

It's hard to get going some days. Hard to make it on time. Hard to keep going. And hard to put the effort in beyond merely logging the meters or the miles.

You don't get through an Ironman without a decent level of self-motivation. But like most people, I have a naughty little lazy monkey sitting on one shoulder, whispering into one ear. urging me to quit about 50% of the time. Maybe you know this guy. I think he says slightly different things to all of us, but his mission is basically the same: he's there to hold us back. 

Mine tells me about all the things I need to get done around the house before I can get on the bike. He tells me I'm too slow to keep up with the Bagel Ride. He convinces me that I don't deserve to feel so uncomfortable, that I'll be good enough without pushing so hard. He checks my watch every thirty seconds. Mostly, he talks about nothing and everything all at once, distracting me from the kind of focused effort that will make me a stronger, faster athlete.

The Varsity Kids, a casual weekly ride in which I get my butt handed to me by my faster friends and yet keep coming back for more.
I rely on multiple strategies to outsmart this little sucker. Mostly, I depend on company. Solo time is great, but there's no doubt there's strength in numbers. 

Here are some ways it works. Left to my own devices, I'm almost always late getting started on a workout. Then I come up against a firm deadline (like work) and I have to end early, even when I feel like continuing. What's the fix? I make a date to meet someone else at a specific time, especially if it's a time of day when I'm especially vulnerable to the madness of the monkey.

5:30 am meetup.
Here's another: I don't usually work all that hard. I'm pretty good at logging the required hours in my training plan, but I log a lot-- I mean A LOT--if "junk miles". I believe I will someday find the inner drive to push really hard up a hill or do speed work on the track, to redline it in the pool, the way most of my friends do. Until then, I'm counting on those friends to make me do it. It's humbling to ride or run or swim with faster people, but it's also a surefire way to get faster yourself.

My coach texted me an said he was coming to get me in 5 minutes for a lake swim, the first of the season. I was not in the mood. I said yes anyway.

I'm also not so great at going the extra mile, which all my successful athlete friends do literally, all the time. So I'm trying to say "yes" to spontaneous invitations when they come, even if that monkey goes kicking and screaming. I'm never sorry I do.

It goes way beyond fixing my flaws: this time with friends is FUN. On our Thursday morning dawn ride, 6 or 7 of us tear through the deserted downtown streets with abandon.

"We're a gang!!!" someone shouted last week, and we were all feeling it, the glee and giddy freedom we felt zooming around the neighborhood on bikes as kids.

Besides, friends not only make us better athletes and happier people; they make us healthier. My friend Dr. Kate Killoran--an athlete, a physician and a cancer survivor--just published a great little article about the very real, proven benefits that good relationships have on our overall health. A longitudinal Harvard study that's been tracking men since the 1930s has found that relationships are a major indicator of health and longevity. "Being more socially connected to family, friends, and community led to happier, healthier people who lived longer." Kate writes.

So how to connect with like-minded sporty people?

Swimming groups like Masters clubs are great ways to get a good workout, improve stroke, and make friends. Here in midcoast Maine, we have an exceptionally friendly, welcoming group that encourages participates to modify workouts as needed. Come as you are, and you'll fit in. They currently meet Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings. Contact the Penobscot Bay YMCA for info.

There's a spirited and fun bunch at the newly formed Trail Runners of Midcoast Maine. They have a ~5 miles group run on Monday nights called "Monday Night Dirt" with a 6:00 pm start time at the Camden Snow Bowl. They also have a "Wednesday Morning Romp" with an 8:50 am start time. 

Finally, our local bike shop, Sidecountry Sports offers welcoming "no-drop" group rides on Wednesday evenings at both the Rockland store (5:30) and the new location in Belfast (at 6:00). These rides just can't be beat: chances are good you'll work harder and have a blast doing it.

Sidecountry's popular family rides are also starting up on Sunday mornings soon. And the kids' Youth Explorers, the phenomenal mountain bike program for kids of all ages gets going at the Snow Bowl and runs June 13- August 15th, 6:00-7:30 pm.

I'm all for the benefits of solo time, but if you're being held back, maybe it's time to lose that little monkey in a crowd.

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