The second most popular question I am asked, after “what nationality are you?” is “what motivates you to keep training hard year after year?” I’m Cuban and Italian and I was basically born motivated (and angry) however, when I really think about the longevity of my training, I can narrow it down to a few things.

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One: I Love It

I don’t wake up every morning excited to train. Ok, fine so most mornings I do but, I go though a lot of downs, lack of motivation and general feelings of blah toward my training. I also definitely have that little voice in my head saying:

You’re too old

You’re doing too much

You should get a grown-up job (i.e. make more money)

You’re never going to the Olympics so what’s the point?

But, I simply ignore it and realize how very lucky I am that, after all these years, I still love to lace up my running shoes, or strap on my bike helmet or suction my goggles to my face and get after it!

That is the best way I can explain it – I just simply love to swim, bike and run.

Two: Training Helps Manage My Anxiety

I just recently read All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker. There is a passage in the book that talks about people with generalized anxiety disorders and I’ve never heard it described quite so perfectly:

“We are all (most of us) at times overwhelmed by our feelings. Think about the first time you fell in love or the first moment you saw your newborn baby. Perhaps you experienced profound fear in some kind of near accident, or extreme rage when someone hurt you or your family intentionally. You might go days without eating much, without sleeping through the night, without having control of your thoughts as they fixated on the source of the disruption to normal life. You may think you feel “happy” if the source of the disruption is positive – “falling in love,” for example. But it is not happiness. […] Actual “happiness” is when you sleep though the night next to your new love, knowing she is here to stay. Imagine never getting out of that settled place after a disruption, and instead feeling that new, powerful emotion all the time.”

While my anxiety is not severe, I feel like I live in a constant “unsettled” state. I’m always thinking after X,Y, or Z happens I will be able to relax. Well, X,Y and Z have come and gone several times over and I can never seem to fully relax…unless I’m training hard. It’s truly the only time (besides sleep) when I’m completely and totally relaxed, when my brain is focused only on the task at hand and I can think of nothing but exactly what I’m doing in that moment.

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After a hard workout or race I always feel more relaxed, more in control and better able to handle whatever is on the agenda for the day.

And, if you have ever read anything about helping to control the symptoms of anxiety, the very first thing on the list is always exercise. Check.

Three: Time Management

I want to be very clear about this piece of my training puzzle. I do not have a full-time job that requires me to be in an office building during certain, specified hours. My kids are 7 years-old and no longer need round the clock care and are often at camp or in school for several hours a day. My freelance job offers a great deal of freedom in my schedule and, most of the time, I can control my work flow.

That said, I get up at 5am every morning to get two hours (hopefully) of uninterrupted work time. After I bring the boys to camp I do 1-2 hours of training before heading home to do more work. After I pick up the boys in the afternoon I spend time with them and then do laundry, cleaning, meal prep, etc.

I often sweat it out in my basement before anyone wakes up on the weekends.

I often sweat it out in my basement before anyone wakes up on the weekends.

Yes, I have a lot more freedom than someone who has a 8-5 job in an office building however, I have also had that kind of job and was up at 4:00am running or going to the gym. I can tell you that if I needed or wanted a full-time job I would do it all over again and somehow fit in my training.

I have trained though vacations, kids being sick, and many family and friend commitments by waking up before any human being should, to get my training in. There are people out there who work three jobs, manage four kids and train for an Ironman.

My point is, you can do it if you want to do it, regardless of your schedule.

Four: My Health

My mom died from cancer when I was 17. The thought of leaving my kids before I have the opportunity to watch them grow up, is one of my biggest fears. When my mom was my age, she spent most of her time getting chemo treatments in a hospital. She could never run or cycle or swim.

I train for my mom, who never could.

I train for my kids so they see what healthy living means.

I train for myself.

I train for life.

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Why do you train?

What is your biggest motivator?

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