I write this knowing the pressure I feel is a privilege. Billie Jean King tweeted those exact words to Serena Williams a while ago and it really struck a chord with me and, at the time, I didn’t know it was the title of King’s memoir. The pressure is a privilege. The pressure I put on myself to perform, to train for hours a day and to reach big goals is all a privilege in my life and I never lose sight of that. What I’m struggling with now is, what I want to do with it.
My workouts had started to become work. In the last couple of weeks, I looked at my training calendar with a sigh thinking “how am I going to do this?” Not just physically but logistically. I have two very active eight year-old sons, a puppy and a husband who would prefer I not spend three hours out on a ride and run on Saturdays. The pressure to simply complete my workouts started becoming an issue and, when I sat down with my best friend on a Tuesday afternoon during the boys spring break and started telling her how I felt, she cut me off mid-sentence and said “maybe you should just take a year off.”
That is when I started to feel relief wash over me. It’s almost as if I was waiting for someone to give me permission to quit.
Since I’m an obsessive planner, I have already started thinking about the summer and how my training will fit into our vacations. We have a two week getaway planned right before the Triathlon National Triathlon Championships in Omaha. The issue here is not wanting to be gone running and biking for hours on end while my family is enjoying vacation time without me. I also refuse to swim in the ocean (which is the only body of water we will be near) and I won’t have time to drive to a pool facility, do a workout and drive home, before 8am. Or, at least I don’t want to.
The red flag here is stressing out over a vacation that is three months away. I’m also thinking “stress” and “vacation” should not be in the same sentence, even though my kids will be on that vacation.
This avalanche of feelings started because my workouts took a nose dive and I actually had the opposite feelings I have had in the past – – I didn’t really care. I got sick and didn’t workout for four days, missing key workouts and I didn’t care. One weekend I even skipped my long ride and run because I just couldn’t figure out how to squeeze three hours of training time out of a very busy weekend where we were away overnight and again, I did not care. I was relieved to not have to strategize a workout and instead, just enjoy the weekend. What a concept!
I want to stress that my coach did not say one word about it. In fact, she noted one week that there are no “make up sessions…if you miss a workout, it’s just life so move on,” because she knows I need those kinds of memos…or at least, I used to.
I simply stopped caring and I started to feel old, fat and slow. I have never felt like this in the 17 years I have been running and racing and it scared me.
I know when I’m focused and my head is in the game and my head was somewhere up my ass.
THE MENTAL GAME
After talking with my husband and with my coach (separately!), I decided I just needed to give myself the option of quitting and the option of failure. The pressure is a privilege but too much pressure for the wrong reasons is a recipe for disaster and I was creating it all by myself.
I also came to the realization that I wasn’t loving my workouts because I’m always alone. Although I love and crave time alone, the hours I spend with nothing but my thoughts gets to be too much.
As an example, last week I spent 2 hours swimming, 2 1/2 hours running and 4 hours riding my bike with zero music or podcasts. And I do that week after week for months on end. Although sometimes I listen to music or a podcast on a run, it’s no substitute for conversation.
Triathlon is a lonely sport and I definitely miss the days of long runs with good friends, even if those runs were once a week or even once a month.
And, if you’re thinking I should join a group ride or run please see “The Planning” above as most of those take place on Saturday mornings or in the evenings which are not options for me.
This week I had a really good run. Really good. I hit my splits, I felt fast and light and invigorated when I returned home and it felt fantastic. I also had just a run that day and nothing else which is an anomoly.
When I think about going to the Triathlon National Championship I still get that nervous excitement and I still want to see my name in the World Championship qualifying list. I’m still hungry to compete, I just need to make some changes to my training and change my mind about some things too.
Right now, I’m staying the course with my workouts and taking each day as it comes, never thinking too far into the future. I used to tell my personal training clients to think like recovering alcoholics and just take it one day at a time. I now need to take my own advice.
I’m back to thinking that each and every day I can run, bike and swim and feel the pressure of running my house, organizing my kids and family, writing for work and everything else that goes with a full and adventurous life is an absolute privilege.
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Have you felt like this with anything in your life, including running and racing? How do you deal?
Do you agree that pressure is a privilege?