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.
[Tweet “Do you think the #pressure of #training and #racing is a priviledge? #train4life #thestruggleisreal”]
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?
so many thoughts on this.
from the fact I never really thought about how a TRI is much more lonely to train for than a race to the fact pressure is indeed a privilege BUT BUT BUT I also think (bear with me here) it’s ok to define stress and frazzle on our own terms.
a friend said to me once when I expressed similar sentiments to her about my life and use a similar disclaimer:
YOU DONT NEED TO BE HOMELESS AND LIVING ON THE STREETS TO HAVE STRESS. It’s OK this is your stress and to own it and feel it and lament it.
That’s struck with me
Especially when I get temped to us the #firstworldproblem disclaiimer.
This is exactly what I needed to hear!!! THANK YOU for understanding, for getting it and for passing on the words I needed to read! Truly.
I just had a very similar conversation with a friend who does tri’s. She’s upping her distance to half IM this summer and is ready to lose her mind in trying to squeeze in all the training along with her 3 very active kids and a full time job of working in the Cath Lab with crazy call hours. It can be overwhelming and you just want to say forget it because of the guilt of being away from family so much and too much alone time. I like your approach to one day at a time. It’s so easy to look ahead and feel the stress piling up as you need to cram ‘one more thing’ into an already full life. You will find the answer. I know this because you are a smart woman who knows what’s best for herself. xoxo
I cannot even imagine having a full time job and keeping up with it all! And yes, quitting is infinitely easier….but, but, but… thank you friend!
Pressure is definitely a privilege, and not a necessity. But needless pressure, and pressure that consumes you, is going to retard any progress or feelings of privilege. I feel like pressure for the sake of pressure is something that you take on, while if it was an intrinsic necessity (such as making enough money in order to feed your family), you might not feel pressure but instead just feel as if there is no other option?
Definitely not talking intrinsic pressure – nothing privileged about that! I have a choice in my pressure which is why the struggle!!
Yes and no. We get to run and train–so that kind of pressure, to do well at something like this, is a choice we make. So yes, it’s a privilege. But there’s another kind of pressure–to pay bills, to make ends meet, and I don’t know if that’s as much of a privilege.
But anyways, I feel you on this. I have to say that deciding not to do my marathon (altho I could always jump back in) but still train for it is kind of freeing. Knowing that I can’t push my pace right now and that the run/walk intervals are pretty much the only way I’m going any distance is also really nice! I won’t lie to you–having a half marathon this weekend and knowing that I’ll be run/walking it makes me feel a lot more relaxed. Is that wrong? Shouldn’t we be enjoying this?
“Freeing” is the perfect word and YES it’s supposed to be fun which is why, for the first time ever, I’m questioning it. I think I just need to change some things to my plan…and change my mindset too!! Thanks Wendy 🙂
I so get this Allie! The pressure is pressure that we put on ourselves because we have goals and we are lucky to be able to do these things. You do have to question things when stress comes into play. I have the same scheduling issues and issues with fitting in training as you. My husband supports but is sometimes not happy about the time that I need. And yes, the hours alone can be so hard. If only we lived close and then could make some of this work and train together!
If only!!!! Thank you so much for this and just understanding. I know you get it and can I just say one more time that I wish we lived closer? Ok, good 🙂 I’m still hopeful about the half IM with you in Sept!
I totally thought that kids were supposed to get MORE independent as they grow older?! Truth is they want and need you more than ever at this stage which is def the reason why I quit music on and also the reason why I am not running the marathon this year so I totally get alllll of this!! I absolutely think pressure to train is priceless only because I’m usually the only one around Training for anything. But unfortunately life doesn’t stop for races. I get all of this though. Big hugs. I’m here to support whatever you decide!
THANK YOU!!!! You obviously get it and have to make tough choices (like not running the marathon) b/c the kids of course are important but so are we, right? Just knowing you understand and struggle and are there for me is HUGE. xoxo
LOL at my on the train typos! I meant to say def the reason why “I quit my job” oy.
I’m going to try very hard to not write an entire blog post in response to your post here! Wow! Yes, pressure is a privilege… it reminds me of that whole hilarious #firstworldproblems kind of thing that used to go around. First, I love that you wrote that you started to feel fat, because it shows how human and irrational we can all be sometimes… how very intelligent people can sometimes mentally be in a different place…. The unnecessary pressures I put on myself for no reason are too many to count…. Take a year off… or take it day by day… sometimes we feel like everyone is watching and what if we don’t hit that goal… what if we fail… no one gives a f%ck but us… take a few years off if you need… enjoy your vacations… you’ll just be in a different age group when you get back, and that won’t be a bad thing!
Thank you for this!! And yes, I didn’t even hesitate to include the part about feeling fat because it’s honestly how I felt and I don’t care if that’s “wrong” b/c I am human and a woman. I don’t usually feel pressure b/c of the blog or other people but of course that comes into play. I just want to do the right thing by my kids and family but also for ME. Thank you again Paria. I so appreciate you and your friendship!
Yes – you nailed it. The pressure to train hard and compete is certainly also a privilege, but it is still a pressure nonetheless. To not admit that pressure is to bury that vulnerability that makes us human. I think you are approaching this well by taking it day by day – and of course you are, because you are intelligent, determined, and strong.
We tend to take vacations in the middle of my training cycles – everything from London to our honeymoon – and I have learned to treat it as a down week. Like you, I will stress myself beyond what’s reasonable in trying to plan out every detail and that just saps the fun out of a big vacation. I need that vacation de-stress to regulate the pressure I tend to put on myself!
Just knowing you go though the same thing makes me feel infinitely better!! Thank you so much Laura and I know I’m struggling this much because I really love my training, I just need to slow down and breathe!! xoxo
If I were a hugger, I’d hug you right now. Lemme be the devil’s advocate for a sec… what if you changed your perspective of being alone with your own thoughts for such and such many hours per week from a bad thing to a GOOD thing? Like, maybe, like, you’re a triathletic version of a Buddhist monk, or something. But without a penis, because I think all monks have penises? Not sure. Think of all the people that meditate as their practice, and how healthy they are with their thoughts and emotions. Well, aren’t we just moving meditators? Monks without penises?
Or do you think I’m enabling my isolation? Because people freak me out? Maybe.
Or do you think you’re starting to stumble across some big ass thoughts and feelings, as you’re pushing through a certain barrier of being alone with your thoughts. What I mean is, like, I have a hard time sitting still because then quite often I’m faced with my own issues, my own demons, and if I keep busy then I can shush those issues down a bit. Maybe you’re okay with your own thoughts for a certain amount of time, but now you’re meeting up with some new thoughts, some new feelings, and you’re just like…meh. I need a break. Cuz it’s easier to turn away from being alone with them than to move through them.
I DON’T KNOW. You’re definitely at a cross-roads, but knowing you, this is gonna take you to a higher level of SOME sort. Enlightenment, perhaps. 😉
Wish we could run together. Maybe that can happen one day. XO
First of all, I would fully expect a hug 🙂 Second, I think you may actually be onto something. I’m definitely not ok with my thoughts for an extended amount of time and I usually back away just when something big (and scary) may happen. You may actually be right on about this. Thank you SO much for your thoughts and for a perspective shift. If I think more in terms of my moving meditation, it may really help. THANK YOU!!! And I so hope that by some miracle we are able to run together someday. xoxo
I know this feeling! It started for me after a marathon, when I just lost all motivation- especially for the long runs. Like you, I just wanted to have a normal weekend and sleep in on a Saturday and have breakfast with my family! It all felt crazy to me. I did back way off and with time, the motivation came back. But the experience stuck with me and I do at some point see myself slowing down a bit. This is an intense workout load to continue indefinitely!
I love the quote pressure is a privilege. At the end of the day, this lifestyle is our choice, thankfully! Whatever you choose, you have our support. I totally get it.
Isn’t it so odd to not care about training so much and just have a normal weekend?? I think I just needed a big shift and to know I CAN quit and not do a weekend workout, etc. I think a lot of it is mental and making the right choices for our lives at the time. Thank you so much for “getting it” and sharing your struggle too.
No shame here Allie. I am taking off right now and although I do miss running, I don’t miss how it was making me feel in the state I’m in. I needed to take off to rest my body and mind and be more present at work. It won’t last forever and I need to keep that in mind. To be honest, I know I needed this break because like you mentioned above, I am not “sad” to not be running or working out. I feel a deep fatigue that is getting fixed and find myself able to focus on other things. I’m also excited to plan for the future and do things differently.
If you need to vent, never hesitate to reach out 🙂
Thank you so much for offering to let me vent anytime. I truly appreciate it and I really appreciate you sharing your down time and not having to be “sad” to not run or workout. It makes me feel so much better knowing so many people (like you!) go though this and just take a break so they can come back and love it again. THANK YOU!
I definetely understand. Right now, I feel like I was setting myself up for failure. So much unnessary pressure led to issues along the way. No one forces us to run and train so this was eye opening and a great read.
I hope it was helpful to you Hollie as I know you’re going through some poop now too 🙂
I actually tell myself something similar on days I just cannot. I try to think about how lucky I am to be able to get through even the shittiest of workouts. Sometimes it works… sometime i just have to say “screw it.”
Giving yourself permission to be flexible is so important though. When you start feeling reluctant and crappy in your workouts is when injuries happen (for me, at least) and then you REALLY have to take off.
You’re so right about the risk of injury! Luckily I’m feeling much better after just making some adjustments to my schedule. It’s funny how you can seem so overwhelmed and then you make a few tweaks and all of a sudden you can breathe again. Thanks for the advice!!
I think you are doing the right thing by talking about your feelings. Absolutely take it day by day and go by feel. I SO get it – it’s such a juggling act with family, home, writing deadlines, etc.
Maybe reevulate in 30 days and see if you are feeling the same way? Time will tell if this is a phase or you need a big break. Either way friend, there isn’t a wrong answer and I support you! Isn’t is so fun being a type A athlete? 🙂 xoxoxo
I think you nailed it Nat! If I could just relax a tad more, a lot of this may not seem so overwhelming. But, I think MOST competitive athletes are type A and that’s what drives us so, I guess I have to just be careful not to drive myself right off the cliff!
Thanks so much for your words, for understanding, and always for you support!! Love you friend. xoxo
Wow, I had never thought of it that way, but you are so right!! Pressure is definitely a privilege! First off, I’m sorry I’m soooooo behind on reading your blog, but my inbox is full with every single blog post that I haven’t read yet and as I get time, I click on them and delete the email. That’s how I keep track. Life has gotten so busy and the boys definitely don’t help with that, that’s for sure! I’m sorry you have been feeling this way, but I feel like we all go through these cycles where we lose our mojo and don’t really care. And while our workouts and running or biking or whatever you choose to do is our stress relief, it’s also a pressure, it’s hard to find the balance!! I complain that all I get to do in the time Reid is at preschool is workout and I have no time to go grocery shopping or just BE but when I don’t workout I feel lost. How do we find the balance?!! Miss you friend!! XOXO