Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Why I train alone a lot of the time

Today I overheard people at the office here saying that they can't run outside as it’s going to be too windy. These are the same people who have an excuse for all weather conditions like not to going in the in winter it’s too cold or in the summer as its too hot, even though you can dress for all seasons and whatever mother nature, old man winter are going to throw at you. If you are athlete it can never be too windy/sunny/hot/cold/wet or grey - Because as hard as you are training, there is always someone training harder.

Living in Canada in general and more specifically Alberta means you have to develop a thick skin as you never know what the weather is going to do. Sure there a couple of givens such as those parts of the year when the thermometer goes way north of zero (not enough of them for my liking) and on the flip side there are times when it goes way south of zero (you guessed - it too many of those days). But as a runner or an athlete you have to think of the US Marine Corp motto "Improvise, Modify, Adapt and Overcome" anything that the weather throws at you. Once you realize that if you want to get ahead in any sport then you have to go out and work at it  regardless of what is going on outside. No one has made it to the Olympics lying on the couch four - six months of every year waiting for the perfect day to come along. It makes getting out there a lot easier.

Which brings me to why I train alone a lot of the time - First of training for me is a great way to get outside see what’s going on with the land/environment around me. In the fall I get to see the leaves change colour and then ‘fall’, in the winter I see the land covered in snow and see how it sparkles when the sun is reflected off of it, in the summer I get to feel the warm air on my skin, get a bit of a colour and get to see all of the hard work that I did in the winter start to pay off.

Secondly I never have to wait for anyone - I go when I can, want, there is no waiting around, no time wasted wondering who is going to show up and then trying to figure out a route or what sort of intervals we are going to do. I can recall waiting outside of coffee and bike shops for almost an hour to see if anyone is going to turn up so I'd have someone to train with, that doesn't happen anymore. Nor do I have to re arrange my training schedule to fit a workout in or around someone else. I know how hard I can push myself and sometimes it’s too hard and sometimes it’s not hard enough.

Thirdly - once you have a family they sort of tell you when you can go training. Such as when a baby goes down for a nap or when they go to sleep at night or if your kids are in organised sport you can sneak in a workout while they are doing theirs. On the weekend I run or bike when our youngest one goes down for a nap. We're not at a point yet where we can leave our eldest by himself and I'm not sure that I want too as this is usually the time of the week that I get to spend any quality time with him. This can make it hard to organise with friends training sessions, its a lot easier if you are training with the same goals in mind. It also makes for a lot of either late nights or early mornings, as my mother would tell me "You can't burn the candle at both ends!!" meaning you can't train late one night and then expect to train early the next morning.

Yes training alone can be monotonous and get boring after awhile but then again training over a long period of time is in itself an inherently monotonous task. You train hard week in week out over a number of months or years with a goal in mind only to come up with a new goal once the first one is completed and you start over again. That is why I believe that you should change up what you are doing every so often, rather than the same type and number of workouts per week every week not only is it mentally refreshing but it confuses the body because on race day you don't know what’s going to happen every minute of the race. 

Some of the success of East African athletes can be partially attributed to training as a group, I bet if you are in Eldorat, Kenya you'll rarely if ever see Kenyans running by themselves. There is a group mentality when it comes to training, helped by the fact that there are lots of people at the same level and going after the same goals.

Training with a group in some ways would be nice, but I have yet to find a group of people (and I define a group as being more than three people - relax guys :)) that has the same goals as you and is at or near the same level of fitness as you. I love training with my friends when I can and for awhile there we would meet every Saturday morning and do our long runs together or the hardest workout of the week together as we had a common goal. But now that we have different goals in mind for most of the season it makes it harder to catch up. I know that once they have reached their spring goals and they start to think about the rest of the year training together will get easier.