Glory Days

author : Michael
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Although I will be the first to admit that I am not the number one fan of Bruce Springsteen, I do like some of his music. There's one particular song that talks about living in the glory days. What happens to us psychologically when we start living in the glory days?

I think the first thing we face, not only in the sport, but in life in general, is that we can become complacent with our lifestyles and our accomplishments. Many times, we have accomplished endeavors through hard work and perseverance which others may only dream of. We somehow achieved what was unachievable and boy, are we proud! You've seen it in the workplace and politics, in churches and organizations, and in almost every area of life. People start out with an incredible desire to give everything they have to make sure that they exceed all the expectations of others. Many times, they go at it so hard that they burn themselves out. However, at other times, it can be distractions from family and work or health issues that take our focus off of our goals. We become complacent and it’s suddenly easier to skip one workout, then skip another workout, and before we know it, we’ve skipped our workouts for a week. Then we've skipped two weeks, then three weeks…you get the picture.

I recently had the opportunity to see a portion of a DVD by a very well-known speaker. In this DVD, the speaker talked about decisions we make in life and how it is not the big decisions that affect our lives as much as it is the small decisions. His whole point was that many times, we take a small step that causes us to deviate away from what is considered normal. It’s just enough that it doesn't seem like it's a problem at the time, but from that point, we take another step that causes another deviation. This continues until these small, seemingly insignificant steps cause us to be so far removed from our goals, we really are completely off-course. A great example is that of a boat that is traveling on-course. The boat is struck by a slight crosswind and it starts veering off-course by the slightest of margins. At this time, if the boat is not steered back on-course, it will continue to veer and, over a period of time, it will completely change direction. Although in our lives we may not be blown off-course as quickly as a boat, over a period of time, we can also end up in a completely different direction from which we started.

thinkerOnce we are off-course, the psychological aspects start to come into play. Many times, we know that we are off-course, but because of our past victories, we don’t think it’s really a problem. We feel as if our past should speak for itself and we should have no problem getting back into the game. We also feel that, even though that we may not be in the game, our past performances and our past accomplishments should be enough. We end up living through our past accomplishments and not making present goals. Although I feel as though my past accomplishments are important, I have to strive to live in today and not in yesterday.

A couple of weekends ago, I completed my 17th triathlon. Crossing the finish line was one of the most miserable and painful experiences that I can remember in the past few years. The swim itself was not painful, as I've spent enough time in the pool to make it through the swim easily. My first big obstacle was that I had not spent any time out on the road in training on the bike. The fact that I had only spent about the last two weeks before the race on the trainer was translated into hitting the wall about two thirds into the bike portion of the race. And as far as the run, I had put in some short run workouts in the last few months, but I had not put in the distance of a 5K since September of last year.

After getting off the bike and starting out on the run. I started looking for mailboxes that might be sturdy enough to hold me up. My left hip and calf were cramping like they had never cramped before. Somewhere on the first mile of that run, a gentleman came up to me and obviously knew that I was struggling with cramping up. For some unknown reason, he shared with me a short and brief statement that just clicked with the whole situation I found myself in. He said, between gasps – I’m not sure if they were mine or his - “Ten years ago, I was a distance runner and it was nothing for me to run a 10K, and I can't ever remember it being as hard as this run.” Then and there, I realized that I wasn't the only one suffering from living in my glory days. His words ignited the flame inside me and made me aware of the fact that I had been living in yesterday and not today.

There are lots of little things that steered my training off-course. My daughter, Elizabeth, was born in May of 2004, and those of you with kids know what a big adjustment a new baby can be. I changed jobs in November and had to spend a lot of extra time learning the ins and outs of a different company. My son, Christopher, broke his arm in March and needed extra attention. My sound company starting filming and editing videos and I had to spend lots of late nights learning the editing software. None of these things is the reason for my lack of training. But I had turned them into excuses for not training by telling myself that I would be fine since I’d already come so far and done so much in my glory days.

My glory days of training were a small comfort to my cramping calves and exhausted muscles as I struggled to finish this weekend’s triathlon. I knew that I had to get back on-course with my training. But, man! Is it tough!

We all have been in what we personally consider the best condition of our lives, only to slip off our training regimen and get completely off-track. When we get back into training, we are often discouraged by the ground we’ve lost. We sometimes fail to realize that when we first started, we probably could do nowhere near the physical activity we are able to do today. We only see the negative and feel like we’re starting from scratch. Why am I feeling so much pain? Why is this so hard now? It used to be so easy!

It almost seems like one of life’s dirty little tricks. I think we've all heard an elderly person talk about “the good old days.” Everything was perfect. Everybody was happy. But spend some time with this person and really listen to them and you soon realize that for the most part, all they remember is the good that happened in the past. Very rarely do you hear them speak about not having the conveniences that they have today. Rarely do they share stories of the hardships and difficulties. It is human nature to focus on the good rather than the bad.

I am no different in my training. I only remember the good feelings I had on my best days of training. I don’t remember the agony of my very first run in the middle of July. I don’t think about the horrible soreness after that first long bike ride. I’ve improved so much that I’ve forgotten how bad it really was. I need to realize, before I get further discouraged, that I’m not really back to square one. I’ve just slipped a little and need to get back on-track.

So why write an article about my shortcomings? Well number one, it has always been my philosophy to take an honest and realistic look at myself. I've always tried to do this in the past when writing or speaking. I have always tried to be very open about any difficulties that I've had because I know that, for the most part, if I'm having difficulties with something, someone else is likely going through the same thing. This apparently is a problem that has been going on for quite some time because it’s been the topic of many conversations and even the subject of the song Bruce Springsteen sang. I felt that it was something that we can address within our tri community. I know there are some of you who may not have any concept of living in your past accomplishments because you’ve stayed on-track. For those of you who are so fortunate to have not been cursed with this, this article was definitely not for you. But for those of you out there who struggle with it, you're not alone.

In closing , I think Springsteen says it best in the last verse of the song:

"Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture a little of the glory of
Well time slips away and leaves you with nothing, Mister, but boring stories of glory days."

Let’s get out of the glory days and get back to work!

©2005 When Big Boys Tri

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date: July 17, 2005

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Michael

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