The blahs. Sometimes the blahs sneak up on you — slithering their slimy little way into your happy training routine. Other times they come on like a tornado. Things have been humming right along and then one day out of nowhere they jump on you like a crow on a June bug. However it happens, it stinks. A bad case of the blahs rips the energy out of your spirit. I encountered this “blah” stuff just as it was time to get serious with the first event of my tri season. If my wife had walked in during the worst of it and said, “Honey, did you hear that they just blew up the entire world?” My answer would have been something like, “Yeah… well… maybe they’ll find another one… no big deal.” That's scary stuff for me. I know too well the guy who used to live in me. That old couch potato guy with the pizza, beer, and remote is hiding in the weeds waiting to pounce in a weak moment.
So what do you do when the blahs show up? One tool I’ve used successfully is the three A’s.
Acceptance, Analysis, and Action
You first need to accept the fact that this blah thing comes knocking at everyone’s life. It is normal. As we will soon see, there are different kinds of blahs, but the fact you experience resistance to training is no new thing. Mark this down as one of the barriers that will show up when you begin to turn yourself from the couch to competition. There are physical barriers and there are emotional / psychological barriers. In fact the “head” stuff can sometimes be more difficult than the “body” stuff.
Now - when you accept the fact that the blahs are normal (not nice, mind you, but normal, you are in a place to apply a bit of tough love to yourself. Here’s a conversation I had with myself, “Okay Malvey – so you are in the grip of something that stinks. You don’t feel like doing anything today – just like you didn’t yesterday. AND your knee hurts, and you miss cheddar cheese like crazy, and it takes an awful lot of time to do this stuff, and, and, and…” Training isn’t all sweetness and light, you’re going to hit times like this. Get over it, get a grip, and let’s figure out what’s going on. No way in hell you’re really going back to the couch – right? When you have a talk with yourself along this line (sooner is better than later), you are ready for the next step.
Blahs are sneaky. And there are different kinds.
There are the occasional blahs. They come every now and then. After a couple of years, you know these times will come and you have a way to deal with the problem. The occasional blahs are not a critical issue. It’s a pain when they come, but they do not knock you out – you work through them, gut it out, and know it will get better.
The second kind is the situational blahs. Anything from economic worries to grief, family trouble, or a major injury can bring discouragement that winds its way through your training routines. Your energy is drained by the circumstance and it will feel like there just isn’t anything left for your workouts. These are tougher, but you can overcome them.
The last kind is the persistent blah. You resist training or workouts frequently. It comes round like a stray dog that won’t leave. Nag, nag, nag. It can get to be oppressive and the ugly thought will weave its way into your thinking. “Is this all worth it?”
The blahs are the psychological equivalent of “saddle soreness” – a pain in the butt. They go from mild to severe, but once you do an analysis you can move on.
When encounter the occasional blahs, you need to check a couple of things:
· Rest days — are you taking the right amount. If your resting heart rate and blood pressure are just a bit higher than normal, you may need some recovery time. You may be over training. We don’t mean taking two rides on your bike instead of one this week.
· Stretch Yourself — you may need to challenge yourself a little bit more. With my own occasional funky times, I pick one of my workouts (usually running) and push a little harder on the days I most don’t want to do it. That will sometimes bust the blah.
· Change routine — It sounds like an oxymoron but a change in my regular workout schedule sometimes works. A walk with my wife instead of a run by myself, a ride with my daughter at a really easy pace instead of my “take it to the limit” ride. Then there’s gardening instead of lifting weights or checking out a parachute drop (haven’t used this one yet) instead of the evening news.
Situational blahs are more difficult and the difficulty is proportional to the circumstances you are going through.
· Push a little harder.
· Rely on your routines when situational distress comes and trust the good outcomes that are there for those who persist. — On a personal note, when my father died it took a huge chunk out of my energy. We were very close and I wasn’t ready to let him go at all. I remember clearly at one very intense time in the first days (I was a runner back then) – I put on my running gear and headed out on the road – didn’t have a clue for how long. As I ran, I remembered, wept, laughed and eventually was able to “let it be”. I was running into a sunset and ran ‘til the sun went down and something about the sunset and the promise of a sunrise connected. By the time I got home, I had run my first half marathon and while the grief wasn’t over by any means, it was better. Running was my good friend – it was there for me.
· Physical injury? Then focus on the routines you can keep instead of the ones you can’t. Don’t push past physical limits that need to be respected. When injured, “less is more,” for the interim.
Persistent blahs requires going back to the basics.
· When your blahs are persistent – on you like yucky sticky stuff – you need to make sure you have absolutely habituated your routines.
· If you have never really made the routines a habit — go back and set up your schedule again and gut it out for six to eight weeks.
· If your routines aren’t the problem, you may need to shake up your routine in a major way.
· Take a vacation to Hawaii and ship your bike, ride Honolulu and run the beach. For the remaining 99.5% of us who can’t do that it might be checking out a new sport.
· Grab a kayak, check out parasailing, try out archery, or go fly a kite. (Really!) There is an emotional equivalent to what we can experience physically in the gym. My weight training coach said to me early on during a time when I had hit a plateau, “You’ve got to shock the muscles – change up your routine.” Now I’ve built three or four versions of my basic training program to fend off the boredom blues.
· Check your nutrition. Are you getting enough carbs? Is there too much refined sugar in your diet are you consistently hydrating — a minimum of eight glasses of water a day?
Hang tight friend. Physical fitness and the goals we embrace to keep ourselves tuned up physically have intellectual, social, emotional, and spiritual benefits. And – of course you have this rapidly growing number of fellow travelers at Beginner Triathlon who are standing on your personal sideline cheering you on!
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