My Day of Enlightenment

Over the next few weeks, I will be bringing you snippets of some of the more memorable moments during my 18 month journey from office potato to triathlete.   These snippets aren’t currently included in the AricInTraining archives and more dear to my heart.  They will be a part of the book I am writing about my journey, yet to be named.  So here is the first snippet:

Workouts can be great.  Workouts can also be miserable.  For the past few months I had dedicated myself to strength and cross training workouts.  I was feeling pretty good, although the “struggle” seemed to be at a stalemate.  As you workout, you build aerobic capacity, strength, and improve your metabolism.   This is progress in the world of fitness.

So why was I struggling so much to run to a stop sign?  A day in March 2009 proved to be one of those “gotcha” days where suddenly things make a lot more sense.   My trainer had this ability to shake up the workouts and surprise me with some new and obscene way to torture my body.

On this particular day in March, the torture test consisted of a brief strength workout, followed by an outdoor run to the stop sign at the end of the block and back.  This wasn’t the first time and I hated how I felt when I ran this course, a 1/8th mile out in an increasing slope uphill, followed by a downhill sprint back.  Running at this point was very painful, my legs easily cramped up, with my muscles so tight, I couldn’t walk, my breathe so short that I was gasping for air, and my blood boiled to the point I thought my skin was going to melt write off.

And that day in March was no better, in fact it was worse and I was pissed.  Running the first 1/16th of the mile pretty much brought my immediate demise, yet I still had an increasingly slope to the stop sign.  My trainer was yelling at me to get moving and all I could feel was my body rejecting.  Reluctantly, I pushed on to the stop sign doing the obese shuffle and walked a significant portion of the return leg, bringing home a run for the finish.  It was horrible, I couldn’t breathe, my muscles ached, and I felt like getting hit by a Mack truck might actually make me feel better.

For some reason, I looked to my trainer, who had that annoyed look, for sympathy The dialogue went something like this (I don’t remember the exact dialogue):

Me: “I thought it gets easier with time.  That sucked!”
Trainer:  Looks at me dumb-founded
Me: Staring at him, looking for any shred of sympathy, but couldn’t find any.
Trainer: “What did you have for lunch today?” smirking.
Me: “A hamburger, some fries, and an iced tea. I was running late and had to grab something.”
Trainer: Looking at me as if I was a dumb ass “Well there you go…  eat crap like that to perform like crap.  You need to start eating salads. Now, go to the stop sign and back.”
Me: I just look at him as if I was just slapped hard across the face and then tossed into a pit of piranas.

And that was the day I gave up fast food.  My brain finally correlated diet with my poor fitness and realized that workouts were just a small piece of the entire journey to triathlon.   If I wanted to progress and enjoy my workouts, shedding the pain and building fitness, I had to get my diet in order.  Once I did, I quickly lost weight and busted through plateaus over the next year.  Before I knew it, I lost 60 pounds and was actually under 200 pounds.

Despite the enormous accomplishment, I struggle even today with my diet, which influences my workout enjoyment.  If I step off the deep end too far and for too long, eating treats, refined foods and not drinking enough water, I can feel that day in March creeping back into my body and it quickly reminds me of how important eating right is to consistent progress and feeling great.