The All Things Triathlon website has a great weekly special, where they post a word from the dictionary, provide the definition, and explain how that relates to their training. The posts are profound and thought provoking, and they always finish up with a great quote. So in preparation for this blog, I went to their site to look for “Success” in the word of the week, hoping to find a good quote.
Instead I found a word on there that I wasn’t familiar with – which is pretty rare on it’s own, but especially rare when most of the words listed are things like “performance”, “achieve”, “train”. Not the type of words that would strain a major spelling bee champ. Of course I immediately clicked on it, distressed that I wasn’t familiar with the word, and I found a precious gem.
Eustress is defined as stress that is healthful and stimulates growth. The “eu” comes from the Greek prefix for healthy – and is the same “eu” that’s in euphoria.
It’s antonym is distress – stress that is unhealthy and prevents growth.
If you read my Mental Toughness blog from earlier this week, you know that I was feeling distress over my training plan, and it’s expectations for me. (Is it sad that I feel that my training log is it’s own entity?) I did find that writing about my fears helped me solidify what I was nervous about, and maybe in some way gave me an opportunity to fight a battle with a “solid” opaque demon thought, rather than struggling with a miasma – a whispery translucent thought that kept sneaking up on me, but that I could never really take head on. Just writing about what I feared helped me to recognize that I was accomplishing the work that I had set out for myself. As the week went on, and I realized that I was not only getting through my workouts, but completing the expectations within each training session, I became more confident about my scariest workout – today’s bike/run workout.
According to my training log, I was going to do 45 minutes of long consistent biking, and 45 minutes of speedwork. I think this looked particularly challenging because I’ve somehow rearranged my schedule for the last 5 weeks so that I never wound up doing speedwork. I was in Seattle, then the Cape, then I had Chances, and here I am – terrified of trying to do fast 2/2’s for 45 whole minutes. It takes a LONG time when you’re only doing 2 minute increments – at least that’s what I kept reminding myself.
To combat my fears, I broke out my splits to start at a doable pace, rise up to a challenging pace, and then slowly descend back to that doable pace. Since I hadn’t done speedwork in so long, and since I’m at the beginning of a new training cycle, I decided to start at 5.0 (very doable) and work up to 5.8 (tougher), repeat 5.8 (the most daunting part) and then come back down to 5.0. That was my plan.
Overall I have to say that my workout was a success! I did 45 minutes on the bike at easy level 3, between 90 – 100 rpm’s. I made a pit stop, and then jumped on the treadmill. There were several mental hurdles, but I kept reminding myself that I do not make decisions about rest until I am in rest mode, and that what I had set out to do was well within my abilities. For the 5.8’s I caved a bit and did 1/3’s instead of 2/2’s but the descent was all 2/2’s, and I felt good about what I had done when I finished.
What I realized when I read about eustress was that by facing my fears – by writing them down (eek! so close to a jinx!) and then challenging myself to meet that fear head on, and not to deviate, I was actually able to grow as an athlete. I am no longer afraid of 75 minutes of anything, or 45 minutes of speedwork. I’m actually looking forward to my “C” week next week to challenge myself again.
I know that many people (family, friends, and co-workers) have asked me why I do this. Why do I get up at the ass crack of dawn during the week (and even worse on the weekend)? Why do I train hard, and break my body down, when I have no chance of “winning? Why do I spend money for events when the best I can be is hopelessly in the rear? I’ll tell you why – because training is a stress that is healthful and stimulates growth – physical, mental, relational, and emotional growth.
I feel good about getting out there and doing something that helps me grow physically. I like the feeling that I’ve accomplished something before my work day has begun. I enjoy the way that training has helped to evolve my relationship with Lilac. I love the feeling of confidence that comes along with successfully meeting my goals.
That’s why I train. Training eustresses me.
Today’s favorite post run song was Jamiroquai’s So Good to Feel Real.