Training: Embrace Resistance

“There is something terribly morbid in the modern sympathy with pain. One should sympathise with the colour, the beauty, the joy of life. The less said about life’s sores the better.” Oscar Wilde

Sol WalklingAnd while it’s easy to get caught up in talking about pain, injuries, reasons why your training session didn’t feel so good, how great does it feel when you push through, focus on something else, regain movement and are able to appreciate all those small things you took for granted before.

Yes, my broken foot is still not quite healed and after almost 5 months of varying degrees of pain (adding an injured back/ shoulder, move and break-up to the mix), I’m pretty much over talking about it. I’ve regained most of my freedom; now, even just walking down to the shops to get a coconut or skipping to the yoga studio listening to my favourite tunes have become amazing moments. I’m standing, walking and dancing around on two (almost intact) feet and drinking in what’s around me: clouds, people, trees, ocean, colours…

My first week back at training, for an Ironman a whole year away, almost took that joy right out of me. I’d forgotten how much it can hurt to push yourself up the Eastern Suburbs hills on a bike, swim faster than the person next to you in the pool and go to yoga every day when your arms feel so heavy and massive you doubt you’ll fit through the door to the studio. And you know what I discovered… I love pushing through and sitting with discomfort. Not letting that injured attitude of holding back and watching what I do – in short, fear – hold me back. In week one of returning from my injuries, I needed to embrace resistance like a long-lost old friend.

The pinnacle of my initial training resistance was perhaps on Friday, when I woke up knowing I was about to go for a bike fitness test at Athlete’s Lab in Sydney’s CBD. I had been truly excited about recording my starting point, setting my zero for my year of Ironman training. But waking up early Friday morning with bike, swim, yoga ahead of me, I barely felt like getting out of bed. (Normally, the thought would make me bounce out of bed, excited at the prospect of being allowed to move.) It certainly wasn’t going to be any different from training in the past: I’d exercised through intense burn before, mostly during my basketball days where pushing so hard you’d want to collapse (or revisit your last meal) was commonplace. There really was no reason to fear hurting – I know it’s only temporary. So why the enormous resistance? Was I concerned about my result?

Because really, there was no reason to care about my result either. I’d been injured for almost five months, hadn’t been on the bike in weeks and didn’t expect anything at all. It would be purely ego-driven if I even cared one bit whether I did badly in front of the crew at the cycling performance studio and my fellow bike tester and spin instructor Ruben Rocha from Level 4 Health Club. Surely, I could just stay with my experience and not make it about everybody else.  And yet, the thought made me pull the covers back up over me and turn around the other way.

Eventually, grudgingly, slowly, -like a few times that week-, I pushed my unwilling self out of the door to go exercise. Onto the bike to Athlete’s Lab, a few pre-sesh stretches and back onto the bike now set up on the computrainer. And as earlier in the week during a yoga class I’d had a million excuses not to do, I started relaxing and enjoying myself within minutes of going through the familiar motions. Listening to my favourite playlist over the speakers at Athlete’s Lab, chatting to Ruben and flying through the warm-up, feeling my legs move, seeing the session and my speed and power output mapped out in front of me spurred me on. I wasn’t doing anywhere nearly as badly as I’d thought…

Ruben Rocha and Sol Walkling at Athlete's LabThat’s until about 10 minutes into the 20 minute fitness test. The crew had warned Ruben and me to pick a target and stick with it rather than go all out. Apparently it’s very common for people to hit the wall at 10 minutes on the 2% incline. Sure enough, I’d set my sights too high and perhaps already spent myself a little in the ride to Athlete’s Lab and half hour warm-up. Cue lightheadedness and exhaustion. A feeling of needing to get off the bike or collapse on it. Luckily, I’d hit that point so many times in the past before, that I felt prepared. I just surrendered myself to the moment. No resistance to it now. Embrace it. No thinking of the burn. Zone it out. Distract yourself by focussing on things you can change – ideally pleasant/ positive things: breath, cadence, attitude.

So I smiled to myself, listened to the music and focussed on getting my cadence back up. I’m sure my smile looked more like a grimace but hey, it worked for me. I took a few minutes to recover before I could get my power output back to where it was before. Meanwhile, Ruben pumped it up. Clearly, I’d picked too high a target and he’d set his sights too low. Coming into the last five minutes I managed to muster some of his enthusiasm as well; and as the crew started counting down the minutes, I even got up above my original target rate and went up a gear.

I’ve attached our results, my zero setting below. Not bad for thinking I was done after 10 minutes. Ruben and I will be back at Athlete’s Lab in 8 weeks for another test. I’m hoping I will have drastically improved by then. For now, my main focus is still rehab, getting my swim back to 6 km and then up to 10km and upping time on the bike without hurting my foot again. I’m embracing resistance – to meditation, yoga, hills, no pushing, long sessions. As expected, my second week of training is already feeling much better. A lot of the resistance has gone, together with the cardiovascular burn… But more about that in my next blog post. Stay tuned.

ErgVideo Test Session Report

ThresholdTestHD 2012-7-27

Name Test Duration Average Power (W) Energy (kJ) Average W/kg Average RPM Average HR Weight (kg) New Threshold Power New Threshold W/kg
RubenRocha 00:20:02 249 299.2 3.32 0 -1 75.0 236 3.15
Sol Walkling 00:20:02 226 271.6 3.05 0 -1 74.0 215 2.90

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  • Good on you Sol! I’ve just began training for my first Ironman that takes place September next year! Never competed in a triathlon before, any tips? x

    • solwalkling

      Oh and which one are you doing? And why are you starting with the full distance? (Just curious.) x