Sometimes, when I train, it just doesn’t feel good. I feel heavy on my feet if I’m running, or like I’m cycling through foot-deep maple syrup when I’m on my bike. And swimming is just lung-bursting torture when you are not firing on all cylinders. Those days, I think, are rest days that you didn’t realize were rest days until you were already into your training session.
Oddly, I learn more about myself, my stamina, strength and perseverance during those workouts than when I feel at the top of my form. It’s easy to have an excellent run when you feel amazing. Sure I can give myself a pat on the back for beating a personal best but it’s the off days that make me feel more accomplished; when I simply get to the end after feeling terrible for 90% of the way.
The other day, in Montreal, it was so hot I thought the Sun was going nova. If you have spent any time in this city you know it is as humid as a swamp, and during the height of summer that means a 30 degree day feels like a 40 degree day. Imagine spending the day in a steam room at the local gym and you will start to get the picture. I decided to go for a fast 10km run around the local park. My training schedule isn’t fixed in stone allowing me to “sense” what I’m up for rather than force something like a strength session when my body just wants to do low intensity stuff.
Anyway, I got my gear on and headed out into the swamp. Honestly, I just have to guts out the first few minutes on a day like that and then usually things pick up but here it was evident that this was not going to happen. After a lap of the local park, which is about a mile as it turns out, my lungs were burning and something I had eaten was stabbing acid tipped stakes into my chest and abdomen for good measure. Still, 10km is 10km. I had started, so I was going to finish.
There is no great moral message in this story except that I slogged it out and finished in a time that was nothing to be hugely proud of. I’ve done 100km cycles that were like sitting up and getting out of bed when comparing the effort expended against this run. I finished. That’s the point. Giving up is not in my nature, and stopping short of finishing a distance I have gone out to achieve is, in my humble opinion, a slippery slope to accepting failure.
Even if you have to walk it…finish the distance you set out to do. You might feel awful but keep telling yourself it is temporary and you will be stronger for it.