The subtle changes in the long distance triathlete
How often do you hear people talk about marginal gains? People claim shaving their legs brings marginal gains. Or wearing lighter shoes. Or getting the top of the line $600 wetsuit. While all these things can be considered marginal I am not whether the concept of marginal gains ends there.
I am new to this whole long distance stuff. I never done an Ironman or trained for one. But now after about 10 weeks into well structured training I have already learned a lot and it has changed me much more than I ever expected. My goal for IM Hamburg is to finish with a respectable time and my career and family life still intact. That’s a tall order in any case. But since work and family can not take a back seat while I am doing this, I feel immense pressure to minimize training time and make the most of the time I have. It is a lucky coincidence that I seem to hit a wall at around 10 – 12 hrs per week, beyond which I am falling apart rapidly.
So what are the marginal gains I talked about? They are subtle changes in how we approach our everyday life, how we treat ourselves and others and how we do things. A perfect example might be the mindfulness it requires to be on top of your game. I’ve never considered myself a mindful person and honestly I never considered it an elementary skill or behaviour. Now that I need to squeeze 100% effectiveness out of my workouts (and my sleep, my food, my recovery and relaxing time) I have noticed how I judge my options with regards to the overall goal. Do I get upset at work or allow myself do dive head first into an extremely stressful day in meetings? Do I stress myself out about that panel discussion I’m supposed to join or the business meetings or presentations? I don’t anymore, at least not as much as I used to. Long distance triathlon has brought me a tiny step closer to operating in wu-wei, simply because I cannot afford the stress. I am relaxed and don’t sweat things I have no control over. I try to do the things I have control over as best as I can mind you, but I am very aware of my emotional state and avoid extreme emotions or stress. It will impact my workout later that day. It will impact how I interact with my family after that workout. It might even impact the quality of my sleep. Being aware of all these interependincies and correlations has helped me to become a more relaxed human being and in turn has probably improved the quality of my workouts and performance by a few percent. That’s a marginal gain right there and one that comes for free if you just listen to yourself.