Monday, December 14, 2015

The Mindset of an Endurance Athlete

A few years ago I was working with a physical therapist to deal with some occasional numbness in my hands.  In our initial meeting, I explained what I was noticing, how my desk was arranged and my hours of cycling.  When I finished she just looked at me and said, “I love working with athletes!”

I think this was the first, and perhaps last, time I was referred to as an athlete.  She went on to say that what she liked about athletes is that we are very much in tune with what’s happening in our bodies and it makes easier to diagnose and fix.  That must be true since I only need a few appointments and some new exercises to eliminate the numbness in my hands.

In addition to being in tune with our bodies, I think athletes also have a different mind set based on their forte.  For me, that’s endurance.  I am not super fast or super strong but I seem to have the ability to push myself (a key ingredient in the athlete mind set) for long periods of time.  I also seem to able to add distance, but not speed, quickly.

As mentioned in previous posts, I am doing more running than cycling right now.  In late March, when we decided to do the Ragnar Relay, I had not run in 3-months.  In a short 4-weeks, I went from nothing to running a 10k (6.2 miles).

Planned route
This is partly what I was thinking about when I started my run on Saturday.  My plan was to run 7.5 miles with just a little climbing.  The route was simple.  I was running from my house to a turn around point 3.8 miles away and coming back the same route.  This also took me half way up Fountain Grove, which is decent local climb.

I knew very quickly that this was going to be a good run and the endurance athlete mind set took over.  I started thinking about making the run longer because that’s what we do.  I realized that if I went up and over Fountain Grove, instead of turning around half way up, I could recover on the descent and add some distance.  With that thought, my new goal is 8.5 - 9 miles.

At this point, I realize that I didn’t bring any water.  Here’s where the difference in mind set really shows up.  Others may have decided to stay with the original plan of 7.5 miles but the endurance athlete takes this as a new challenge.  For us, it’s more like, “Let’s see if we can run 10-miles without water.”  I accepted this challenge and now the goal was 10-miles.

Actual route
I made it up and over the climb just fine.  I recovered on the descent just like I thought I would and starting running around town trying to reach 10-miles.  I was successful!!!  I will admit that I was tired towards the end but that was mostly due to the mental fatigue of constantly trying to figure out how to add distance.

There was another reason I took advantage of feeling good, and Sherry not being home, to add miles.  We leave for Paris in a few days.  I love running in Paris and I’m hoping to join a running group I’ve discovered.  They are all training for either half or full marathons so their runs tend to average in the 10-mile range.  My original plan was to reach at 8-miles before we left and then suffer through the final 2 miles with the group.  However, after Saturday’s 10 miler I think I’m ready physically. 

Of course, in my mind, I’m already there.


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