Friday, November 11, 2005

Rest Day

Rest day - no training today. My life evolves around 3 basic things: training, eating and sleeping. Everything else will have to wait until I have accomplished these 3 basic, but all-important, tasks. And they are all very closely related, the more I train, the more I eat and sleep. How much I can eat dictates how much I can train. My year does not start January 1st, like most people's. It usually starts around mid-October. This is when I start preparing for the upcoming season. I start with a 4-week cycle of preperation, before my first base cycle begins. I have now just about finished my first week, in my first base period. And I feel good. No injury, no sickness. This time of year means long rides with low to medium intensity. I'm mostly concerned about building the engine (aerobic capacity) and improving technique. Later down the road the intensity will increase and the real painful hard work starts. It's funny - people ask me why I do this. What drives me to get up at 6 a.m, eat and train for 2-6 hours, regardless of weather. And when I say regardless of weather, I mean REGARDLESS of weather. Why do this? why do it day after day, season after season? And to be honest, I don't really have a good answer. At least not an answer that would make sense to most people. Am I addicted to the endorphins released in my brain during exercise? Is it the quest to see just how far one can push the human body? Is it an overly strong competitive spirit? It's probably all of the above, plus factors that I cannot explain. People look at me like I'm an alien from Mars when I'm riding past the local McDonalds on my bike at 7 am in the morning. People are pulling through the drive-through getting their daily dose of "heart attacks" when they see this skinny, little white guy on a bike, peddaling by them in pouring rain. How could I ever explain what drives me to do what I do, to them? It's an act of futility. I have always been active, for as long as I can remember. From the time I could walk, I have been outdoors. Hiking, fishing, hunting, camping. These activities made up my child-hood. And they still play an extremely important role. The joy of being outdoors, exploring nature, wondering what lies around the next corner - these things have more then anything else made me who I am. I had a very active child-hood, our neighbor once described me as "not being completely tame". All these trips in the forests and mountains taught me to love outdoor activities. This partly explains how I can motivate myself to get out the door every single day, regardless of weather. Of course, it's not always easy to motivate myself, especially not for the long, hard intervals that I know are coming up later this year. But, I know that in order to succeed, in order to become better today then I was yesterday, I MUST train. The pain and suffering that intervals gives me, makes be better and stronger. Without them I will not reach my goals. But what about the future of my sport and other endurance sports? Recruitment into these "small" sports will never be able to compete with the large sports of soccer and american football, but there is another factor that is hurting us: Modern society and lifestyle. In order to become successful in an endurance sport, such as cycling, running or cross country skiing, an athlete needs to lay a foundation of training when they are young. Between 6 and 14 years of age is where the potential for success as a top athlete is created. Without a solid base of activity during this period, the athlete will not be able to sustain the volume of training required to succeed when the athlete reaches 20. I am not talking about organized training for kids between 6 and 14 years of age - the most important thing we can teach young althetes is the love for the outdoors and outdoor activities. Those hiking, fishing and hunting trips through forests and mountains will create a good foundation of training and more importantly, create a love for physical activity. I never called my child-hood activities training, but looking back at what I was doing - there was easily 15-25 hours of training there, per week! Now, kids are playing Playstation, watching tv and eating fast-food. Kids are not as active as they used to be. This will hurt much more then recruitment to endurance sports, it will create a dangerously unhealthy society. If children are not taught correct lifestyle habits when they are young, it becomes very difficult to change their habits as adults. We over-protect the children. Let them explore the outdoors, climb trees and yes, fall down from trees. Children are not as fragile as we think. I don't know how many bones I've broken and fractured as a child, or have many scars I have from falling down. But, letting a child explore their physical limits is very healthy and could avoid them looking for other, more unhealthy, ways of getting an adrenaline-rush as young adults. And bringing your kid to soccer practice twice a week is not enough. Watch soccer practice for 6-10 year olds and you will see something strange - 70% of the time the kids are standing still, listening to the "coach" explaining a drill. At that age - technique is not what they need to learn and develop. Activities organized by adults equates into children not moving. Instead - let them play more on their own. Divide them up into teams and watch them run and play. Technique can come later (10 years and older). Even then, twice a week at practice is too little - kids should be active every day, preferrably for several hours. Not to mention our eating habits. Fast food is not exactly health-food. Well, I'll get off my soap-box for now. This is something I burn and sometimes I start rambling.... Have a good day.

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