I’ll get to the photo at the end of the post, but first to training. This week I stepped back into the steady increases of my training schedule, after a reduced week for recovery. The reduced week certainly gave my body time to recuperate, although a part of me just wanted to push ahead with things by the end of the week. Over-training is a danger that is very easy to fall into and I’m glad that I’ve had good advice on this front–build slowly and steadily. Proper rest is part of training too.
So I entered this week feeling refreshed physically and ready to go mentally, and it’s been a good start to a heavier schedule, which my body would not have tolerated four weeks ago. I started off on Monday with a 60-minute swim, which was the first time I’ve gone over 3km in a pool workout. Tuesday brought 105 minutes on the bike. This turned out to be a logistical challenge given the cold weather in Europe these days–the temperature went down to minus 15 Celsius and it was snowing, which meant I couldn’t get out safely on the roads. I therefore needed to find an indoor bike for the day. After a great deal of searching, I finally found a great small fitness centre in Heidelberg, La Villa Sportiva, which let me train there for the day on a trial basis. Among other things, La Villa offers spinning classes and the triathlete and coach Katja Schumacher gives a winter cycling class there once a week. Today the weather was better and I went out for a 70-minute run.
As I get into longer workouts, I’m increasingly aware again of the psychological element of training. As the body increases its physical capacities, the mind is also being trained and tuned to recognize what the body can do and to push it as needed. I’ve experienced this before with running and swimming, which I think makes it easier for me to settle back into longer workouts now. Perhaps I’m just never really fit, but I’ve always felt that there is some point in most longer workouts where the body casually (or forcefully, depending on the day) asks the mind whether it mightn’t be better just to relax. At lower levels of fitness the body just has to stop or slow down at some point. At higher levels of fitness, however, the body is working hard but sustainably, and the mind knows how and when to push. I usually find also that in the middle sections of longer workouts my mind settles into a sort of cruise control, when the body is just ticking along and doesn’t need too much extra encouragement (which it will need again at the end!). That is a wonderful feeling.
I’ve also been noticing this week that my body has been changing a bit due to training. I was not a heavy person four weeks ago, but I’ve nonetheless been losing weight around the midsection and slimming up a bit overall. I also feel stronger in my back and shoulders with the swimming. At my advanced age of 33, I certainly notice the difference in my body from when I was a teenager and doing a lot of sport – I’ll never recover that quickly again. But I’m still optimistic that I can this year achieve greater overall cardiovascular fitness than I have ever had in my life. As for my former teenage self, that brings me to the embarrassing photo at the outset of this post, taken in the summer of my 16th year: if only I’d started training seriously then (I include this, incidentally, to preclude future blackmail, as KT keeps threatening to make it public)!