At times during our fitness careers, we arrive at points in training and racing where the progress can literally be felt. I had one such moment late this past week. Having just returned from riding, running and swimming in Tucson, I had one tired day on Wednesday where my body felt like the Millennium Falcon when it fails to zoom into hyperspace.
You know the sound: Veeeeewwwwooooouuuuummmmmm in a descending tone. So I napped it off that day.
But the next day I ran and felt light from head to toe. Even walking around during the workday felt great. Tall and strong. Young and vigorous. I thought to myself: “Gosh it would be great to feel this way all the time.”
Letting down our guard
The Catch-22 in all these good feeling days is that it encourages us to let down our guard. We start to feel invincible. Take fitness for granted. Have a cookie. Drink a Coke. Stay up a little late.
And then the sound comes back: Veeeeewwwwooooouuuuummmmmm.
Such are the cycles of fitness and endurance training. It’s hard to remember how damned good you can feel when distracted by the pleasures and temptations of life. Yin and yang.
Days of wandering
At the peak of my running fitness during my mid-20s, there were days when I was in such good shape it almost felt out of control. One early summer day I ran three workouts; morning, noon and night. Still, I wasn’t completely tired out. I’d even paced a guy on speed work during the noon workout. His speed was my mid-tempo running.
I was young and fancy-free those years, working part-time for a running store and ‘living the life’ of a ‘full-time’ athlete. So I know how that works. How it feels to be so fit it almost hurts to stand still. It’s both awesome and tense at the same time. Pleasure and pain combine. Some days I’d simply start off running and wander about until I felt like running home. That existence was like a combination of Forrest Gump and that Matthew Damon character in the movie Good Will Hunting. I was brilliantly stupid about my life. Fit and unfit for the world at the same time.
And damned proud of it.
Cycles of existence
Later in life, I got obsessed with cycling and put in four thousand miles one summer. My weight dropped to 163 lbs and yes, I felt light and fast on the bike that year. It ‘helped’ that I was technically out of work while dealing with my late wife’s cancer and the vagaries of working for companies small enough to fear that having an employee with a cancer-ridden spouse was a risk to their existence. So it was a yin and yang situation being so fit and being virtually out of work. I still had freelance gigs, but the pressures were immense. It was more like ying and yang and dark matter all around.
The main benefit of having this life experience to build upon is learning to know how much of anything is enough. These days I walk an interesting balance between doing whole bunches of things and know how to let up when I need that space. I’m reminded of that Jackson Browne song:
Well I’ve been out walking
I don’t do that much talking these days
These days I seem to think a lot
About the things that I forgot to do
And all the times I had the chance to
These days, I’m happy to join in the fitness pursuits of my wife and our friends. Some days I dial it up and go hard. Other days I let the training just rollllll by. Sometimes I race and wind up on the podium. Other days I come home with the race swag and just enjoy having been part of a life celebration.
Overall, it’s the feeling of fitness and standing tall that satisfies my soul. The amazing feeling of being fit is worth every second spent pursuing it. The yin. The yang. And all points in between.