Losing the Passion
Author's note: I started writing this last year while I was really in some fitness doldrums, and this will be a multi-part series trying to explain how I re-ignited my passion for fitness. First, here's how I lost it.
Whether it's your job, friends, relationships, or stuff like your car, phone, house, and even the damn gas grill that just won't start any more when you press the ignitor (sure, you've changed the batteries, but it just won't seem to work dammit!) we get bored, and slowly become detached. You stop calling the friend, stop making the relationship a priority, or even go so far to replace the old stuff with new stuff.
Now, I totally dig my wife and family, love my gig, and am quite content with all the stuff I've accumulated over the years. I also like the freedom to explore new things and places, so last year's downsize from an expensive house and semi-expensive cars to a more modest rental, a Kia and a used pick-up truck was a good start. Traveling the country last year by RV killed 2 (or three) birds with one stone; saving on flights and hotels while also dragging a mobile office and all my gear around has been extremely helpful, and getting to see the country in the process has been an added perk.
I'm a happy guy with a great wife, family, job, stuff… and yet something was missing. I'd lost some of the zest for fitness that I started developing back in 2004 when a few friends and I started the ESPN Triathlon Team, getting hooked on running marathons, and the all-in work & play in the world of Obstacle Course Racing. Worse yet, after writing way-too-many fitness books over the past 5 or 6 years with the goal of motivating others, I'd gotten burned out to the point where a workout was the furthest thing from my mind.
Being out of shape was compounded by a series of injuries, and hitting 45 hasn't helped with those nagging aches and pains either. What really sucks is I'm more excited than ever to participate in OCR's this year, yet lack the motivation to train like I did only a couple years ago. Speed, stamina, and strength diminish quickly when you become less active, and my physical decline reared its ugly head at World's Toughest Mudder '15 and has showed itself at the OCR events I participated in last season.
Switching it Up
While I'm somewhat stubborn and feel I can figure most things out myself, I eventually went to my doctor for a checkup and blood test. My torn shoulder labrum has continued to heal, albeit slowly, the tears in my left meniscus weren't any worse, BMI, PSA, blood pressure, and all that stuff came back A-OK. Aside from a few numbers that were off here and there (we'll get into all that in another post altogether), I had a clean bill of health but still didn't feel like running 20-35 miles a week or working out even 3 times over that same span – what I already know is my minimum maintenance routine, and I'd been barely subsiding on that for the better part of the past two years while “rehabbing” (more correctly, just complaining about) my ankle injury from Hard Charge in 2015. With a bum shoulder and a pretty messed-up right ankle, performing well at OCR didn't seem to be in the cards anytime soon.
So, instead of beating my head against the wall, I “pivoted” to another sport I've really come to enjoy; stand-up paddleboarding.
Even though I live in the middle of the freaking desert, there are actually some ridiculous amazing – and huge – lakes all over Arizona, and they are even more breathtakingly beautiful than these photos show. Lake Pleasant is close enough that I can be in the water in 20 minutes from my house, including a few minutes to blow up my SUP, there's no real excuse why I can't sneak out for an hour or so during the day and mentally unwind.
Whereas running used to be my therapeutic time to think, as my weekly mileage hovered around zero I needed a place to just let my mind wanted, and Lake Pleasant had become my new sanctuary. A slow paddle around the inlet or a hard 5k skull around any of the numerous islands yielded different physical results along with many positive mental benefits; strengthening my core was just a bonus compared to the quiet time alone on the water to unwind and unravel some of the ball of string life can occasionally become.
Mixing It Up
On days where I felt like running, I'd paddle to a spot along the trail system and beach my SUP and log a few miles. That little red dot in the photo below is my board, and Lake Pleasant has an unbelieveable trail system with dozens of miles of maintained trails and hundreds of old Jeep trails.
Focus On Your Mental “Recovery” First
In my case, my physical fitness was in a decline from the perfect storm of injuries and general athletic burnout, and the same old “get out and run” just wasn't working. I found a new passion on the SUP, and it helped me to relax, refocus, and over the course of a few months it was the spark I needed to ignite my passion for running again. The low-impact paddle workout wasn't aggravating my shoulder or ankle, so those workouts were therapeutic, relaxing, and mentally refreshing – plus, I started to re-develop my core & obliques!
In my case, it really paid dividends to step back from the go-go-go mentality of training and take it easy, relax, and get my head back into athletics. If you find yourself burnt-out, I highly suggest giving it a try!
Next Up: Quitting, SmashPlan, & Streaking
Once I got my mental focus back, I was still a long way away from getting my physical shape back to where I wanted it, we'll continue the journey next time with how I dropped 20 pounds, found my abs, and dedicated myself to 365 days of “streaking.”