Tag Archives: fitness writer

Why it’s Not About the Work-Out

It’s stormy out.

Rain and wind are pummeling the west coast. In my community, branches and leaves scatter the streets, drumming up deep, rich smells of pine, earth and Christmas. Our power was out for eight hours last week. More warnings came over the last few days. Tie down the deck chairs, folks, and have your flashlights ready. Mother nature is taking the stage.

And big, ugly political storms brew in the U.S. Well, they are actually in full gale force. Trump’s house is dislodged and being pummeled in the funnel cloud. I stand riveted in the thought of it-can’t-happen. I also stand in deep revelation and reverence of what I, as a women, hope to witness next month. The fury of the storm always clears a path.

A few mornings ago, mid-storm, I got in a workout before my family woke. Typical for me, this morning ritual is driven by a deep need to come awake. To shake off layers. To ignite something. I’m still not sure what to call it, this why of mine.

Post-workout, a hot sweaty mess, I got to the headlines. I took in the torrent of articles about Trump, the emerging accusations of sexual predation, and reaction to Michelle Obama’s powerful and devastating speech.

And I was reminded of something.

We need to be well and keep strong because we’ve got big work to do. All of us. In our own corners and arenas. The world needs us at our best. Strong and powerful. With endurance and stamina and capacity. We need to be ready to step in. To serve. To stand firm in the midst of a storm.

What I know is this. It’s not about the work-out; it’s about the work it’s preparing me for.

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The Spaces In Between

There are spaces of nothing between bursts of something. This is where my mind gets busy, and I scheme feats of mid-life athletic amazement. This is where possibility takes root…along with its gnarly second cousin: fear.

Such was the case with the fondo a few weeks ago.

The fondo was my first experience riding in a big group. It was a pretty big group – several thousand cyclists. It had occupied my thoughts for weeks. The idea – the newness of it – thrilled me. But I was also worried. Not about the distance. I was doing the quarter and had covered the distance easily in training. As a typically solo rider, I was worried about maneuvering in a crowd of other cyclists. A crash. The dramatic highway pile-up. You know, skin grafts and such.

I like that about triathlons…you’re not allowed to ride near each other.

Well, I don’t know what went on at the front of the pack, but there was no sardine-packed peleton where I was. No inch-apart wheels. No tempting of fate with each twitch of the brakes. It was simply a bunch of folk of similar pace riding and keeping an eye on each other. And on the spaces in between.

Big groups are always like that really: just lots of you’s and me’s showing up until something aggregate takes shape.

The group thing, though – this posse of strangers moving together through air on wheels – brought out something new in me. As I found the slipstream of other cyclists, I could feel the rhythm of the collective. The air moved around me faster. The odometer ticked faster. Even when I found myself alone. Like during the last 10 km, as I whipped along the lakefront into the wind and barreled down the streets of Penticton. I could see my average speed was notably higher than I’d predicted. I began an instinctive race against my bike computer and the “point-9” at the end of my average speed. I tucked in and hunched down. My breath took on an unfamiliar tone. I pushed, pushed, pushed through the empty streets. I flew across the finish line – leaning in like Peter Sagan inching out a rival for the stage win. Yeah, I was exactly like Peter Sagan.

And the only crash was the one that came when I was going precisely 0 km/h and that was related to precisely zero other riders. At the rest stop, I couldn’t un-clip from my pedals fast enough. I toppled over on my left side right, bike still between my legs, in front a line of riders outside the port-a-potties. It was dramatic in its own special way.

In the end, there was plenty of space in between. The mental space required to imagine the fondo transformed into just the right amount of physical space to complete it. It reminded me that in the act of doing – distinct from thinking about doing – there is no fear. Just presence. Fear is a precursor of the mind. But it can’t exist in the bright light of action. The minute I clipped in and pushed down my first pedal, fear burned off like summer’s early morning haze.

Source: Axel Merckx Gran Fondo

Source: Axel Merckx Gran Fondo

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Perfectly, Exquisitely Still

It’s still.

The house is still. And silent. Everyone else is asleep. The fridge is humming and the coffee pot churning. But other than that, nothing.

Outside the curve of the family room window, the leaves are still. They hang just so. Quiet, dormant.

In the vista beyond the leaves, the ocean is still. Sleek and steely blue. No touches of white, the tell-tale signs of wind and chop.

In the gray early morning light, I see the bank of clouds. And they are still. Oh, wait. No. They are moving north ever so slowly. Beneath the stillness, or amongst it, there is movement. I guess there always is.

My mind is still. I can’t find what brought me to wakefulness so early. Not work. Not writing. Not reading. Not exercise. I search and search, layers down. Then I realize there’s nothing to do. Except take this time. To be still.

Because soon there will be wind and chop. And rustle. And noise. And inspiration. And work. And movement. And all that joyfully comes with that.

But for now, it’s perfectly, exquisitely still.

sunrise

The Things I Notice When I’m Running

Lately I’ve been running to early morning boot camp. It’s not far. Maybe a 10 minute run each way, depending on if I take the 90-second shortcut through the woods (8 minutes) or stick to the sidewalk (11 minutes). This, in turn, depends on the extent to which I hear people discussing the potential for cougars in our neighbourhood. One morning I came across a deer in the dark December woods.  I didn’t actually see it in the tight glow of my headlamp. But I heard the rustle and gallop close behind me. I hope I didn’t wake the neighbours with my instinctive perilous shriek.

In the 16 to 22 minutes of running I really notice things. It’s like the first inhale of cool morning air snaps my senses awake.

Head barely out the door, I listen and look for rain. Most times there is none, though its night visits leave tell-tale signs. The wet stairs. Dripping in the eaves-trough.

Then I listen for bushes rustling. One morning I opened the door at 5:50 to find two deer immediately on the door step nibbling our bushes. Once again, scared the sh*t out of me. They are everywhere.

Heading down our long driveway, it’s the stars. I glance up at them twinkling overhead, unfettered by any urban glow. They always seem bright and close. Like really close.

Then it’s leaves rustling in the wind. And on unusually windy mornings, if I’m lucky, I also hear the waves down on the Bay. Distant, vague crashing sounds of the ocean.

Into the second or third minute of the run, I notice the rhythmic beating of my heart and my exhales. Particularly on that dark road with no street lights where I can’t see much beyond the blackness. I keep my eyes locked on the single driveway light about 500 meters down the straight, dark road. It’s like a beacon, a lighthouse. I run down the middle of the road toward it. In the visual vacuum, I hear the tenor of my foot strike, the cadence of my breath, the swish of arms against my windbreaker. I hear myself through the dark.

Around the final bend, the well-lit intersection emerges. And the world opens up again. Just a minute to two to go. Asphalt glistening. The far off sounds of the main road.

Then on the way way home, it’s the brightening sky, now indigo behind the outline of the Douglas Firs. Just before I come down the hill, I stop to scan the horizon. These days, the peach glow of sunrise is coming up from behind the hills on the other side of the channel.  Birds chirping.  Sometimes the hoot of an owl. A barking dog. A car engine and a set of headlights.

And always, always…my own breath…regulating, slowing. The heat and damp of my skin. The tingling of work in my legs, as they walk me the last few minutes home.

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