No matter who you are or what you are working toward, getting back in shape is a journey.
Which is kind of unfair because getting out of shape is so stinking easy. Building back fitness is really tough and completely exhausting. It’s painful. It can be time-consuming. And it’s one of my favorite things in the whole world because there’s usually a goal on the horizon. Maybe that goal feels 1,000 miles away at the beginning, maybe it feels completely out of reach like a mirage in the desert, but, my god, when you finally arrive and you’re drinking in water that’s not only real but delicious, it’s a beautiful and rewarding feeling.
For most of my running life, up until maybe 3-4 years ago, I tried to perpetually stay in “half marathon shape,” as I called it. I wanted to always have the ability in my legs and lungs to head out for a long weekend run or bike ride and not feel completely crushed the next few days. It was easier in Florida when I could run and ride all year at any time of the day, but the last couple years of living in Colorado, I let that goal slip. My fitness has waxed and waned based on the weather, my calendar of races, and whether or not I just felt like being active. For a while, when I first moved out here, running really far and biking for half a day didn’t feel like a priority. My routine was flipped upside down and Colorado and I were just getting to know each other. I found that I wanted to go for long hikes in the mountains instead which isn’t something I needed to actively train for.
And ever so slowly, I fell out of half marathon shape. And then long weekend ride shape. The mirages evaporated along with my drive to even look for them.
In 2018, by the time I decided I was going to give the cyclocross season a try, I found myself very far outside of race shape. I had ridden all summer with my friends, logging big, slow mountain miles. But the speed wasn’t there—the pep, the turnover, the blood-in-your-throat kind of throttle it took to hang with the front pack.
So I decided to get back into (race) shape.
It had been since the marathon that I decided to get back into shape for something and the process was…tough. And so amazing.
The soreness. My goodness, I live for the soreness of a truly hard run or ride. I love waking up the next morning with tender quads, hamstrings, and abs. Though the process is long, the soreness makes me feel like we’re getting somewhere.
The long game. We are a culture of instant satisfaction, but I truly enjoy taking baby steps towards a big goal. I enjoy sucking at something for awhile…until I don’t anymore. I love looking back at months of hard work knowing I was the only one who could get me to where I wanted to go.
The progress. I love data, but I’m still pretty old school. I’ve never worn a heartrate monitor (until recently), I haven’t invested in a power meter, and I have no idea what my watts are – or if I’m using that term correctly in this sentence. I go by feel on my efforts, and when I know I’m climbing more quickly or not getting tired as often on familiar routes and longer rides, I get a rush of satisfaction that we’re moving in the right direction.
The suffer. I love to hurt, and I’m really good at it. I will push myself until I collapse on the sidewalk in front of my apartment (re: marathon training). I will go to very dark places to keep up with a pace group, whether I get the dry heaves on the last mile or not. Yeah…
The community. Sometimes, the events I’m getting in shape for are ones my friends are also training for, so we get to do big rides together. I love chatting with them about their training, the upcoming race, and swapping tips on gear and mileage. On particularly tough days when literally everyone is in the hole, sometimes it’s really nice to hear that they’re having a hard time, too, and that you’ll get through it together.
Yesterday marked exactly four months until my 200-miler at the end of May, and this weekend unofficially officially kicks off my non-training training plan. Heh. More riding. More miles. More fitness. I cannot wait.
Are you training for anything? What you love/hate about getting back in shape?