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To many, perhaps most, of the under-achieving observers out there, it may seem that competitive athletes are an unfortunate lot.

To outsiders, the serious runner, cyclist or other high intensity athlete must appear continuously sore, aching, injured, misguided and masochistic, a driven, monomaniac, doomed to a short, miserable, lonely life. Maybe, but what cynics forget, cannot grasp or simply ignore is that, for the seriously competitive athlete, routine encounters with the physical realities of weather, the demands of training and racing, managing within personal physical and psychological limits offers, in return for the effort, incomparable resilience and mental balance.
Some might mistake such aplomb as smug contentment (a state easier to take from the inside, than from without, I am told.) But in fact, if you race or train for very long at any of the truly demanding, physical sports, you eventually develop what we might call coping skills as surely as you build up your wind or your quads.

Here are some ideas on managing and coping to think about as you slog along on your own journey.

SERIOUSNESS:
This is serious business. It is, after all, living, and, as far as we know, this is your only shot at it. So you should really try harder than just to make do. On the other hand, though serious, life need not be grave. Make yourself take your training seriously. Stay with it as long as it enhances and strengthens. If you start questioning your own sanity because you have begun to feel you are taking it all too seriously, you probably are. Stop, step back and reorient yourself. This process can take the form of a vacation, a new approach to cross training or just a few days off.

EXPECTATIONS:
Make them great ones. Aim for as high as you can see, but make sure your feet are planted firmly on earth when you look. Some of the most self-destructive behavior grows out of illogical, unrealistic self delusions of grandeur. Beware of pipe dreams.

WIND DOWN OR BURN OUT: For most athletes at this latitude (the Mid Atlantic states,)
the racing season in many sports starts in the spring, glides through the summer and ends or quickens again in the fall before the race schedule finally dries up before winter sets in. For competitors who stay with it for nine months or longer, the danger of burnout becomes ever more real as the season grinds on. Race it if you must and can stay healthy and happy. But if you are beginning to feel the strain either in your working mechanisms or in your head, take the message to heart and ease up to recover your energy and enthusiasm.

HARVEST:
If you have trained well and have stayed out of trouble – meaning injury free – you are certainly entitled to have some pure fun beyond just hammering yourself to numbness.

TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT:
Take some long hikes in the woods, start going on some club rides, break out your ATB and attack a mountain. This can be a beautiful time to reap the fruit of your athletic labors over the past few months.

TRIUMPH VS P.R.: Winning in endurance sports is a great deal more than coming in first. Most athletes come to understand that fact early in their careers. Sometimes just finishing a race can give you the heady experience of high achievement every bit as much as taking a gold medal. Nothing is so uplifting as going back on the road after a long and painful recovery from a seemingly intractable injury. But take it easy, and don’t let yourself be seduced into over-stepping your deconditioned state.

ADVENTURE VS DRUDGERY: Even when grinding through the last phases of training for a marathon or a century ride or another heroic effort, your daily routine can still hold a sense of mystery and adventure for you. Pick a new venue, a new time of the day, a new training partner, new gear. If you should ever suffer from feelings of despair or of being a powerless, innocent victim, turn your thinking around. Practice taking on the mind set of an explorer in which you see the world around you as if for the first time. Think of how you would describe it to a complete stranger.

STICK TO THE POINT: Skeptics have asked, “what’s the point of doing what you do?” To a degree, one supposes, if they have to ask, they may not comprehend the answer. The fact is that just being here is the point – to live, to experience life, to be there when the future happens. Where better a place to be than on the journey, aware and ready for anything?

In Good Health,
By Bernard L. Gladieux, Jr.
President,
The Pressure Positive Company®

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