The Courage to Start, Again

Burnout. Yep. I’ve got it. After completing 3 Ironman races in 2 years, and following that up with a Fall marathon, I gave myself the green light in October to take some time off from serious training. It wasn’t really that my body needed a break (thankfully), but mentally I needed to remove the constant, daily pressures of completing workouts while still excelling at work, family and other aspects of my life. No longer did I need to worry about four am spin sessions, lunchtime swim workouts sandwiched between conference calls, and the nearly daily calendar-comparisons with my husband to find time to “fit it all in”. That part of my life had gotten very old.

I felt liberated for the first few weeks as I started ignoring TrainingPeaks. I thoroughly capitalized on my newfound freedom by sleeping in, working a bit more, having an extra glass of wine here or there, and even catching up with old friends. The problem is, now that it’s training season, I’ve been having a hard time ditching these non-training-centric habits.

It’s not the first time I’ve struggled to jump back into a training routine. I think in many ways, this reluctance to restart triathlon training is similar to how I felt the first time I made the lifestyle switch to became an athlete.

Nearly 15 years ago, when I was first picked up running, a good friend bought me a book, The Courage to Start, written by John Bingham, or “The Penguin” as he refers to himself, the book tells the story of a couch potato-to-marathoner. Through humor anecdotes and ridiculousness, John shares his own journey of how he tackled the daily challenge of getting out there to run. It’s a great read.

There were many parts of John’s story that resonated with me, including a proclamation that back-of-the-packers are athletes too. However, the biggest takeaway was that everyone has tough days – that’s a normal part of being an athlete – but that the hardest ones are in the beginning of any training. It’s having the courage to first put on your shoes, and then get out the door, and then go to the end of the block, and then run a mile, and work your way up to whatever distance you want. It all starts with putting on your shoes.

So, here I am. A six-time Ironman finisher. 10-time marathon finisher. Looking at myself in the mirror, thinking about the message in the book, telling myself that I need to have the courage to just get out there again. It somehow seems less daunting when I realize that I don’t have to go out and run a ½ marathon today. It’s just an easy 5k. Which, even with 3 months off from training, I know I can do. Somehow, that reorientation is enough to make getting back to training more manageable. And actually enjoyable.

After I finish this thought, I’m headed to the closet to find my running shoes. Maybe it won’t be as hard as I thought to get motivation. As the Penguin would say: Waddle on Friends.

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About the author

Now a 5-time Ironman finisher, Monique is starting to think that, perhaps, she might actually be an athlete. Triathlons were supposed to be a hobby to alleviate the anxiety of turning 30, but more than a decade later, and after a 5-year hiatus to start a family, she’s hooked again.

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