Training Then Versus Training Now

I mentioned before that I registered for a triathlon in September. This will be my third triathlon, but the first Olympic distance I will try. I’m excited to have a big goal to work toward- the Olympic distance is long (for me), and will force me to train well and consistently. I like that.

When I started getting back in the pool a few weeks ago, it brought back memories of my first triathlon. Some good, some not.

I was a sophomore at JMU when a friend first pitched the idea of a triathlon. She had done it the year before, so I was able to ask her lots of questions about it and determine that the idea was not totally insane. (I am convinced that MOST things that I do, I do when I see someone else try them first. I am not a pioneer or trend-setter, by any stretch).

I came up with a training schedule, which mostly consisted of making sure I worked out five times each week. Three mornings a week, I would ride my bike across campus to swim before the day started. I remember pulling on my green and white warm-up pants from high school soccer and riding across a quiet, chilly campus. When I got to UREC, it would be me and an over-caffeinated aerobics instructor, and a quiet gym.

I taught myself to swim laps that semester. Not having grown up with a community pool (unless you count Jean Brown’s pool in her backyard), I was never on a swim team. “Swimming” was sharks and minnows and seeing who could swim the length of the pool underwater.

I didn’t know how to swim for long distances, so I started out by swimming freestyle as fast as I could, losing my breath too quickly, and having to revert to the breast stroke too often. It took a while to learn that I needed to slow down, in order to keep going. Speeding up left me feeling like I might drown.

That was also the first semester that I played rugby at JMU. As a result, I frequently looked like I spent my afternoons playing “please kick the hell out of my shins”. I remember the lifeguard asking me what happened to my legs, since they were constantly various shades of purple and healing-bruise green. I didn’t have any iron in my diet at that point, which left me a) tired all the time and b) prone to bruise even more easily than usual. My legs were a mess.

this was my junior year.  so very many bruises from this sport.

this was my junior year. so very many bruises from this sport.


After I swam in the mornings, I would drag myself to a required science class. Without fail, I fell asleep in every single science class that semester. I have the notes to prove it, somewhere. You can see where I started off writing neatly, and then my pen would trail off the page as I fell asleep. Sometimes I wrote weird stuff that came out of a dream I was having in class. (Not kidding.) My friends thought it was hilarious. Anna would nudge me to keep me awake, but it would only last for a few more minutes before I would nod off again.

The training lasted all semester, and culminated in a triathlon in Williamsburg. It was really fun and I did well- finishing strong, with energy to spare. I did it with three other friends, and it was great to experience it all together.

But it came at a cost. I was constantly tired that semester. My muscles were fatigued and weary, all the time. I was sleep-deprived all the time, and fell asleep in a lot of classes. I don’t want to think about how my professors felt, seeing that. (One professor yelled at me about it my junior year. He was a pretty big jerk in the way he approached it, but I also had it coming).

If I could go back to my 19 year old self, I would tell myself to go to sleep. Skip a class every once in a while (I mean- you’re sleeping through it anyway) and skip a workout. Skip several workouts. You’ll be fine. Get some iron in your diet. If the red meat options at D-Hall freak you out (which is understandable), take a supplement. No one should have that many bruises. Your body is telling you it needs something- listen to it.

But that was sort of a foreign concept at that time. Rest days were earned because the training schedule had been followed, not because my body was weary. It didn’t occur to me that a training program out of a book should not dictate my exercise in totality. It didn’t occur to me to be attentive to what I actually needed, and what would have been kinder to myself.

So a lot of that comes back to me, as I churn out the laps these last couple of weeks. Much has happened since then. I am not floating around detached from my body these days, expecting it to take abuse and keep rising to the occasion. I don’t feel like I am at war with my body anymore- that it cannot be trusted.

This training season will be different from when I was a sophomore at JMU. I am training in conjunction with a lot of other things, and some of those will take precedence at times. I am following a training schedule, but holding it pretty loosely. On days that I feel great, or even so-so, I want to push myself. On days when I am sore and tired, I want to cut the run short and stretch instead.

I didn’t do any of that when I was 19, and I wish I had. I wish I had cut myself more slack. I wish I had enjoyed the feeling of exercise, not just the feeling of crossing another training run off the calendar because that is what I was supposed to do.

So. Here’s to the redemptive triathlon.


10 thoughts on “Training Then Versus Training Now

  1. It took me quite a while to find you in that picture.
    You’re training for a triathlon. And you have 3 kids. Impressed. Not inspired, but impressed.

  2. I am super-impressed. My relationship with my body has been mostly dysfunctional. I have very little sense of listening to it, respecting it, or pushing it in healthy ways. It’s an area I’m finally trying to make some progress with. Can’t wait to hear how your triathlon goes.

    • thanks for the encouragement. it is an area i have peace in sometimes, and really struggle with at other times. but the peace days outweigh the others, which i am thankful for.

  3. Ah memories. Doesn’t it make you laugh to think of how luxurious we should’ve known it was to jet off to UREC to work out by ourselves? Kat, I had an 8 am astronomy class in which we went into a dark room to look up at fake stars. How am I not supposed to fall asleep during this every.single.time? I did, and then snorted myself awake very loudly. Next to our friend Peter, whom we all thought was the cat’s meow. Still makes me laugh : )

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