Sprinting Past Laziness and Fear
Thursday morning, 5 a.m.
I’m feeling sore from yesterday’s leg workout, but otherwise pretty decent and happy that today is back day. It’s not that back day is overwhelmingly fun, it’s just that it’s not leg day, which hurts like a mother. Also, I’ve been eating super clean and having been meeting my weight goals, so (in theory) my coach, Robin, should be in a good mood with me.
“One of my weight loss clients hasn’t been losing weight the past two weeks, and when I asked him how his cardio was going and he told me he was too busy to do his cardio. Well, no wonder he’s not losing weight! So I’m double checking with all my clients now. Are you getting your cardio done? Stairs and sprints?”
See, somewhere around week 5 of competition prep, cardio enters a new stage of awful: interval sprints. Interval sprints are where you run as fast as you can for, say 20 seconds, and then hope to the sides of the treadmill and rest for 20 seconds. Or, if you’re on a track, you run a certain distance then walk and repeat.
Sprinting is an important part of bodybuilding training during the cutting phase (where your goal is to get as low body fat as humanly possible) because all that exertion torches your fat while strengthening the muscles in your hamstrings and glutes. Intellectually, I fully understand the merits of this exercise.
Emotionally, however, sprinting inspires a hatred deep within the very core of my soul. Personally, I like to run at the speed of walking (3.5 on the treadmill) but Robin considers anything less than a 10 walking. You see how this difference of opinion over sprint speed can be a problem…For me.
“Uh-hum?…” It was the uh-hum instead of uh-huh that gave me away. Robin shakes his head and walks straight to the treadmill. Now, I’m not a mind reader, but his expression seemed to read something like, ‘Trying to get my clients on track is like herding cats.’
“Stand on the sides.” He sets the speed at 8. Who runs at level 8 for the warm up? “Go! Get your hands off the rails.”
“I’m going to fall,” I say gripping the rails tighter as I run.
“No you’re not. Hands off. OK, rest.” Twenty seconds is a really long time to run, but resting it’s like, you know, just 20 seconds.
Robin increases the speed to 9, and I’m thumping away. “You’re running heavy. Lift your knees. Run through your toes, not your heels. Get your hands off the rails or I’ll raise it to 10.”
“I hate you, Robin!” I sputter.
“I know you do. Rest. Look, if you fall, you’re not going that far, right? If you run with your hands on the rails you’re going to hurt yourself because your form is wrong.”
I keep putting my hands on the rail every three seconds because my legs are still sore from yesterday, I’m naturally clumsy, and am afraid I’m going to fall.
We are all guided by a map of our hurts, and sprints have left their mark on my body and psyche. Like the time I was doing trail running sprints when I was training for the Marine Corps Marathon with Team in Training. Not only did I completely wipe out and have teammates trip over me in a monumental pile up, I also gained a nice scar on my knee so I can remember the experience in perpetuity.
Then there was the epic fail of the fitness test in Los Angeles. It was the first time I ever worked with a personal trainer and this was my first session where he evaluated my fitness level. Ha ha. My father had recently died, I’m an emotional eater, and during his illness I went from a size 3 to a size 9. I was completely out of shape and my awkwardness was multiplied because the gym was filled with gorgeous actors and models who sweated sunshine and glitter.
The trainer, Paulo, increased the treadmill speed to a 5. “That’s really fast, Paulo,” I said. “Just one more minute,” he said scribbling something on his clipboard. “I see spots.” “Huh?”
When I woke up I was on the floor surrounded by personnel from the gym having me sign a release form saying I wouldn’t sue them and in exchange they gave me a cup of orange juice. That’s right; I was the chubby girl who passed out in front of the supermodels.
I hate sprints. I hate treadmills.
I’m panting, gulping air, “This sucks, Robin.”
“Of course it sucks, it’s cardio. Nobody likes cardio if they’re doing it right. Go.”
Yes, I have a legit fear of falling, but it’s also fair to say I’m prone to cardio laziness too. Let’s face it, it’s way easier to scroll through Instagram and double tap your like at a speed of 5 versus 9.5, am I right?
We switch to lat pull downs. Yay! But then the set is done, and back we go to the treadmill. Damnit! He does this after each back exercise until I’m so tired I’m not even paying attention to anything but the clock, counting each second until I can rest.
An interesting article in Men’s Health said that people used to think that the heart regulated the body in matters of fitness and therefore exhaustion was a physical thing, but new research suggests that it is the brain that does the regulation, therefore exhaustion is really just a mental state, a feeling of discomfort or fear. But if you can push past that, convince yourself that you can achieve a physical feat, you will. So I tell myself, ‘push through the pain, almost done, get out of your head, you’re not going to fall.’
Robin presses the stop button and I regain my breath. “You just ran at 9.5. And you didn’t hold on once.”
I smile. Because I just sprinted away from laziness and past my own fears. (Thanks, Robin.)
How about you? Is fear holding you back? Make an effort to push past your fear today.