I very much dislike working out. Almost as much as I like working. Which is why I quit my job. And also why I quit working out.
Instead I PLAY. I adventure. Run, scramble, swim, jump, climb, sprint, crawl, bike, paddle, and drink beer at the end (or during). For the past three years, I find myself thinking I am at the best fitness of my life. But then six more months down the road, and I am in even better shape. How did this happen? That’s a question I ask myself quite a bit. The answer I’ve decided is a focus on PLAY instead of WORK.
Work has a negative connotation. Occasionally it can be fun, but more often it is something we don’t want to do. When training for a 100 mile race, you must train harder than you ever have trained for anything before. The mental and physical conditioning it takes to complete any sort of endurance event is never something to take lightly. If all training events are work outs, you will burn out of motivation and energy in the many months preceding your event.
This past week I crossed a new threshold. While in canyon country in southern Utah, I ran/hiked 154 miles in a seven day period, more than any other training week. And the best part? I didn’t even realize until day 5 that I was approaching this figure. How? Because I was having so much fun PLAYING I didn’t even notice how far I was going. Dave Swoish and me ran the Zion Traverse (48 miles), the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim (46 miles), a half marathon near Red Rocks, and Buckskin Gulch, the world’s longest slot canyon in Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument, and other various desert runs. On none of these runs did I ever feel like I was doing work. I was playing. I found out that you can have Runner’s High for 20 miles on top of a mesa with canyons dropping off all around you with a cool breeze whipping your face. Unlike other high mileage weeks, I cannot think of a single time during any of those runs in which I was not enjoying myself.
Before the Zion 100 miler, I put in a back to back 100 mile and 80 mile training week. They included far too many WORK OUTS, where I was putting in miles just to hit a high weekly total. And by Zion, I was burnt out. I had pushed myself too far. My body and mind had too much. Luckily I realized this before I was too far into a hole and rested up for an outstanding Zion run. It taught me an important lesson. It is possible to train and workout at an extremely high level for a short bit, and have some amazing results in competition. But I do not think this is sustainable. Do not sacrifice enjoyment to just focus on performance. More often, I’ve found I will still perform better at a race if I am just enjoying the training and racing rather than pushing the gas.
This translates to whatever venture in life you are pursuing or whatever sport you are in. Even when I am not training for an event, I focus my fitness on playing. I do far more than just run. I rock climb, mountain bike, hike, or chop wood. Even if you haven’t quit your job and have all day to play, you can still find a way to make the outdoors part of your daily life. No matter where you are in the country, there are an abundance of parks and green spaces even in cities to play. Think of being a kid again. They don’t go out to train for 30 minutes. They go out to run and sprint and play until they’re dead tired. Climb a tree. Explore a creek nearby. Have a water balloon fight.
Have a playout.