Finding Muchness… aka let’s talk about Stress & Training.

Muchness.

As defined by urban dictionary: The innocence and imagination that appears in the hearts of young children. As the children grow older, they become more mature, and gain responsibilities. They lose their muchness.

Ain’t that the truth. As a kid you can play, explore and wander to your hearts desire. I remember the long summer days playing around the farm with my sisters and cousin. Hours upon hours upon hours of playing “kick the can” (after a few chores of course), exploring the old barns full of treasures and adventuring into the woods. Those were the days, and yet we wished to be older so that we could have ‘freedom’ by being able to drive and make our own decisions. Funny you don’t really think about how you gain those ‘freedoms’ until you reach that elusive “when you’re older phase” – enter: bills, jobs, and responsibility. Catch 22.

If you’ve watched Alice and Wonderland you might have heard The Mad Hatter talk about Muchness.

muchiness
Over the past few years, I found that more and more ‘adult’ items entered life.
Stress played an increasing role in everyday life.
Stress. The ultimate killer of muchness.
As I was training for Ironman, stress played a big role and not in a positive way. When you are training for an event such as Ironman, stress is a normal factor – there are long workouts that stress the body, there is a high load of training which can create stress in scheduling, and there is mental stress in clearing the hurdles just to get to the start line of the event (never mind the finish line). It’s all normal, right? Well, maybe.
The stress that should be experienced in training is “acute” stress which can actually be positive in nature. In training, acute stress is common and it’s how your body immediately reacts to new challenges and demands – it’s the fight or flight response – and it helps your body and mind practice for future demands.
If the stress isn’t temporary, or is coming from several sources, and begins to increase or last for long periods, it becomes chronic stress. During my IM training I encountered the training stress, stress at work and stress in my personal life – which looking back I now see that I pushed beyond the acute stress phase into a state of chronic stress. I will admit a lot of this stress that I was feeling at the time was self-induced. Looking back, I fully believe that if I had created a bit more flexibility in my schedule and the demands I placed on myself, I could have given myself more breathing room and ultimately performed better rather than rolling into every event in 2015 in a state of complete fatigue – both mentally and physically.
During 2015, I pushed myself to a place where life was not very fun and I didn’t have a release for stress. Training and racing had always been the place where I felt muchier. When the pressure of increasing distance and instensity started to pile up, plus trying to perform at work and strengthen personal relationships, suddenly training (and life) wasn’t fun anymore (seriously I dreaded all those long bike rides (there were 5 of them, 100+ miles. not counting the many 60-80 mile rides) on Saturdays followed by 4-6 mile runs, the subsequent long runs on Sundays (up to 20 miles)… and lost the drive I had at work/non-training life. I lost my muchness. In a big way. Suddenly training went from something fun and challenging to something that was challenging and draining. Not a fun transition.
A large part of training is mental. Arguably, it’s the biggest part.  In hindsight, I wish I had recognized the mental drain, had stopped to figure out how to hit ‘reset’ and reframe the training from something that was a chore to something that was more fun. I could have broken things up a bit more, worked to make it more fun. Looking back, it’s easy to have 20/20 vision, to see where things derailed. But that’s the beauty and power of looking in the rearview mirror. If you take the time, you can learn a lifetime of lessons in the reflection.
Unfortunately, in my case, I didn’t really take this time to reflect until last summer, after I put my body and mind through another distance race and found that I was having the same experience in 2016 and I had in 2015, despite “only” training for half the distance. (Side note: training for and completing a 140.6 mile race does strange things to your perspective. When I hear myself talk or think in terms of “only” – I want to slap myself…)
Some lessons take longer to learn than others. Ultimately, this is where my determination got the best of me, I continued to be too stubborn to get out of my own way last year until I was completely defeated and did not care that I PR’ed my 70.3 distance. (really… did. not. care. – no celebration, no feeling of accomplishment. I was done.)
Anyhow, this year I resolved to keeping things more fun, upbeat, light-hearted. After a couple conversations with my coach and family, I decided to start training again but did not have any races on the calendar to start. I just had three simple rules to guide both myself and my coach. The rules are:
1) no workouts over 2 hours in length & no races longer than an olympic distance triathlon or 10 miles running
2) try new things, learn new skills
3) have fun
So far, so good. I’ve been rebuilding my base, once again gaining strength and speed. I’ve started to see running paces that I have not seen since 2013.
I’ve been having a lot more ‘play’ time in the woods as I learn to mountain bike, ‘playing’ all sorts of sports at my 5:30 am crossfit sessions, and ‘playing’  on the track for my early morning speed sessions.
Despite a setback with my shoulder training and life has been great (turns out when you throw different sports into the regimen, some weaknesses will rear their head – unanticipated opportunity for additional growth & strength).
I’ve found motivation to get up early and attack the day – this is a first, historically I’ve always opted for the warm bed and rushing to work over working out and enjoying my morning. Somedays I’m not even sure who this new girl is… 🙂 
And next week, I’m actually going to race! Due to some last minute sign-ups and encouraging by a few of my Migonis Teammates and coach, I’ve decided to jump on board to race the Saratoga Duathlon. I’m excited to go out put my training to the test and just have fun.
Racing this year is about embracing muchness. Letting go of stress. Allowing the good to flow in. Muchness is not only a feeling but a choice. Life is more fun when you are your strange, wonderful, strong, crazy, self.

muchness

Embrace it. All of it. The up and down, the left and right. Life has some curves but it’s all in the way you choose to handle it. It’s like riding a rollercoaster. You can either hang on for dear life and start praying, or throw your hands up in the air while you shriek and laugh. Choose muchness. Choose the joy.

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