Thursday, October 18, 2007

Self #1, Self #2, External motivator...

It was early. Dark. Raining. And I was tired. The previous day's efforts had taken their toll, and the thought of getting up before sunrise and jumping into a cold pool wasn't all that appealing. And then my alarms went off. The same annoyingly familiar tune rang and beeped on my cell phone, which rested on my beside table. The exact same tune I hear race morning and every morning when I get up early to work out. I've adopted a Pavlovian response to the song - my heart skips a beat and I get a tingle at the base of my spine, the exact same feeling as I'm walking into the water during the start of the race. It even happens when I'm at a bookstore or restaurant and I hear the song - so if you ever see me jump for no apparent reason, it's probably because I've heard my alarm at some odd hour. So that's how my day began. 6:00am. Dark. Cold. And it was raining buckets. I listened attentively to the sound the rain makes, a beautiful tapping against the windowpane. But today I wasn't tuned into to the nature's symphony, but rather I was hoping against all odds that I might hear the faint roar of thunder.

And therein was the problem.

Let me introduce you to Self #1 and Self #2. Self #1 is the part of me that does the workouts, that pushes through the pain, that deals with life's daily stuff, gets motivated, and simply gets the job done. Self #1 is great - she's motivated, talented, driven, happy, optimistic, and generally has a positive outlook on life. When encountered with a problem, Self #1 will use the power of positive thinking to get her through. There are tornadoes outside? No problem - we can do the 60 min zone 4-5a bike on the trainer! This is also a popular phrase with Self #1: There are dangerous sharks in the Ocean? No big deal, because we'll use a great swim and be out of the water before they even realized we were there! Self #2 is very different. When faced with the daily challenges of life, Self #2 tends to be a bit more pessimistic. She's the voice in the back of my head that urges to me ease up during an intense workout, the voice that tells me it's okay to give in and let up, the voice of doubt, the voice of unanswerable questions, the voice that tells me I can't. When faced with obstacles, Self #2 tends to take on the following line of thinking: There are tornadoes outside? Oh well, there's no way I could ever crank out zone 4-5 on the trainer, I have a hard enough time doing that outside, and the trainer is so much more painful. I'll just skip the workout and make it up later. As for sharks, well, Self #2 follows this line of thought: There are dangerous sharks in the Ocean. Great. I look like a fat seal, nay, a SLOW fat seal in my wetsuit. If I go in the water, I will be eaten by a shark.

You get the idea - I've got a dialogue of sorts going on in my mind. Self #1 and Self #2. We all do -it's part of life, and it's part of being involved in sport. We're motivated beyond all means to push past our limits, to constantly keep improving, keep going. When life hands us lemons we make lemonade, and why couldn't we do it ? Of course we can! Questioning isn't even a reality, because can't is not understood by Self #1. But we all have that little voice in the back of our mind, constantly whispering about things we don't want to think about. Our fears. Our failures. Why we can't. It's a dialogue, of sorts. A conversation with oneself. We all do this, because this is intrinsically who we are. Sometimes we just need to push through, and sometimes we need to listen to our bodies. As long as we're making the right decisions for the right reasons, Self #1 - the positive, happy, optimistic, driven part of our mind- will always override the negative talk from Self #2.

Thursday morning, Self #2 took over for 30 minutes. My alarm went off, and my body lurched involuntarily while my heart pounded and pulse danced. Before I could even realize what I was thinking, Self #2 took over. I'm tired! The water is cold! I don't want to get out of bed. And then I listened to the rain - it had been pounding and pouring all night. Maybe it'll thunder! And the pool will be closed! Maybe we'll get a lot of lightning and I won't even have to leave the house! Is that Thunder I hear? I listened, hopeful that I would hear the distant rumblings of thunder. Nothing but rain. I stumbled out of bed, flipped on the computer, and pulled up the weather channel online. Maybe I'll see a big red blob over Pensacola! Wait! Everything is yellow and green and there are little specks of red! Yea! I won't get in my entire swim because the storms will surely materialize, and I really shouldn't break up this workout, so it would be better to do it later in the day when I can get the entire T-pace set in, than only get parts of it done. Besides, I would probably be the only one at the pool. In fact the lifeguard probably slept in - what idiot would go to the pool in this weather?!? I was surprised at how quickly Self #2 had taken over. She was SO tempting, and she seemed to know her stuff. My T-pace swim WAS hard, but it would be much better if I swam later in the day after the storms had passed through.

But still... (cue Self #1, very timidly) I haven't heard any thunder, and the atmosphere really isn't all that unstable yet. It's just a lot of rain...nothing serious.

To which Self #2 roared Just because it hasn't thundered yet doesn't mean it wont! It's dark. It's cold! You could sleep in, wake up late, and drink coffee! You could eat a big breakfast - I know you're hungry - and have a relaxed morning! Go back to bed! It WILL thunder. The pool WILL be closed. And you WON'T be able to swim this morning. No worries - just do it later. Sleep is calling. The rain is humming on the roof. And your tired. Just crawl back into the warm, comfortable bed, and let sleep take it's course.

And before I realized what I was doing, I closed the computer, flipped off the dining room light switch, and crept back into the bedroom. It was dark and I could hear the rain. I had a bit of resounding guilt, no doubt Self #1 trying to break through. But Self #2 had made a lot of valid points. And my bed was calling. Cue the External Motivator:

Suddenly in the dark, I heard Nathaniel's voice. "What's wrong?" He sounded surprisingly awake for 6:15 in the bloody morning. The External Motivator was curious.

Before thinking about my formulated response, Self #2 replied The radar looks really bad. There's a lot of yellow all over the area, and even some red. It looks like it might thunder. And this is an important workout that I don't want to break up due to storms. Besides, the pool closes at 8, and it looks like we're about to be hit.

The External Motivator wasn't buying it. He had been warned to make sure ahead of time that I get my sorry rear out of bed, even if I was tired (no doubt by the motivated Self #1!). I could feel his speculation from across the room. "I haven't heard any thunder." It was a simple statement.

Self #2 had nothing to say.

The External Motivator continued. "The atmosphere is stable. I've been listening to the rain for the past 15 minutes. No thunder. The pool will be open. It's not even warm outside. The pool is open."

Self #2 still had nothing to say. But Self #2 was angry that the External Motivator didn't want her jumping back into bed. Humph!

"It's only a lot of rain. I think you'll be okay." The External Motivator had just struck out Self #2. Three strikes, you're OUT! Game over.

That's when Self #1 returned. She realized:Yes, I am tired, and that jumping back into bed WOULD be a nice thing to do. But I have a big bike ride today, and if I don't get my swim in early, I won't have enough time to recover in order to do my best for my bike ride. Besides this way I can get the swim over and done with, return from the pool, and really enjoy a big breakfast and lots of coffee. Yes - that's how I'll do it.

Sometimes doing what we're supposed to do isn't always the easiest thing. We'll give ourselves excuses, set up roadblocks, and make ourselves jump through hoops at times. And for what? Sometimes the easy way out seems like the only way. And that's when we really need to buckle down, batten down the hatches, and realize that while there's a time and a place for Self #2 (off season!), there's a reason why we are the people we are, and we do the things we do. And we've got Self #1 to thank for that. So celebrate Self #1 and let Self #2 know that YOU know the real deal and that you're onto their scheme. And when that fails, well - it's always a good thing to have an External Motivator to help.

Thanks Nathaniel. I love you.

2 comments:

Bri Gaal said...

Hi Marit
I read Jen Harrison's blog and saw you had one - another distraction from work! :) I've raced you a couple of times this year but we've never met. Good luck at Clearwater!
Bri Gaal

Marit Chrislock-Lauterbach said...

Hey Bri,
Thanks for the kind words! I recognized you at the Chattanooga race before the start - but was way too intimidated to say hi. I remember seeing you flying on the run course at St. Anthony's - you looked awsome! Thanks for the support!