This one’s a little embarrassing and personal, but if you bear with me you’ll see I have a point to make.
In late 2006 I started having anxiety attacks. Let’s just say burning the candle at both ends caught up with me (being a new parent, running a business, lifting very heavy weights way too often, and over-using stimulants to get it all done). I also – at the same time – managed to get acute gastritis, lose my appetite and drop 15 pounds in 3 weeks.
Since I had a cancer history, the rapid weight loss set off all sorts of medical fire alarms, and another round of MRI’s and CT scans started. After a brief bout of medical treatment, I started looking for natural ways to fix myself up.
My favorite little section of Outside Magazine has always been the book reviews. In the middle of all of this was a review of a book called Spark, by Jon Ratey, MD. In this book, Ratey (a psychiatrist) reviews all of the evidence that indicates endurance training is better for treating mild cases of anxiety and depression (and other related problems, including ADD and learning problems) than pills are.
That sounded like a good treatment program to me. As I mentioned before, I had long been a gym rat. Heavy weights were all I thought I needed, so this endurance thing was new to me. I decided to do the triathlon that I had sponsored for years, Xterra Buffalo Creek.
I still recall making this decision on my 39th birthday, after battling the anxiety for 3 or 4 months. I had no idea how to train for a tri. I had a 1994 Trek 930 P.O.S. mountain bike in my crawl space. It didn’t shift. I owned no running shoes. I had never swam 100 meters in my life.
I bought a training plan from triathlongeek.com ($17.95) and started.
Workout #1 called for swimming 250 meters, 10 lengths of the pool. My heart rate shot so high after about 75 meters, I thought I actually might have a heart explosion. This was not good for the anxiety.
My running wasn’t any better. I had to run-walk my way through a 2 mile run. I turned in a 15:00 pace (per mile, not good). I was tooling around on the beat up mountain bike, not able to shit gears. I had no clue.
But a funny thing happened: I started feeling the anxiety going away. Training for a tri actually was curing my anxiety. Training for a race healed me. (Yes I finished, near last. But not dead last.)
And so now, 3 tri seasons later, this is what drives me to keep going. And this is what drives me to help you. Runners run for a reason. Cyclists ride for a reason. Triathletes train for a reason. Cross-Fitters do ball slams for a reason. And so on.
These things we do keep us sane. They are the things that make us happy. They define us. For some of us it’s just about training and finishing. For others, it’s about winning. But to all of us, these sports are sacred.
So when a triathlete who’s training for her first sprint distance race comes to see me because her knee hurts and she can’t train, I know there’s more than just a race at stake. When a marathoner comes to see me because his foot hurts, I understand why he’s going to keep training anyway. When a mom comes to see me because she hurt her shoulder in Pump class, I understand why it’s crucial that I fix her so she can get back to class.
I understand why you do these things that you do. And that’s why at my clinic we try so hard to fix you up when you’re hurt. We don’t want you to miss out on your training. We don’t want you to stop. When we’re treating you, we almost never tell you to stop. Maybe back off a little, but don’t stop.
And so this is why I do what I do, and this is why that I’m honored that you call me when you’re hurt. As I’ve done for the last 13 years, I will do my best to keep you in the game. I’m presently training for my 4th season of Xterra triathlons. I am not fast and I don’t care.
I’ve got my own reasons behind my tri habit, just like you have your reasons for doing what you do. Some people don’t’ get. They think we’re crazy for doing all this sports stuff. And as you know, we don’t care what they think. Don’t stop.
So here’s wishing all of you a great summer of training, racing & living. Enjoy!