Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Guest Post: An Achievable Goal or a Mid-life Crisis?

Believe it or not, this is the very first guest post I've ever featured on Fitbomb -- and it's a good one.

The author of this piece is Tim Huntley of My Athletic Life, one of my favorite fitness blogs to hit the scene in quite some time. It's chock-full of rich, informative articles, interviews, and even recipes. The meaty content on My Athletic Life speaks to dedicated athletes, trainers, coaches, and weekend warriors alike. If you haven't yet checked out Tim's site, do yourself a favor and head on over there after you read his post.

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“If you can fill the unforgiving minute, with sixty seconds' worth of distance run, yours is the earth and everything that's in it.” - Rudyard Kipling

For the first 43 years of my life, I was a fairly sedentary person, with the possible exception of my time in college.  And I’m sure that I never had a goal related to fitness or athleticism until this past year.  As a kid, I grew up playing baseball, but I can’t say that it contributed much to my confidence as an athlete. It’s probably a poor reflection on me, but I have focused on things that I have an aptitude for and ignored activities that are challenging.

At the start of 2011, I did some soul searching and self-reflection.  My wife and I have twin 8 year old boys, and I definitely wanted to keep up with them for a long time.  And combined with my Dad’s “mild heart attack” the previous year, I needed to modify how I was living my life.  My diet was pretty good (Weston A. Price and Paleo) but it quickly became apparent that in spite of my self-doubts, I would need to invest in my own physical fitness.

Right or wrong, my approach was to come up with a very specific fitness goal, one that would require a substantial investment of effort over an extended period of time.

Beginning in early 2011, I made a list of 6-8 ideas – things like 100 pushups, 20 pull-ups, bench press my bodyweight 10 times, etc.  After seeking advice, I began to whittle down my list to a single goal so that I could focus my training.  Surprisingly, the one goal that I couldn’t seem to let go of, the one that seemed to light a spark was:
  • Run a 400 meter dash in under sixty seconds before I turn 46 (January 2013)
I say “surprisingly” because at that moment, the following were all true:
  • I hated to run long distances, but I was willing to sprint.
  • My best time for the 400m was 1 minute 45 seconds – and after running it, I fell over in a heap.
  • I didn’t personally know a single person my age that could run 400m in less than 60 seconds.
Go ahead, pass judgment.  I certainly did.

The Plan

Since I was woefully out of shape, steps one, two, and three would be to spend about six months on general physical conditioning.  Thankfully CrossFit Local was running a Groupon deal for a one month “boot camp” beginning April 1st.  In spite of my struggles in boot camp and with the foundations classes that followed, I focused on a single objective:  Go to each class and do the work – I trusted that I would get better.

Get better I did, but not in any spectacular fashion.  I did start to feel a shift, both physically and mentally.  I hoped that by improving my strength and stamina, I would improve my sprinting speed as well.

In mid-June I decided it was time to see how well the plan was working.  I went to a local school track and ran the one lap (400m) in 1 minute and 15 seconds.  While that still left 15 HUGE seconds to eliminate, I had made a 30 second improvement in roughly 3 months with CrossFit alone.
And oddly enough, it was my lack of success at CrossFit that gave me an additional boost of confidence.  My twisted rationalization was that there was a tremendous opportunity for strength gains given how weak I was (I almost never do a WOD as RX’d).

The more recent confidence boost came in early August when I competed in a 200 meter race as part of a local track club’s weekly meet.  My time, an acceptable 30.5 seconds, meant that I could probably run the 400m in approximately 1 minute 8 seconds.  My belief is that if I can run a 200m in 27 seconds or better, I should have a great chance at my 59.99 second 400m.

Now that I am within striking distance of my goal, my plan is to shift from general training to much more specific sprint work.  This means that I will not be doing as much CrossFit work, but that is the reality of trying to make my goal.

A big thanks to Fitbomb for letting me share my story and to you for reading it.  I realize that every time I tell someone my goal, I make myself more accountable.  Maybe it’s my therapy or maybe it’s how I keep myself motivated, but talking and writing about my plan seems helpful and perhaps necessary.

Another way I find motivation and inspiration is through the achievements of others.  At my new website, My Athletic Life, I am interviewing everyday CrossFitters, elite athletes, and Olympic hopefuls, each with a story to tell.  Recent profiles include Olympic hopeful, hammer thrower Britney Henry and Mark Divine, founder of SEALFIT.  Stop by My Athletic Life or visit us on Facebook and find your own inspiration.

[Photo credit:  TerranceDC]