Mental Health for Aging Athletes

Lucho shared this video of David Goggins.

So many memories come back when I listen to Mr. Goggins share his truth.

It takes courage to change.

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Here’s something I learned from the greatest triathlete of my generation…

If your mental health relies on a physical expression of self then focus your drive on reducing your patterns of self-harm.

Everything else is details.

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Some useful details…

What’s your objective?

Can you answer this question simply, and immediately?

What’s your objective?

Not because of the the importance of whatever you are working on.

Rather, because working towards an objective gives structure to your days and meaning to your life.

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What’s your pattern of daily release?

Strength training and uphill cardio have better long-term outcomes than…

  • drugs and alcohol
  • violence and anger
  • outrage and gossip

…if your current alternatives aren’t working then consider…

Strength training and uphill cardio.

Whatever works for you… remove the things that prevent you from getting your daily release.

Pay attention to the habits that screw up tomorrow.

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What is your pattern of breakdown?

You are going to see this in your peers, before yourself.

The closer you are to the sharp end, the brighter your flame will burn.

Whether it is 5, 15 or 25 years… each body and mind has a limit to the amount of elite-level output it can sustain.

Similar to how you conditioned yourself to endure, train the capacity to appreciate when you’ve had enough.

  • Enough pain
  • Enough challenge
  • Enough exercise
  • Enough work
  • Enough glory
  • Enough winning
  • Enough dessert

Encourage the humility required to admit you’ve had enough.

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When life seems out of whack, return to the basics.

  1. Objective
  2. Release
  3. Patterns of Breakdown

Then…

  • Do good deeds in private.
  • Be your own hero.

Do It Right

I’m in Week Nine of my get strong journey.

I was reminded of a few things…

Do It Right – be an exemplar via action…

Look closely and you will see that the entire system has been set up for us to succeed – we don’t need to cut corners and we should remember our good fortune with every interaction we have with other folks

With regard to strength training… even starting seven months out from next ski season… it’s tempting to rush my prep!

The next lesson is a good way to prevent injury.Work Before Work Rate – as a coach I asked my athletes to show they could do, before we worried about what they were doing.

I’ll use my squats as an example…in maintenance a squat workout might look like 2×20 @ 100 pounds (4,000 pounds of work).

In my initial phase, I asked myself to “prove” I could get through 4×25 of an exercise and not be crippled with soreness in the next 48 hours.

So the goal of the first six weeks was to get comfortable with 4×25 @ 100 pounds (10,000 lbs of work). Within the exercise, as I gained comfort, I expanded my range of movement.

Add reps & increase range.

The 100 repetition exercises have been working for me so the week seven change was 5×20 @ 135 pounds with 1 minute rest between sets (13,500 pounds). The exercise takes about 12 minutes so my work-rate has come up naturally.

Why Bother – have a specific goal, keep a log, share progress – I’ve been at this game for a long time and still benefit from peer pressure and public accountability.

Create superior lower body power endurance, across my full range of movement with strong connective tissue.

So I can… ski all day, with anybody.

Fatigue Isn’t Fatal – Focused work generates fatigue.

Specifically, when muscularly-tired heart rate will be suppressed. Remember…

  • movement is more important than performance
  • use perceived effort, rather than pace/power/HR targets
  • be willing to slowdown
  • keep my mouth shut

Pick And Stick – the most common reason we fail… we are seeking to do too many things at once.

It is not possible to improve strength, become a better lover, lose weight, improve my personality, lower my marathon time, increase work flow productivity, get promoted at the office, increase my social network, improve my relationship with my kids, write a novel and give up chocolate…. at the same time.

Real World Running Rehab

The Endurance Corner Archives are being cleaned out.

Here is an article from a few years ago — the article has helped a lot of people so I’m saving a copy here…

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PART ONE

After two running injuries last fall, I asked our team doc, Jeff Shilt, for a running rehab program. He shared his elite athlete rehab protocol, it was an excellent program:

  • Drills
  • Functional strength
  • Flexibility
  • PowerCranks
  • Gradual ramp of load and intensity

Considering the time commitment required for Jeff’s program, I knew there was zero chance that I’d be able to execute it. Rather than fail, I searched for an alternative plan.

So I asked Jeff, “What is the minimum running load to derive a structural benefit?” He wasn’t sure so I pulled 20 minutes out of the air.

Knowing that it takes me four to six weeks to injure myself I gave myself a target that would take at least three months.

My plan was to insert 20 minutes of slow running with excellent technique. I would handle my aerobic fitness via bike training. I would handle my strength training in the gym.

Over 12 weeks, I managed 50 easy sessions of 20 minutes. I ran mostly on a treadmill with a 1% grade and max speed of 10 minutes per mile. My rehab speed was more than three minutes per mile slower than what I can deliver in a 70.3 race. While I have always been willing to run slow to achieve my goals, my previous goals were closer to 100 mile weeks than quarters!

The 50×20 protocol seems to have worked and my next phase is five-mile runs every other day for 12 weeks. I continue to run slow but have increased my pace cap to eight minutes per mile. I’m off the treadmill and happy to be back outside.

Phase two will take me to June when I’ll shift back to two-mile maintenance runs while I prepare for the Leadville Trail 100 bike.

As an aside, I’m applying the 20-minute target with my reintroduction of swimming. It is early days and a typical workout looks like:

  1. 500 easy with pull buoy
  2. 4x alternate 100 IM no gear with 75 Choice with pull buoy

I managed to keep my large muscle swim strength in the gym but suspect that my little muscles, particularly around my scapula, have atrophied.

Like most of us, my athletic memories and prejudices can cause me to injure myself. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to experiment with slow and steady rehab. I came very close to quitting running and am glad I kept trying to come back.

When more stops working, remember to try less.

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PART TWO

Let’s recap Part One.

  1. Start by completing 50 runs of two miles — took me three months
  2. Shorter of five miles and an hour — every other day for another three months

The above will progress you to 7×45 minutes per 14 days. This works out to about 2:40 per week and will give you a base of about 160 minutes per week that you’ll want to repeat for at least six weeks before adding my tips below.

Once you’re ready to add load, you’ll find that 8-16 minutes worth of threshold/VO2 (combined) per week gives you a performance benefit with very little biomechanical risk.

Adding duration doesn’t give you much — keep every session under an hour. I’ve yet to run 10K.

Adding frequency via supplemental, easy, two-mile runs would make sense if you were a runner, rather than a triathlete. Aside from a couple of back-to-back run days (when traveling), additional running means I swim less. I need my swimming more than I need slow running.

So my recommendation is increase running load by adding intensity wisely. Here’s how:

Create some 5K and 5-mile route options. For my basic running, I prefer flat routes. For my weekly dose of intensity, I prefer hills.

Look for two types of climbs. The first is a climb that flattens at the top. The second is a climb that steepens at the top. Both climbs should be 6-12 minutes long; my preference is 8-10 minutes.

Alternate the climb that you use by week:

  • For the climb that flattens, build pace with the goal being 90 seconds Very Quick at the top.
  • For the climb that steepens, build effort with the goal being 90 seconds Very Intense at the top.

For both climbs, be patient, if you’re recovering from injury then you’ve proven that you can hurt yourself. You want to create a new habit of healthy running.

For both climbs and the descents focus on a quick cadence. Achieve speed via quickness — you should feel like you are taking baby steps.

Follow each day that’s biomechanically challenging with a light day. I’ve been traveling weekly so my total volume (SBR and strength) is down. Therefore, my intense running is done on fresh legs.

A weekly dose of 10 minutes of fast uphill running will give you what you need.

Six months of smart rehab will contain five to eight of these sessions in the final two months. At that stage, you should be better off than you started and ready to incorporate intensive aerobic training (Mod-Hard) as well as extending the duration of your longest run.

Replace the habits that lead to breakdown.

 

Six Weeks

2017-05-14 20.51.55A useful heuristic from @mdotdoc

It takes six weeks to create an overuse injury

This rule of thumb works very well and has a number of implications – particularly if you are sick or injured on a six-week cycle!

Before undertaking a new initiative, I remember the good doctor’s advice and ask myself…

Do I think I can sustain this initiative for six weeks?

Here’s an example…

I want to do a lot of skiing next winter. I know that my limiters are quickness, anaerobic endurance, balance and “all-three-at-the-same-time”.

I spent an afternoon researching my options to address my limiters. In researching the plans, I realized that I lacked both the will, and the capacity, to do what was required.

Circling back to the six-week heuristic… I came up with a plan — 12 traditional strength workouts and 12 plyometric workouts. Each session is 15-30 minutes long.

The total commitment is 8 hours out of 42 days.

Seems tiny.

Three weeks in… I’m getting it done, just!

Long-term progress comes from keeping small promises to yourself via daily action.

The habit of one positive step, daily, is more important than the height of the step.

Getting Strong 2017

It’s been eight years since I gave strength a big push.

I’m going to ramp things up over the spring and summer.

Sunday – standard program with 2×25 back squat (95 lbs) (25 minutes)

Tuesday – 5x mini blasters on 30 seconds rest (7 minutes)

Thursday – standard program with 3×25 back squat (100 lbs) (30 minutes)

Saturday – 10x mini blasters on 30 seconds rest (15 minutes)

The progression will mirror what’s outlined in my book, Going Long.

All going well, this will end up being a 20 week campaign and I’ll post as I transition between the phases. The plan is to leave myself ten weeks for a little ski-specific prep.

Total time is 1:20 => the highest physical return (per minute) of my week.

 

The Road Ahead

Four recent reads.

A neat concept from Pasricha is to view a week as three bins of time.

  • 168 hours in a week.
  • Splitting into thirds, we get three bins of 56 hours.
  • Most folks drop two bins (112 hours) into sleep, work and commute.
  • Leaving 56 hours for everything else, which happens to be the subject of his book.

The author encourages us to have a look at our allocation. Here’s mine…

  • Sleep and unscheduled personal time – 65 hours
  • Kids — meals, bedtime, homework, housework, dad time and school drops – 40 hours
  • Exercise, strength training, time in nature – 21 hours
  • Admin, taxes, legal, finances, writing – 15 hours
  • Travel, Driving – 15 hours
  • Open, Reading – 12 hours

When I bring energetic action, time and expert instruction to an area of my life… I get results.

If it’s not happening then it’s not a priority.

Better to tell the truth — especially to myself!

Younger Next Year was written for Baby Boomers but I found it entertaining and useful.

Around 2030, I’m going to have a 40-hour slice of time land in my lap. Leaving my desk job in 2000, I have been through much of the author’s story. What I haven’t dealt with is aging and decay!

This winter, I learned to ski well. Learning to ski was humbling — I found myself lacking in absolute power, power endurance and quickness. Add that experience to the gradual deterioration of my vision. Aging and decay!

Through an explanation of Harry’s Rules, the book reminded me of other potential gaps in my life — connection, commitment, passion.

“Kids” have taken a big slice of time in my forties. Because we’re likely to have another 15,000 hours to come, I’ve been working on up-skilling everyone.

Some day the “kid” slice will be gone. My marriage will remain.

The two books by Gray (as well as The Soul of the Marionette) were fabulous and challenged the narrative my local community tells itself.

When I’m doing, connected and engaged…

…I don’t overthink any passing emotional state.

It’s worth making an effort to fill-the-gaps.

My Silver Year

2015-12-27 13.50.08It was my 47th birthday last week.

Borrowing from the late Oliver Sachs, I decided to look up 47 on the periodic table. I was happy to discover it’s the element Silver (47Ag). So the next 12 months will represent my Silver Year.

When I’m going through a tough patch, I tell myself to live-every-phase.

I have two tendencies that distract from a goal of living every phase of my life.

The first is wishing backwards – mourning the loss of peak physical power.

The second is wishing forwards – feeling like I am trapped in a perpetual holding pattern with my preschoolers. Wishing for freedom that, I believe, will come later.

The above thinking is not useful.

A useful antidote is to reflect on the advantages of my Silver Year.

My life is straightforward, surrounded by wonderful people, close to nature and simple.

While I’m past my athletic sell-by date, nearly all my physical changes so far have been positive.

Staying healthy is easier, and requires much less time, than I expected. As a former ultra-endurance athlete, the toughest part has been changing my belief system to reflect what I’ve seen with my body.

With that in mind, I’ll offer this observation about my younger self.

  • If you have the capacity to convince yourself that total focus towards your goal is “necessary”
  • If you have the capacity to commit significant, sustained attention towards a narrow field of interest
  • If you have the capacity to recover from high workloads
  • then you have what it takes to succeed.

Yay!

However…

You also have the capacity for sustained, extremely poor judgement.

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Success in a narrow niche is about getting a lot of work done, shedding non-core and motivating others to help you achieve.

However…

As we age, we’re likely to value connection more than success.

…and connection is about being good enough across a wide-network of relationships.

…and my relationships benefit from what I don’t do, don’t say, don’t indulge

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Now, at this stage of my life, there is a growing realization that the people around me don’t care about my personal productivity. They want to see me happy and serene.

However, I notice that time is passing and the window for getting-stuff-done is closing.

But what stuff will “I” value having gotten done if I arrive at my Golden Year (79Au)?!

I deal with this tension by pausing and paying attention whenever I feel happy, content and serene.

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The motto “live every day” always makes me feel like I should be enjoying myself.

For my Silver Year, I prefer “live every phase” — giving myself permission to experience my difficulties as they come and vowing to keep moving forward despite knowing how the story will end.