27 February 2010

How Macho We're Not: The Truth About Projecting Our Psyche

Following my one hour lunchtime swim workout yesterday at the university, I was feeling pretty spent, so I called Adam to see how his workout went earlier that morning. I then made the comment "I got done well before the hour." He replied, "... well yeah you should have, it wasn't that long of a swim." I thought to myself, "Not that long?" Granted, it was a only a 2700 yard swim, but I never thought either one of us would be calling a 2700 yard swim workout short, especially when we  still had a one hour bike workout on cue. Then it occurred to me. The four of us—Adam, Manuel, Scott and myself—will casually throw these comments out to one another to psyche each other up, or often, out. We have these little mental pissing contests to see which one of us is handling the stress of the workouts, and life, before cracking and having to be committed to counting tiny black squares on the floor of an asylum. We are completely conscious of the fact that we do it, but pretend—for the sake of our friendships—that these little passive aggressive displays of machismo don't rattle any of us that much. And we all know which buttons to press. For instance, in the middle of a difficult bike workout, I will look over at the senior statesman of our group, Manuel, and ask him if the reason he is sweating so much is because he is feeling especially tired from staying up too late trying to renew his AARP membership online, or catching up on episodes of  Matlock. One of my favorite "digs" came one day when I asked Manuel in the middle of a run which Golden Girl he dated in their prime. Occasionally, the testosterone-induced bullying from our compet.... er, rather, training partners, escalates and manifest with the ultimate infantile response to these challenges to our manhood: a heroic and brainless display of athletic one-upmanship. Again, this usually goes without any verbal acknowledgment, because to do so would be to admit that we are all just as vulnerable today as we were by that bully in the fifth grade. No, rather, we will quietly try to increase the speed of the treadmill without someone noticing, , subtract three seconds from our ten second interval recovery on a swim so that  we can gain a two stroke advantage over your lane-mate, or sprinting the last half mile of a long bike ride, just to cross that finish line 20 seconds ahead of your training partner. The most tragic part of all this is that these these self-induced, moronic displays at proving our competitive advantage with witty—sometimes cruel—jabs, or pushing ourselves harder than the next guy are never done so with any regard to heart rate, training regimen, or the sustainability of our friendships. Far be it from me to come between you and Bea Arthur. So, the projecting of our inadequacies upon others will continue. All of us will continue to gauge each others strengths and weaknesses to gain some sort of psychological advantage for ourselves. Really, the only psychological advantage one can have in my opinion, is knowing yourself and your own limits, and to accept that others are going to be stronger than we are in one discipline or another. My advice to everyone is to not be concerned with what someone else can do, but the gains you're making in your training. Sure, duh you say, but it is way more easily said that done. I have found that accepting my weaknesses far more liberating. It is the way that I make gains in the pool. I ask stronger swimmers to look at my technique and give me feedback.

I have to admit it, I am less macho these days than ever. Life has this uncanny way of kicking your ass and beating you into submission every once in a while. Everyone has their breaking point. I know mine and I respect it. If my body still feels whipped the morning after a particularly grueling workout and workday, I am closing my eyes and getting an extra hour of sleep in the morning. I have learned my lesson trying to be macho and muscle my way through a workout. No gains come form muscling through a workout without enough rest. 
Exhaustion has set in a couple of time during weeks seven and eight. You know, that feeling when you just finish dinner and and your head and eyes start to feel irritated and "fuzzy." All I want to do is put the kids in bed and crawl into bed right after them.

Now, the very definition of macho is exemplified by my son Julian who had his tonsils and adenoids taken out  yesterday. If someone cut some part of my anatomy from the back of my throat I don't know how well I would take it. This guy was smiling—with the help of pain medication—and lucid nearly an hour out of surgery. I'm a wimp. 

In other news: Okay, it's Saturday morning and I am off to the gym for a TWO hour ride-yikes! I am really looking forward to getting my trainer. 

Swim Breakthrough:  This week I had a nice swim breakthrough. I learned how to really follow through with my left arm and rotate my right shoulder and core. Nice!  Using your left arm can be very useful swimming. Who would have thought?

Interview: I finished my interview with Jeff Henderson, race director of the Musselman and Portland Triathlon concerning race entry fees and history and future of mutisport events. 

Giveaway: I am also excited about an upcoming review and nutrition giveaway about a recovery product that I have very recently come to experience and really dig. 

Train Smart!


KC said...

guys! such competitors! although, I have met a few women who can try to mess with your head...just lights a fire under my a$$. yay, for swimming breakthru's! the feeling almost ranks up to when I ran my first marathon. stay strong & positive, you are doing great with your training.

Kelly said...

Great post, Mark. I will totally vouch for you and say that your machismo has definitely mellowed with age! I have a feeling it's the kids...they just have a way of breaking you down!!!! (extra !! just for you!!) ;)

Big Clyde said...

The smack-talk is fun and can be motivating, but in the quieter times when we doubt our progress, it can be negative. I think a good balance (like always) is the answer.


6.5% body fat????..... oh that was the last post... sorry, I'm still stuck on that one...

Mark said...

Bob-- I am LMAO. Hysterical!

KC - a little trash talk directed my way can quietly motivate me to want to kick some serious butt.

Kelly— I was never macho on south hill!!!

Big Clyde- We talk more smack then game seven of an NBA final.

Tri To Do It All said...

I have no idea what you are talking about. I have been waiting for you guys to catch up with me all year.