The Sweet Spot

I have a hate-love relationship with interval training, in that exact order. I will often postpone or miss a training session because I know I have intervals to do and I know they hurt. They are meant to hurt, that’s how we get stronger, that’s how you win races. I truly dread them and have to make a strong commitment to get the courage to do them. That’s the hate part.

When I do build up enough courage to commit to these sessions, I feel extremely happy when I’ve completed them. I think every top cyclist has a certain percentage of sadism in them. You push your body to hurt and hate you, but the gratification of knowing that after all that pain you are still alive and probably stronger than before is unexplainable. You push the limit every time, till you achieve a new limit. Only once in my life to date have I pushed myself so hard that at the end of the interval I almost threw up and was very close to passing out. It is a very fond memory (sadism I tell you), and I am on a mission to get it right again. Why, many people may ask. Because you know you gave everything you’ve got, no holds barred. If it were a gorilla fight, you would’ve probably won. My favorite saying: “Training is like fighting a gorilla. You don’t stop when you’re tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired”. That’s the love part.

I’m extremely proud to say that this week I faced the gorilla, not once, not twice, three times! What I don’t understand about me is that I love the feeling after, but I absolutely dread the mornings I wake up with the knowledge that I have to do them. That’s what I like about swimming. My coach (and best friend), Ms. Bikini as we call her, has the training set and only discloses it as we get in the pool. Yes you know at some point your lungs will want to pop out and your arms feel like they’re digging through cement, but you don’t know how bad it will be until you’re in it. Friday morning I woke up with this same dread, dragging myself onto the bicycle. My mission for the next couple of weeks will be to understand where this emotion comes from and hopefully what I can do with it, if there is anything to do with or about it.

But my biggest joy this week is in the love part of this relationship. I have recently discovered that if I move my focus from outside me to inside myself when pushing through these intervals, it is as if the pain becomes tolerable. This week I had to initially practice to keep this focus, it does not come naturally to me yet and I have to remind myself constantly. When it starts hurting my thoughts start racing about how much it hurts and that I’m probably not as good at tolerating this pain as other girls and that this is the reason I can’t climb as well….and, and, and… If I shift my focus to my internal body and my energy centers, what I usually find is that I might be breathing hard and my heart may be thumping in my chest, but there is no pain. Yes, my legs hurt, but my energy centers are in perfect harmony. I realized this week that this is the sweet spot. When I can maintain this focus, I am giving my body all the attention it has always asked for, but more than my body, my essence, me. This is it, this is who I am, this is where I learn the most about myself. Things are clear in this spot, and they have meaning. I love being in that sweet spot because nothing else matter right then and there but my pain, my feeling of truly being alive, of truly finding my limits, and surpassing them time and time again.  I now know that when my arms go numb, I’m past the first barrier. When my legs feel like little stars are shimmering in them and popping in my muscles, I’ve reached the second barrier. I have been past this barrier before, so I know I can pass it again.

After writing this blog, I think I might start facing the gorilla with more ease each time.

I want to add a huge thank you at the end of this blog. Nadia – for holding me in your arms when I felt like I will never be able to push through. Steve – for keeping both myself and Leon focused and committed, and playing with us on the hills. And to Leon, for pushing me to go harder and faster, for affirming my ability, and even in times when you couldn’t ride, still being there and supporting me. Love all of you!

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