In the western world, we tend to think about exercise like we live the rest of our lives: set goals! confirm to a rigid schedule! try really hard for success and personal bests. That shouldn't be your primary focus! Not to say that goals, schedules and hard work are bad things; in fact, most of us need them to stick to a training regimen. Unfortunately, if your focus is on the goal, or the obsessive need to conform to that daily schedule, or the desire to attain a certain placing or PR, we fall into the same patterns that make us unhappy in society. The lifestyle of training becomes as confining and demanding as the grind of daily life. Most of us exercise to lessen the stress from this type of lifestyle we live in the western world, not add to it!
This post is inspired by a similar one by Mark Sisson of Primal Blueprint (read here: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/detaching-yourself-from-the-outcome/#more-28094
). My own experiences are similar to Mark's (though I was not nearly as good an endurance athlete as he was). The firm necessity of keeping to an intense schedule can take the fun out of experiencing exercise. I had this type of revelation twice with running and neither of those times included any wins, PRs or sub 10% body fat. The first was when I took a solo cross country trip in 2002 after not engaging in regular cardiovascular exercise for approximately one year. Trail running in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado was exciting and gave me a new desire to run primarily for the pleasure of being in nature. After a similar period of endurance inactivity in 2008 at the end of med school in Florida, I moved to new england for residency and began running the trails of central MA with newfound love of being in the moment and truly enjoying running.
This love of the journey itself is important to overall health and wellness; goals and schedules may be used, but not that they become so overbearing to cause injury and depression. I see patients, especially runners, who are so focused, and have such tunnel vision for running that they are self-destructive--mentally and physically. Telling an avid runner that they have a stress fracture and shouldn't run for a minimum of 4-6 weeks can elicit a response like telling them a favorite aunt has just died or worse. This inflexibility is not healthy. Neither is the refusal of these focused endurance athletes and full time workers to do resistance training. The simple act of just running or just biking defines them completely. Humans weren't meant to perform only one physical repetitive task; elements of picking heavy things up, climbing, fighting are all part of our ancestral physical developement. In doing one daily repetitive task such as running (especially after sitting or standing in one place for 10 hours) we leave ourselves susceptible to physical imbalance and injury. Incorporating whole body resistance exercise is key to preventing injury in endurance athletes. In addition to that, a yearly schedule incorporating more and less intense cycles, periods of rest and periods of cross training can combat injury, and mental fatigue.
Goal set and create schedules that are exciting and bring enjoyment on a daily basis; you shouldn't be focused on one or several possible
end results. Your first goal should be to enjoy thoroughly the activity you pursue, and if you are a focused "one-sport" endurance athlete, to add variety and find alternate forms of exercise that you can fall back upon in times of injury.
"Live in the NOW, man" Garth from Wayne's World