Sunday, July 29, 2018

Two Strange Observations About Fitness

A personal trainer friend once confided to me that while he can run like a demon on a treadmill, whenever he dashes to catch a bus he winds up huffing and puffing. And though he can easily perform many sets with heavy weights, he's sore for days whenever he helps friends move.

I do an hour of fast, steep hill walking every day. 53 minutes, to be exact. It gets easier every week, but if I try to walk for 58 minutes, I transform into a whiny loser, wheezing and sweating. And, strangest of all, my 58 minute performance is not the slightest bit better than it was months ago, when I found 53 minutes tough.

The other side of the coin: some time ago a friend who's in phenomenal shape (vastly better than me) visited and came along for my hill walk. He struggled to keep up.

Training is way, way more specific than we realize.

You know how your car's "empty tank" light illuminates while you still have several gallons left? It's a sensible precaution. But it appears that the human "empty tank" illuminates when 95% of its reserves remain untouched.

I'm a fan of "The Race Across America", an ultramarathon bike race (there are two movies - both good - available as a package deal here). It stretches from Santa Monica, California to Manhattan, and there's very little stopping or sleeping.

You obviously can't train for this race - how would one train to bike 3,000 miles continuously? - so it'd be only mild exaggeration to say that an Olympic athlete has little advantage over a shlumpf like me. The athlete would feel utterly defeated halfway over the Rockies with thousands of miles still to go, while I'd lose it halfway up the first mountain...with thousands of miles still to go. The question - the only question - of this race is: what happens when you've got absolutely nothing left and still must pedal for days and days and days and days?

Everyone who finishes reports the same epiphany: at the moment when you're certain you have nothing left, you actually have thousands and thousands of miles left. I find this incredibly inspiring.

Whoops, I see that I wrote about Race Across America one before, along with some great links.

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