I am exhausted. It is 7pm. It’s the time that I usually go out for a run at the end of the working day. Today however, every square inch of my body, and my mind above all, is rejecting the very idea of it. It has been a long, almost endless day, culminating in the final presentation for a project that I’ve been working on for two years. Another tick on the infinite checklist of certificates and exams that you’re required to undertake as a professional.
Outside it is dark and the cold of December is not sparing anyone. And I don’t think it will spare me either out on my run. My running shoes are calling me from the stool at the foot of the heater where I leave them to warm up on winter days before putting them on. I feel a sense of guilt with every movement I make in my attempt to waste a few minutes. I search vainly for inspiration by flicking through a sports magazine, at every page I tell myself the fib that this is not just a pretext to waste time and put off my training.
And Guido, my usual training partner, isn’t around. Today he has an important business meeting and he told me this morning that he wouldn’t be back in time to train tonight.
I go to take a biscuit from the barrel that I keep on the bookshelf. These biscuits are the daily treat that accompany my mid morning coffee. I reach out my hand and then I stop myself: I have to go for a run, it’s better to go on an empty stomach. Comfort food shouldn’t be on the agenda of a runner who is preparing to go out training.
Preparing? I think for a minute. I look at myself reflected in the glass of the window. I’ve still got my heels on, the PC is open on my desk. There is no evidence of my imminent training session.
I start planning an alternative training strategy. I could go back home, put the bike on rollers and cycle in the warm. No, there is not point in telling yourself this story, if you go home, the only surface upon which you’ll put your butt cheeks will be the sofa.
Today is Monday, right, at 8.30pm in the pool there is the masters swimming training session. The company would do me good. A few laughs, a few jokes, sharing a moment or two of frustration and two hours of training will go by before you even notice…two hours of training??? No, let’s not even think about it today. Too tiring.
Yes, here we go. There is the gym. Today I think there is a pilates lesson at 7.30pm. I could make it in time. No wait. Let’s be serious. “Pilates”, me? Don’t even mention pilates to me! Those indoor activities, classes made up mainly of women, where an instructor tells you that you need to bend your back a little more whilst from the room next door Zumba music is booming. It just isn’t what I define as an hour of restorative sporting activity. It’s not for me.
Ok, so what is the solution? I’m surprised to find myself a little anxious.
I sit down and ask myself if at least today I can be indulgent with myself and permit myself a little healthy rest time. It’s as if cutting your body some slack when it craves calm and stillness in every way is a fault rather than something positive.
Those of us who do endurance sport find it difficult to forgive ourselves a transgression from our training table. Who knows why? We should stop ourselves and think about this. The sport that we love, that makes us feel good about ourselves and others, definitely deserves a role more worthy than that of jailer.
It is worth making peace with ourselves sometimes, sport is not a war between our body and mind, wrestling with each other to see which gives up first. It is true that sport is education and discipline, but it musn’t become a sterile self-massacre.
The secret to living our passion to the full is perhaps in learning the integration of body and mind, understanding that which many oriental cultures have been teaching for centuries. The license to ask our body to bend to our will goes along with a certain respect for its needs.
This evening my legs are asking me for a break and I can’t pretend not to hear them.
So I turn off the PC, take off my heels, I get up off the office chair…I turn on some music and I let myself fall into the armchair in the meeting room. I close my eyes, let my thoughts run freely and in ten minutes, when my breathing is more regular and calm, I will go home and prepare the dinner. My training session is happily postponed until tomorrow.