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I think I know how Victoria Pendleton feels...

charlieeliseby charlieeliseAug 30th 2012
I watched that documentary about Victoria Pendleton before the Olympics and was struck by how much she seemed to dislike cycling. Yes, she's good at it, but she seemed to be more interested in doing it for her dad, and her coaches (when she was in a good mood with them). It may be me reading it wrong - she's clearly very driven and critical of herself so she might love the sport, but have a difficult relationship with it because of how long she's been doing it, or something else entirely.

But based on that (potentially incorrect) assumption, the reason I say I think she knows how she feels is that recently I've not really been enjoying some of my sports - and I'm not even good at it. I do like triathlon, but unfortunately it's three sports, and lately I've been really struggling with the cycling as well as the running. It's just such a mental hassle and stress to get out there.

Finding a route, getting to the route, then doing the route - I don't feel what other people say they feel. I don't feel freedom, or joy - and I'm not sure if I ever did. I feel pride at being able to do things I wasn't formerly able to do, and I guess I want to do a Ironman for this reason.

I just feel stressed, and fearful, and afraid and stressed and tired and painful. And then my shoulders get tight and my back is sore because I'm so tense, but I try to relax and a car cuts me up/passenger shouts at me/dog tries to throw itself under my wheel/child kicks football at me/I get spat at/insert other recent incident here. And I find it all a bit offputting.

At the weekend I was doing a 66km ride and wondering how long I could go on forcing myself to do this - plus the running which I've never enjoyed. How long should I continue to do this when all I feel is almost constant fear and stress?

However swimming is another story. In the water I feel absolute joy and total freedom. It's clear to me that I love swimming, and I had already said to myself after completing an Iron, I could stop cycling and running to concentrate on swimming. But should I wait?

I am training hard right now, and certainly once I get into the cycle and then finish, I don't feel so bad about it. The same with running. And London is unquestionably going to happen. But after that I think I need to apply some thought to what I want to do, rather than just blindly signing up for the next race. There are races I want to do, and I want to maintain my fitness. I also want to try other things for fun and do some weight training.

I joined the Serpentine Swimming club at the weekend and felt absolute pleasure and joy swimming in the lake, I even took off my wetsuit to try it without the extra warmth and buoyancy. I loved it.

I don't get on the bike and think that. I don't run and think that.

As far as I can see, there are several explanations and directions I can take:

1. The crash and hard training has addled my brain and I love it really. I'm just tired.
2. My bike is not a good fit? Maybe a different bike would make a difference. I certainly enjoy cycling my smaller commuter bike more than my race bike.
3. I need to give my running technique a chance, I will start enjoying it later (possibly true but I've tried for years now to enjoy running)
4. I just need a break after London and I'll be itching to get back into it afterwards
5. I've just moved jobs, I'm moving house and I have loads of peak training to do. I'm bound to be stressed, this is my reaction.
6. I should stick to shorter distance for the time being and spend more time becoming really fast at the swim
7. I should shelve the long distance plans, try to cycle and run for fun only, and concentrate on marathon swimming and aim for a channel attempt before Ironman (or instead of. There are no actual rules here)
8. Something else.

Anyone else faced this? Am I just having a bad time, or is it something more serious?

If I give up it will be the the fastest retirement ever, of a shortlived and unremarkable career, so not quite like Ms Pendleton. But if I don't start enjoying it soon, I need to ask myself how long I do this for.
sarahleonardby member: sarahleonard, Aug 31st 2012 10:54
Hi Charlieelise, goodness no you are not the only one to face this. Although it may look like some other people are loving every minute I would hazard a guess that many of them face the same mental battles as you. I certainly have, and I still do.

I read your post and felt that it could have been me writing it (although you write much better than I do so maybe me thinking it). I am also goal orientated, I like to try new things, challenge myself and feel a sense of achievement on completing a difficult task. Have I enjoyed actually participating in the training or racing for big events (sometimes) am I glad that I did it (mostly yes)do I wish I'd have done things differently and not beaten myself up over it(yes absolutely).

It's very easy to get caught up in the 'shoulds' and forget that there's other things in life that come along and need your attention (like moving house and jobs)and when they do you need to give yourself a break and space to deal with them. No one performs at their best then they are tired and stressed and forcing yourself will only add to this. You've listed some explanations and I would say a mixture of those is your solution.

I don't want to say what you should do but I will say what I did/I'm doing in case it helps:

I did focus mostly on the sport I liked most and I found I had the time to get better which made me feel more positive.

I carried on the other two sports but did them for fun, with friends and at my pace (no pressure but still keeping my hand in).

I made sure that I entered races that looked fun, interesting and meant that I couldn't be disappointed with a time and that just taking part was kind of cool and kept me fit.

I allowed myself to try Pilates, Yoga, kettlebeblls, circuit training, fell running, and I enjoyed them and knew that it was good for me. I want to try mountain biking and I hope to do my first triathlon (sprint distance) for years next season.

So don't give up. Take a deep breath, remember that you're still really quite new to this and just enjoy that.

Also see this article from my friends at Cyclist No.1 who write a nice blog.

Right longest blog comment ever over!
charlieeliseby blog author: charlieelise, Oct 10th 2012 17:56
Sarah I never replied! I'm so sorry. Your extra-long comment was truly epic and awesome and made me feel a lot better about it all. Actually, after posting this, I suddenly found myself enjoying training a lot more - I think getting it off my chest helped in itself. I also acknowledged that I was doing something hard, rather than just assuming that I can do everything, which is how I like to go around usually. This is fine, but it then really hurts when I discover I can't - or at least, I can't as easily as I might hope!
Thank you once again.
sarahleonardby member: sarahleonard, Oct 11th 2012 11:20
No worries, glad you are back on it!
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