Challenging Myself
Challenging Myself

My idea

While watching my weight go up due to long hours of work sitting in front of a computer and some health problems began to appear, I just decided that I had to undertake some sort of regular exercise so that I could keep up with my weight, shape and health. About 3 weeks ago, I began to go out with Noah first thing early in the morning to walk in a fast pace (not actually jogging yet) for about 3 Km (1.8 mi), and since Noah can't keep up with long conversations yet I'm using that time to listen to audiobooks.

In one of these audiobooks I was listening to last week, the author cited one of his clients challenge of finding enough courage to keep running until she could complete a given distance. Running is no easy business: the body quickly gets fatigued and you begin to feel the pain from the exercise while your mind, at this point, keeps sending you discouraging messages saying that you've ran enough and that it is ok to stop now. Aside training his body to endure the race, a runner is got to train his mind and self-control to beat his worst enemy on track: his own mind.

If you think of your big projects and goals that never gets concluded or never even get started, you'll figure that your mind is the one in charge of discouraging you from getting it done, just like a fatigued runner in a race. At the end of the day, what an athlete really needs to train is self-control. At the end of the day, what anybody really needs to train is self-control to get goals and projects done.

While thinking about this, I just figured that besides doing good to our health, sports are also good to help us train our self-control in a very safe environment: if you lose the game of convincing yourself to endure running until the end of the track, you can try again later with no serious consequences. As opposed to not being able to deliver a project due to a failure in keeping yourself working as you should, where you could have serious consequences like losing a contract.

I also figured that athletes have to undertake several other tasks that we often do at work in order to get prepared for  a race. Those who are athletes come to this world as such. They need to train as hard as a professional must to be successful. Therefore, becoming an athlete is no easy business, and it basically involves:

  1. Planning - Choose your sport. Decide what is your goal, and how you're going to achieve it, one step at a time.
  2. Preparing - Prepare the way to accomplish your plan. That could be getting in shape to run better and faster and buying the necessary gear to get started.
  3. Training - Train what you plan to perform. Perfect your technique and train to endure longer while performing it.
  4. Performing - That's your race, or when you'll be required to perform your technique professionally.
  5. Enduring - This step is actually present in all steps before. You've got to endure in you planning, preparing, training and performing in order to accomplish your goal and become an athlete.
  6. Rinse and repeat.

That's when I realized that besides the health benefits, actively practicing sports can help us develop several other important talents that helps a being on becoming more successful in accomplishing his goals and that I could benefit from this.

My Goal

Finish a Triathlon (Sprint Distance).

I'm not aiming at arriving first, since I'm not trying to be a professional triathlete, but I'm definitely training not to arrive last and make a reasonable timing.

The reason why I thought of this sport was that I can practice alone (won't have to join a team in order to compete) and I can more easily make up the time to train and cope with my working hours and time I want to spend with family.

My situation

Dedicated husband and daddy of a 5 month old baby boy, founder and project manager of the Umit Open Source Software Organization, mentor of 7 students at the Google Summer of Code and Umit Summer of Code programs, Software Engineer at crowdSPRING, owner of a company with projects in stealth mode, Elder Quorum President, Institute Teacher and Stake Auditor at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. No sports in my agenda during the last few years.

1.72 m (5.64 f) height, 71 kg (156.5 lbs).

My Plan

As previously stated, I haven't been practicing any sports for the last few years. The only thing I've been doing consistently is to walk in a fast pace pushing Noah for the last 3 weeks or so. I obviously can't perform anything for real by now, so I need to get started with the Planning phase:

  1. Need to make a medical checkup and figure if my current health condition allows for the effort required to finish a triathlon.
  2. Make an appointment with a nutritionist to figure the best diet for my training.
  3. In order to keep track of my improvements, I'm keeping a log of my health stats, body measures, VO2 Max and performance timings.
  4. I won't be hiring a coach, so I'll need to develop myself the discipline required to train well and safe. For such, I'll be reading some good books and watch some videos on the subject.
  5. Since I'm starting from scratch, I need to get a slow and solid start.
  6. Learn and train to perform the basics well (the swimming movements, cycling positions and pedaling, running movements).
  7. Make a more detailed plan with clear goals and deadlines.
  8. Figure a competition I can participate and mark the date to get prepared on time.
  9. Buy some gear. Will have a start using my current heavy weight mountain bike, but will buy a running bike later this year.
  10. Share what I'll be learning while I execute my plan here on this blog.

Swimming

In a sprint, the athlete is required to swim 750 m (~0.5 miles) in the first phase. This is the sport that I'm most amateur at and perform the worst. I don't swim in any regular basis (let's say one short splash in a pool every couple years or so?).

Last Saturday, I went to an semi-Olympic pool and tried to gauge my performance by trying to swim 75 m (note, this is 1/10 of the ultimate goal). The result: swam 25 meters ok, stopped for 1 minute to recover, then swam the other 25m making a short stop around the final 5m mark. Then, swam other 25 meters without stopping before coming out extremely tired of the pool. I'm a total newbie here, and will need some serious training to get this right.

Cycling

The cycling leg's length is 20 km (~12.5 miles). In the past (about 5 years ago) I used to cycle an average of 16 km (~10 miles) per day, and I could perform reasonably well, so I consider cycling to be my strongest sport in a triathlon and the least I should worry about for this training, though I need to get back to fit with cycling as last time I rode a bicycle was about 4 years ago.

Bike repair

It could happen.. who knows? I better be prepared to make a quick repair, like fixing a flat tire or other small fixes very quickly. Will train this prior to the competition several times so I can get it right when I'll most need it.

Running

The final leg of the competition is composed of a 5 km (~3.1 miles) run. I consider this to be my second worst, right after swimming, so a lot of training shall be undertaken here. I've been walking everyday about 3 km (~1.8 miles), and the last 3 days I increase this to about 4.5km (~2.8miles) and will make a plan to keep increasing the distance consistently until I'll begin to jog and then later run rather than walk.

Transitions

While you make the transition between swimming to cycling and cycling to running the clock keeps ticking. So I ought to train how to go faster with the transition as well, in order to be objective with what I need to grab, get changed and make it 1 minute or less.

Final Goal

Cross the final line, in at least 1 hour and 30 minutes. This is just about the average for a beginner, so I think it is a reasonable target.