Tuesday, September 28, 2010

...aRe yOu tHe tOrToiSe oR tHe hArE???...

My kids really liked classic stories and fairy tales when they were little. We would read two different stories every night before they went to sleep. There were all the stories one might expect...The Gingerbread Man...Chicken Little...Snow White...Rumpelstilskin...and of course, The Tortoise and The Hare. Each story has it's own lesson to be learned.

Many days, I workout alone. This is not my preference. I like to be with other people. Before I trained/was at a Crossfit facility...I had a personal trainer. Wes and I became the best of friends and even though he lives away now and has for years, I still hold him in my heart as one of my dearest friends. After almost a year of training with him, he use to joke that he almost felt bad taking my money. He is an amazing coach...truly talented...and had done what every good coach does...he taught me so well that I didn't NEED to pay him to train me anymore. I could've easily gone off on my own. I continued to pay him because I loved having someone there to push me through workouts. I loved NOT being alone.

Somedays I go to the gym when I'm not working there and workout with the group that is there. There's a sense of happiness and comfort when I am suffering alongside my friends. There's also a feeling of competition. I always run a little faster, push myself a little harder, do a little more when there's someone next to me and the stopwatch is running. So when I'm alone, it's easy to have days where I don't go quite as hard. It's easy to "forget" to start the stopwatch and just get through it at a "quick pace". I could quit or take breaks and no one would know. No one...but me.

I distinctly remember having an experience a while back where I learned an important lesson. I was struggling with being lonely in the gym. It seemed I was always working out alone and I felt bored and unmotivated. I remember getting to the gym and writing down what I planned to do on the whiteboard. I went outside to run a mile as my "warmup". I love to run and I've been running for years. One stinkin mile at an easy pace is nothin, but that day it felt like every step took a concerted effort. I finished up...feeling really tired and run down. I thought to myself... "Maybe I need to rest...Maybe I need to remember that slow and steady wins the race...just like the tortoise did."

I decided that instead of pushing myself to continue, I would clean up the gym because it was a real mess in there. I sprayed Lysol and wiped EVERYTHING down with antibacterial wipes. Then, I vacuumed and mopped. It took me almost an hour and my back was killin me. I decided to just go eat some lunch and then maybe take a walk...do some "active recovery".

I went and ate and was pulling in to the park to walk on the trail there when I had an "AHA" moment. I made a circle and pulled back out...heading back towards the gym just down the street. I went in...erased what I had originally planned...and started dragging dumbbells and the rowing machine and a medicine ball and a tire and a sledgehammer outside to the parking lot and entryway. I did a fun, but fairly tough workout...tough enough that I was LAID OUT on the ground when I was through. I timed myself with a stopwatch and went as if I were racing another person. I had no more energy or strength than I had earlier, but I did it for the reasons I am about to explain...

Yeah..."slow and steady wins the race" but ONLY if the other racers are distracted and lazy. We always think we should be like the tortoise...slowly and methodically going towards the goal and in some cases, that is true...but here's a slightly different view that I came up with that day. I do get tired. I do work hard and I could use a little rest. I can come up with a million excuses that would've gotten me out of working out that day and no one would think less of me. I could've been a tortoise and taken a slow, steady walk, but would I have felt the same sense of accomplishment?...and would I get as much out of it?!? The hare lost, but what if the hare had pushed himself to keep going when he was hungry and tired...if he had...HE would've beaten the slow, steady tortoise. So I asked myself that day...outloud..."Are you a tortoise...or are you the hare?"

If ALL the other "racers" don't try their hardest...if they are distracted by pain or hunger or things that are more "fun" to do...then certainly slow and steady will win the race. I'm not willing to take that chance. I want to set the pace. I know that in the end, it doesn't matter what other people are doing. I decide how I will take on each day in the gym and what my success or failure there will be. I decided that day to become the new, improved, focused hare and save the tortoise mentality for "rest days". So my question to you is the same one I asked myself..."Are you gonna be the tortoise? Or the hare?" It's up to you!



  1. Thanks for this. I've always thought these two options were lame. Slow and steady or fast and easily distracted. What about fast-paced, hard-working, and dedicated? I'm pretty sure that would kick the tortoise's tush. :)

  2. I agree! That poor tortoise won't know what just hit him! ha ha~

  3. Awesome!! Thanks for that! Definitely the hare here! =)

  4. My workout "friends" tell me all the time...."Slow and steady wins the race","I'm not worried about how fast I am compared to everyone else, I'm only competing against myself". Both statements are true, especialy in my world of Triathlon....BUT when does slow and steady win?? Do I have to wait until I'm the only one in my age group competing before I can win? Does that mean just training longer than my counter parts until they finally quit so I'll be the only senior citizian running in the race? I don't think so!!!

    Thanks for the insight!!!

  5. Then you're in the right place Debbie!!! :)

    I agree Terri. I think it's all in degrees. Obviously the speed and demand of participating in a triathlon is going to be different than a sprint or a 20 min workout. Same applies for "strength work" with a barbell. I may not do a lift as fast as I can or try to do it faster than the guy next to me, but maybe I use a little more focus and lift more...be willing to suffer to get the bar up..or keep going even when I'm frustrated. I think it's about pushing yourself faster and harder and expecting more of yourself...even when you are alone. So while the pace may be a little different depending on the "sport", I believe the philosophy of going as fast and hard as you can applies...if you wanna "win the race". ;)

    One of my fave quotes by Steve Prefontaine:
    "Someone may beat me, but they're going to have to bleed to do it."

  6. Nice Marsha. I use the slow and steady philosophy when training people, but I use it in a different sense. Every workout should be more difficult than the last. Otherwise, how does one make progress? But the slow and steady that I advocate is the long term progression - constantly moving up the curve in a way that allows one to do it with good technique, not get injured and be able to come back for more the next time. But when you're there, in that session, you gotta give 100%. Keep up the good work!

  7. Perfect Howie...I agree completely. I struggle mostly with the "race" within myself...so I need to keep myself in check. I always tell people that 100 % and intensity are different for different people. You can have 2 people going at two different paces/speeds w different weights and what is intense for one is different than the other. It's about doing YOUR OWN very best and pushing to always progress.