A 5 A.M. Butt Kicking

Nov 22, 2011 - 12:18 PM
Photo by SusanJStickle.com.

Mondays are (sometimes) My Day, where I (sometimes) have nothing to do but cross things off my to-do list and get ready for the week.

Normally, I get up at my obscenely early hour, putter for a bit and get some exercise. Due to my never-ending battle with achilles-tendonitis-cum-plantar-fascitis, that exercise has been swimming, and most Mondays I get to the pool at the local community center by 8 or 9 a.m. to swim laps. And since I’m usually both the youngest person in the pool by 40 years and the only person not there for the social element, I get a nice shiny ego boost by lapping everyone in the pool a couple of times.

But this Monday I had a really busy day, so I got to the pool at 5:30 a.m. You know what kind of people show up to swim at 5:30 a.m. on a Monday? People who are really, really serious about their swimming.

I got whooped.

Michael Phelps I am not, but I swam as a kid and teenager, and I was fairly useful at it. I’m fit. I’m young. And these folks—many of them old enough to be my parents—totally wiped the floor with me. It was a little embarrassing, although it was also a phenomenal kick in the butt, and I had the best workout I’ve had, so I’m definitely going to make a habit of some early mornings.

The pool at 5:30 a.m. is like Wellington, Fla., in the winter. It’s the Big Leagues (or at least the Big Leagues of Fauquier County, Virginia). It’s inspirational; it makes me want to swim harder, ride harder, do better. Getting up at that preposterous hour will, I hope, do for my swimming what three months of immersion in Welly-world does for my riding. It lights a fire under my behind.

But that’s not the thing that left the biggest impression. (Nor was it getting to start my day by sharing a pool with some really fit men without shirts, though that left an impression too. GREAT way to start the week.) It was that they all had some sort of plan, or at least appeared to.

I’ve just been blasting out laps, occasionally doing some work with a kickboard when I get bored doing laps. These people had plans: sprint sets, kick boards, pull buoys, flippers, medleys of strokes, different length sets. They had some sort of system to help make them better athletes.

In short, they had a plan and the discipline to put it into action.

At the Young Horse Symposium, Steffen talked about his average day. It included riding and teaching, of course, but he also works on his physical fitness, his mental attitude and his diet. I remembered making the decision about two years ago to join a karate class after listening to an interview with Apollo Ohno, the Olympic speed skater, talk about his day—workouts off the ice, meditation, the works. That karate class was a huge step for me, and I felt really fit while doing it, and while running regularly. Between how busy I got this year and my stupid, godforsaken, @!#$ing injury, my plan went flying off the rails.

So I’ve got a new plan now. I’m going to make a swimming plan, complete with an end goal—a triathlon as soon as I can get back to running shape. I’m joining a pilates class with a friend here in Virginia, and I’ll find a similar class to take once I get to Florida. I’m trying to find a nutritionist who specializes in athletes, partly because I’ve got these pesky few pounds that have crept on with my @#$!@#!#!!!!!! injury (can you all tell how I feel about this heel nonsense?), but also because I analyze every calorie my horses eat to maximize their health. Why not my own?

And I am going to get this you-know-what heel thing under control so I can get back to running, which is great physical and mental therapy, two things I’m sorely missing. I saw a physical therapist last week who suggested I sleep in a leg brace—google “leg brace” and enjoy the results, by the way—and when I purchased said brace, some heel pads and—unrelatedly—my airline tickets home from Florida the few times over the winter I’ll come to teach for the weekend, my credit card company called me to confirm that my card had not been stolen by Bad, Bad Men. Apparently therapeutic footwear and airline tickets are unusual purchases for me. Whatev.

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