Sunday, October 19, 2008

Making Time

A reader asked how I managed to squeeze all this swimming into my life. The short answer is not very well. The problem is the same we all face: there simply isn’t enough time to do everything we want in the day. Right now I’m working my way up to twelve hours of swimming and 4½ hours of yoga a week along with daily core exercises. That’s twenty hours each week not counting time spent in physiotherapy or traveling to and from pool and yoga. Throw in the fatigue factor from all this and, let’s face it, my social life is shot.

The singular advantage I bring to this situation is prior experience. After articling I took up competitive running on a whim and so have already encountered many of the same problems I'm facing now. Of course in my twenties I had the energy and desire (heavy on the desire) to simultaneously continue on with my night life as well. Yet despite the handicap of youth I managed to learn how to train seriously while working full time. These lessons are once again proving their worth.

The most important adjustment is to create time for training and, for all intents and purposes, this means getting up early in the morning. By the time you get home from work, eat, and deal with the various happenings of the day there will be precious little time left over for training. Too many people will want a piece of you in the evening. So instead of wasting morning in bed get up and get to it. And when I say early I mean early. I’m instituting a routine where I get out of bed before dawn at four o’clock Monday through Saturday. That horrid time gives three extra hours a day for working out, which not coincidentally adds up to getting to the pool and back along with two hours of practice. The practice length is important for a couple of reasons. The first was pointed out to me by no other than Karlyn Pipes-Nielsen, who gave me two pieces of advice if I was going to train 30,000 or more meters a week: one, always schedule a day off; and two, add meters to existing workouts rather than more practices because fewer workouts means less time wasted in commuting. The second reason is more wishful thinking because there's only a lingering hope I'll ever be able to train part time with our club’s elite 2:30 group. Even so, if this aspiration is to have a chance to come about I will need to be able to swim a senior national caliber workout covering well over five thousand meters in an hour and a half some day. The program Hyack Masters provides is very nice and all but with only three hours a week it’s completely inadequate for competition. While I can get by for now training on my own eventually I’ll need the crucial input of professional coaching and training to have a shot at the elite masters' ranks. I might as well get used to swimming the necessary distances now and prepare for that fateful day.

Rest is another important part of the equation. To continue training at this tempo I need eight solid hours of sleep a day. So if I calculate this correctly it means I should go to bed around eight o’clock in the evening. That was my bedtime when I was a child. Living life as an adult the past quarter century I’m presently trying without much success to turn in by ten o’clock. Compensating for the missing hours of sleep with weekend naps isn't entirely practicable and consequently I’m building up a sleep deficit at a minimum rate of ten hours per week. I know I have to go to bed earlier, but there always seems to be good reasons to stay up. Unfortunately I'm struggling to see the humor in my making this plaintive whine now after so proudly putting it away ever so long ago.

Thankfully eating does not present the same problem and no, I don’t depend on delivery. I do however cook. This is a good thing since a proper diet and eating out is almost an oxymoron nowadays. As a result, aside from the occasional dinner of sushi or fish and chips, I’ve stopped eating fast food. It’s my own personal Don Quixote-like protest against our food industry stemming from my research writing Lets Talk About Trans Fats. Neither do I rely on a wife for my meals as I’m unmarried. Frankly if I was married I almost certainly wouldn’t be involved in this silly ego-centric adventure. Besides which how many women cook nowadays? What would be the odds? So my solution is to use my weekend to cook for the rest of the week. When I ran I'd cook overly large meals and then freeze the ample leftovers for later consumption. Now I’m approaching this on an industrial scale. Instead of cooking three or four times what was necessary for a meal I’m cooking enough for eight or more. For example I cooked a fifteen pound turkey which gave me a nice turkey dinner, a couple meals of turkey sandwiches, a dozen large turkey pot pies, and several liters of curry. After only a few short weeks I can now reach into the freezer and select from meat loaf, real scotch broth, chicken cordon bleu, spaghetti sauce, two different curries, chicken noodle soup (home made noodles!), chili, and those turkey pot pies. I'll be adequately fueled for my quest at least.

Yet strain as hard as I can to change the count of allocated hours there is precious little left over. Television is out (well almost) as is recreational reading – no time. And this time around I have another sacrifice to make with my internet habit. This blog is witness to how difficult eliminating that can be! Essentially everything else is to be tossed overboard. Routine has become my life’s byword. It will take a few months to get used to – at least I’m hoping I’ll get used to it. There are some mornings diving into the pool where I wonder if swimming a few seconds faster is really worth it. Of course it isn’t the end result which is important here. If I could swim fast enough for my times to be important I'd have to turn myself in for cheating. It’s the process and sacrifice involved in seeking the answer to the question I’m really asking: am I still mentally and physically strong enough to do this? Some men my age go out and buy an exotic car and date young women, others quit their jobs and travel the world but, as I step outside of myself for a moment, it seems I’ve decided to convince myself it isn’t too bad growing old. I’m not sure the answer I’m getting is the one I want. But if reality does eventually keep me from my objective then at least I’ll be one of the fittest men over fifty most people will ever see.


Isis said...

This is a great post--thanks for writing it. I appreciate your honesty about the choices you have to make to go after this kind of goal--what kinds of things you have to let go by the wayside.

In my most intense training year as a masters swimmer, there were 3 weeks when I went over 20,000 yards. I never came close to the 30,000 mark--and this was in yards, not meters. I think I can imagine, though, what this extra effort will mean. I do remember, though, that it was an incredibly physically exhausting year, but also exhilarating and therefore a lot of fun.

Good luck with your goals, and keep us posted--as you have time.

Scott said...

The adjective I'd use would be challenging rather than exhilarating; and I'd have to substitute tricky for fun. I've had to make several decisions knowing there are real, understood risks with each one. I'm finding my training becoming more and more a game of chess where moves now will dictate what I'll be able to do two or three years down the road. I hope to use this blog to discuss the rationales behind my decisions, the pros and cons involved, and how ultimately they impacted my swimming performance. It would be nice if I could come away with a supportable conclusion (or at least provide some insight on where we should go next) on how and why training impacts masters differently than normal age group and elite swimmers.