Try & tri-again
Athletes value self, set priorities
Editor's Note: Writers Vicki Viotti, a novice athlete, and Katherine Nichols, an experienced competitor, are training together for the Niketown Na Wahine Sprint Triathlon in September.
In this weekly Thursday column, they share insights from experts, other athletes and their own training regimen, aimed at helping readers push their own boundaries physically and mentally.
By Katherine Nichols
Advertiser Staff Writer
But the event itself was merely the culmination. The journey proved to be the real challenge.
Many people confront a variety of issues as they navigate the often unsteady path toward their goals. Women are especially prone to allowing themselves to be pulled from their own pursuits back to the relentless roles of caregiver and breadwinner and CEO of the home. Inevitably, time for themselves drops to the bottom of the list. And when stress rises, the bottom of the list disappears into that nebulous zone called everyday life.
The first task in overcoming this is to rethink the way you think about yourself and how much you value your goal, say experts. Only when you've done this can you do what's mentally necessary to make time in that daily schedule for yourself, your workout and your health.
"You have to decide that (this goal) is important to you," said Vera Ross, director of health and fitness for the U.S. Army Garrison Hawai'i. "You have to think about yourself a little more than women usually do." And most importantly, she added, "you have to find (an activity) you enjoy. It will help you stick with it."
Ross should know. She started jogging to control her weight after her children were born. It took her two months to build up to running a mile, and her methodical
approach enabled her to continue the program. "If you try to do too much (at first), you'll give up," she said. "Consistency is the key." Eighteen months later, Ross, now 62, ran her first marathon. Twenty-three marathons later, she's still going.
Seek support network
One of the keys to changing your mind set is seeking inspiration from others. "I had to find support, because I couldn't do it on my own," said Anderson, who is now preparing for the Tinman triathlon. She joined KC Carlberg's Try Fitness women's triathlon training group, where she found "a big encouragement."
Ross agrees. "I've always had running friends," she said, which is especially important in the early stages. "We would meet and giggle. It's a good social (outlet)."
Brian Clarke, director of marathon and triathlon clinics for 20 years, emphasized that achieving any goal involves a support network, starting at home. He said that when something becomes important enough, "it's a question of balancing and scheming; you've got to get the workouts in when you can."
Clarke, the author of "Running by Feeling," and "The Game of Running," believes the clinic atmosphere changes the way people think about themselves. "It's wonderful to see women get in touch with their competitiveness and become like tigers, and actually become athletic," he said. "They're like couch potatoes when they come into the training program, and they blossom. It's a transformation."
He also encourages people to make friends and train together on the days when the clinic does not meet. "It comes back to the support aspect," he said. "A lot of people don't have the discipline."
While he admits that it's important for women with young children to find time for themselves, he also realizes that a clinic is a huge commitment, and that mothers usually have to resort to alternative plans.
My friend Heather Jorris and I have relied on similar strategies when our husbands were out of town. Jorris, an Ironman competitor, mother and winner of last year's Na Wahine Sprint Triathlon, received a jog stroller as a gift when her son was born; for years, I relied on my double jogger to get out the door.
We also both use a turbo trainer, which enables us to ride our bikes at home while the kids sleep or watch a video.
Another trick Heather and I have utilized is trading with friends in similar situations. Bring the kids to one location, perhaps the beach, and take turns swimming. Or gather at someone's home and trade off running and watching the children.
Exercise during lunch break
Since Vicki Viotti and I are both full-time working mothers, we understand how exercise can fall off the map in the course of a day. It has to be a priority.
"Everybody has some kind of time," Viotti said in a moment of role reversal. "It's the will. You have to be fast at grabbing the time that presents itself."
She often drops off her daughter at ballet, then sneaks in a quick run during rehearsal. Or she'll wear workout clothes to the office, which forces her to get to the gym early in the day so she can change into proper office attire.
"I can't tell you how many times I've packed my gym clothes and changed my mind (during the day)," she said.
We are also fortunate enough to have a shower at the newsroom, which enables us to exercise at noon, then eat lunch at our desks.
If you exercise at noon, you must leave behind your reluctance to train in the heat (it's this time or no time!), and your need to look great afterward. Wet hair pulled back and little or no makeup are standard for us. Seize simplicity wherever you can.
"It's really easy to slide out of the habit," Viotti admitted. "Once you fall out of it, there's this inertia. For people who are not athletic, it's the natural state."
'Important to have heroes'
To keep you motivated in your quest for time, Clarke suggests looking to people you want to emulate.
"I think it's really important to have heroes," he said. Clarke, 62, said he now searches for heroes "who are really fit and old," people who are healthy and doing what they love in their 80s and 90s.
In her seminars, Ross reminds women, "You're a caretaker, and you say you don't have time, but ultimately nobody else is going to take care of you."
Taking care of yourself includes making room for your own goals.
When trying to describe how she felt after she finished her first triathlon last year, Anderson sighed and struggled for words: "I was completely beside myself; knowing that I finished something without stopping, I was so overwhelmed with happiness."
These feelings are within our reach. We just have to think of ourselves in a positive light. And make the time.
Tips on reaching your goals:
Tips from 57-year-old Barbara Steffens, owner of Great Strides:
- Know yourself and why you want to succeed.
- Be clear about your goals.
- Do it for yourself, not for anybody else; otherwise you won't stick with it.
- Experiment and find an activity you enjoy.
- Get support at home, at work, and from friends.
- Don't compare yourself to other people.
- Have a sense of humor. Concerned about what people will think of you? Get over it!
- Buy into a positive self-image. It's a conscious choice.
- Make workout appointments with your friends and yourself.
- Once a month, take a week where you do 50 percent of your goal exercise level. Relax and enjoy.
- Excuses? Ask yourself, if someone gave you $100 for every 30 minutes you found to exercise, would you find the time?
- Remember, 15 minutes is better than nothing.
- It doesn't matter where you start, but that you start, period.
Niketown Na Wahine Sprint Triathlon
- Race starts at 6:30 a.m., Sept. 9 at the Marine Corps Base, Kane'ohe Bay.
- The all-women's event is sponsored by Niketown Honolulu and Try Fitness, a women's fitness-event presenter. It begins with a 500-meter swim, followed by a 12-mile bike ride and 5K (3.1 mile) run.
- Fees for regular entries (postmarked by Aug. 18) are $45 for individual triathletes or $85 for a relay team. Late entries, including those submitted on the race day, will cost an additional $10 for both categories.
- Prizes will be awarded to the top three finishers overall, for active-duty military women and in each age group starting at age 14.
- Entry forms are available at running stores, bike shops and sports equipment outlets. Or, file an entry form online at Active.com (active.com/register/index.cfm?event_id=964979); you have to register with the site and pay an additional $5 fee.
- To volunteer or for more information, call Niketown at 983-5815, or Try Fitness at 531-8573; or e-mail, TryFitness@hawaii.rr.com (on the Web: www.tryfitnesshawaii.com).