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Deed to Reacclimatise

As many of you know, I am training to do my second Ironman race.

I completed Ironman New Zealand in 2007, and finished fourth to last. At the time I became inspired to do the race (early 2006) I couldn’t swim, hadn’t been on a bike for 22 years and had hip pain when I tried to run. However these small issues did not get me down… I got up at 4 almost every morning, swam, cycled and ran for 16 months and got fit enough to line up with the big guys (and small women) on race day.

All that training on a minimal base meant that when the race was over I had had enough endurance training to last a lifetime… Completely ‘over’ exercise, I sold my bike and wet-suit, hung up the running shoes and went back to being an armchair athlete.

Now four and a half years later I have to start all over again. Or so I thought. I had forgotten about muscle memory, and about the neurological pathways that develop when a body is trained. Remember how to ride a bike? Of course… We can walk away from our bicycle for thirty years, but still recall how to balance on two wheels, how to circle those pedals, and (especially if we have been ‘over the bars’) how to feather the brakes.

Our brains have stored those memories, and it takes little to reactivate those nerve pathways. A few sessions on the bike, and though we have to work to get aerobic fitness and endurance back, the basic movement patterns are working fully again.

The same in the gym. Weight training gives much faster results in someone whose body has once been well muscled. The body ‘remembers’ how to build those muscles, and does so faster than expected. Yoga poses, running drills, bilateral breathing, Bulgarian split squats – if you’ve mastered them once before your body will remember the way to performing them again even after a long lay-off.

So I’m back to 04:15 wake up calls, back to gym workouts, 90 minute swim sessions and long hours on the bike. The muscles remember, the pathways are being etched deeper. I can now recall the deep fatigue but paradoxically energised feeling after mega-workouts. My shape is changing, as are my appetites. And back is the sense that despite the horrors of constant on-call work, non-collegial colleagues, and world disasters, that there is an area of my life where I have control. The life of tri – of try, try, try.

There is such joy in having a plan, in working towards it, and in knowing that my body knows what it needs to do, is remembering what comes next, and if I care for it will take me stepwise to my goal.

Swim, bike, run, rest, eat well, relax. That is the plan. Fun on Ironman day and during the journey to the day is the goal. Training and recovery are the steps that will take me there.

Now I just need to reacclimatise my butt to hours in the saddle. Sadly that pathway seems to have been erased…