Sunday, February 28, 2010

Balancing Life's Equations


The concept of achieving balance comes up quite often in my life. I am, after all, a teacher of chemistry and physics. Finding balance in the classroom is an essential, spontaneous, and perpetual process concentrated on the counting of atoms, charges, oxidation states, energy, momentum, and forces. I am a number junkie, a hopeless counter, and a curious problem solver. As any endurance athlete and/or coach with my affliction will attest, there is some need to care about life's numbers. I beleive, however, that there is an even stronger need for finding the balance, the equilibrium, of the multitude of life's equations. I cannot, in other words, place so much emphasis on any one aspect of my life - like the training and its collection of data and ancillary graphing - that I lose focus on all of my other life interests.

As I write this I have in front of me a paper copy of the training plan I have produced for this spring. This plan is just as ambitious and alluring as the plan I laid out for myself last summer and fall as I prepared for the duathlon world championships. No, the scale is not tilted toward 145-mile running or 500-mile cycling weeks. Mine is a style that does not even find totals like that at the end of the largest months. This plan is far from my usual plan, though. I intend to race everything from 5K's to international duathlons to ultramarathons this year. Because my desires are quite varied this year, I am going to abandon my usual race specific methods. I have done this before, so I know that there is a delicate balance required to pull it off. That balance extends beyond the training, the recovery, and the nutritional demands I will place on myself. These goals will require me to juggle the physical and mental demands of training and racing with the lives I lead as a teacher, coach, and family member. And, of course, there is that wretched, never ending nuisance called sleep. I was eight years old when I first became dismayed by the fact that I was expected to spend approximately one-third of my life lying motionless. The bags under my eyes underscore my losses in that life-long war.

It is so easy for me to get lost in the analyzation of the data coming in from a heart rate monitor, a power meter, and a data analysis program. Curse that siren called TI 84!! I used to allow myself to manipulate the numbers over and over in as many configurations as I could think of. I possessed (or was possessed by) an insatiable desire to caress those buttons! It took me several years to realize that I had simply fallen into a pattern of working and reworking the numbers only to arrive at answers I had long before come to predict and understand. With this realization also came the unnerving acknowledgement that I was neglecting other enjoyable aspects of my life. I was not training too much. I was spending far too much time thinking about the training.

I believe that I am over that now. Why do I believe this? Because I used to block out most activities that would contradict or jeopardize "the plan." I still treat the important workouts like they are, well, important. Now, though, I will work in other activities along the way. I am much more relaxed as I train. Because I test and know myself, I know how to set and attain lofty goals. And I do not get so worked up when something interferes with the training. (Like the current groin strain that resulted from a cheap shot during a football game last month :) There are so many other life needs and demands that require my attention: family, friends, students, readings, music, writing, and beer. Honestly, I think that my dabbling in ultramarathons gave me the ability to break the spell of the TI 84. Then, of course, last year's skin cancer scare might have contributed a little bit.

Incidently, the sense of "feeling alive" that I have sought more desparately since removal/treatment for the cancers was recently rekindled after I learned that a much younger friend recently died as a result of a similar melanoma. (Watch those moles! Especially the blackish ones.)

Ultimately, I am pursuing something that I love and cherish. Hell, I get a contact high just driving past a track or the state hospital. In order for the endurance life to result in maximum neural and adrenal fulfillment I have to be satisfied in the other aspects of my life. There absolutely must be a balance of forces and a dynamic equilibrium of several opposing processes. Yes, I can do this - again.

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