22 Sep Why I train
Like many people who exercise often, I get asked ‘what are you training for?’. I think it’s normal for people to expect a single short answer – “Doing the half marathon in a few weeks” or “I’m off on a trek” but often there isn’t a specific event in mind. This got me thinking to all the reasons I train – and I say train rather than exercise because for me training is much broader than simple exercise. I’ve been a casual runner for about 15 years and I love my running but training for me means something bigger, it means doing exercises that I wouldn’t normally do, exercises I don’t necessarily enjoy or that I’m not very good at. It’s precisely by training those uncomfortable areas that I get the best results. So in a nutshell what am I training for? I’ll answer that at the end.
Except for the first two, these in no particular order are the reasons I train:
1. I want to go on physical adventures with my two boys as they grow up. I want to be able to trek with them to places on the planet that are very special to me, that have given me great memories – the Californian High Sierra; the trails of the Grand Canyon, the Kokoda Track. I want to take them trail running around Sydney and I want to explore new places with them like the Himalayas or New Zealand’s mountains as we all get older. If I’m not fit and strong I simply won’t be able to do that.
2. Everyday joys – I want to show my boys that just because I’m past 40 I can still outrun and outwrestle them – just! On the beach or in the park kicking a ball. Simple pleasures that I’d like to enjoy for a long time.
3. I love to “run-explore” new places – one of my favourite ways to explore a new place or city is to put on my runners, find local paths and trails and follow my nose. Whether that’s trails around Sydney’s magnificent bushland or great memories from random stopovers like Trinidad on the Northern Californian coastline, shrouded in mist, sounds of foghorns and seals barking below on the rocks; or the dusty jagged foothills of Phoenix, Arizona; a dawn run through the landmarks of Paris; running into Tiger snakes on Lakes Entrance beach in Victoria or simply running my old stomping ground of the foreshore paths of Chichester Harbour in England.
4. Mental health – I absolutely agree that exercise, and running especially in this case, is brilliant therapy. From my experience when things are stressful and bearing down on your – getting the runners on even for a short bash or heading to the gym for a boxing class does wonders for the head.
5. I love seeing my fellow Basecamp members love their training. Yes we’re competitive but there’s no ego, we are all different ages, shapes, sizes, strengths, flexibilities, speed – but we all get a massive kick out of pushing ourselves and our mates in our group classes. Training hard puts a smile on everyone’s face. We are good mates and I train to hang out with them.
6. I need to understand what my body is capable of when I want to push it hard. I love my trekking and trail-running and there are often times – lugging packs up switchbacks at altitude – when I truly appreciate having been smashed in a Conditioning session in the gym. It’s about having the confidence to hold a very high heart rate for an uncomfortably long time but knowing that I’m not going to keel over. Or whether it’s clambering out of my tent on day 5 of a long trek and looking at my 20kg pack with a little less trepidation thanks to the strength sessions that have made my back and core so much stronger than ever before. I’m not a supple man, with questionably the tightest hamstrings on the planet but by training uncooperative parts of my body things are still working well.
7. I like to eat and drink what I want as often as I want. I love a big piss-up with mates laughing and being gooses. Pretty straight-forward this one – everything is a question of balance right? I train so I can burn off the big nights and the bad (oh so good) food decisions.
So why do I train? I train to have the physical ability to create the memories I want to create. Memories for my family, myself and my friends.