I forgot to include in the last post the real reason I’m training for triathlons this summer. It seems so intuitive that I often forget it–which is why it deserves its own blog post.
The real reason I tri is because I have finally (I really would like to believe this is the last time I will have to learn this, but my life seems to be a series of me learning and forgetting and relearning, so I can’t make any promises) realized that my health, and especially my fitness level, is the foundation of everything else. It determines my energy level and, therefore, how well I perform my job, how much I have to give to the people I care about, and how much I have left to engage in projects that are important to me personally. When I get out of bed tired in the morning and come home exhausted from work, you can be pretty damn sure I won’t be getting off the couch to write in my office or to play with the dog or to get outside for a walk. And then the vicious cycle is underway – I’m tired, so I don’t work on anything of value to me, which makes me angry, sad, and depressed, which makes me feel even more tired and less energetic. I have to break the cycle somewhere and it seems to make the most sense that I do that by engaging in physical activities that I enjoy and that challenge me. The joy I feel at the end of a swim can carry me through to lunch when maybe I’ll carve out a few minutes to write a few pages of something new. And the excitement of having written something new can carry me through to the evening and inspire me to get outside for that run.
I can carry this one step further. Fitness is the foundation for me being able to maintain the lifestyle I have currently in an enjoyable, sustainable manner. But if I want to change my lifestyle, which I do, then fitness becomes absolutely critical. I considered taking a working vacation in Alaska this year, but when I realized that my duties would include more than leading visitors on nature hikes–things like unloading drinking water from boats and shoveling out composting toilets–on a remote island with no nearby medical facilities, I stopped pursuing the idea for fear that I wasn’t up to the physical challenges. Not long after, my friend Zoi posted pictures on her Facebook page of her recent trip to Costa Rica and as I looked at the ziplines and the waterfalls, I realized I was probably too out of shape to have enjoyed a trip like the one she’d been on. And if I wanted to undertake something even more strenuous, like replanting the rainforest, I had a long way to go to be fit enough to make that a fun, manageable prospect.
Hence, the commitment to train for a triathlon…which is really just a commitment to train for the best possible life I can design.