I used to be one of those people who would thrash themselves in workouts (just ask any of my training partners). If my coach told me to run a certain pace on the treadmill, I would force myself to do it, so much so that my heavy, loud breathing would often draw a crowd of concerned spectators at the gym.
Then I got pregnant. And instead of trying to max out my heartrate, I was trying to slow it down. Instead of pushing myself until I saw stars, I spent months just trying to "go easy" until I got to the point where I didn't exercise for days on end. The scary thing is, I actually didn't mind that not working out had become routine. For someone who has spent the better part of a decade exercising for a living, this revelation really, really worried me. Had pregnancy made me soft? (literally, yes it had, but that's a different subject).
It didn't help that when I did start training again, I took things very slowly, not giving myself the opportunity for a "smashfest" (in the words of Hillary Biscay) until my scar sufficiently healed. I knew I was laying down the groundwork for the future, but it was hard to feel good about workouts (and races) that involved holding back and not going for a win.
And then something clicked.
I was recently invited to join the masters swim team at the new Asphalt Green in Battery Park and have been swimming 4-5 times a week with the group. Last Thursday the coach gave us a hard 2k distance set, something I would have usually been excited to smash. But I had planned on swimming easy because I had an AlterG treadmill session scheduled for 30 minutes after the swim. I started to explain this and my lanemate (an Olympian) looked at me and said something to the effect of, you are here now, don't worry about what you have next, just get it done. After taking a few 50's to process what I said, I ended up swimming faster than I have in over a year and finished the set with a new 500 year post-baby PR. I finally was able to push myself. No limits. No holding back. I don't really know what it was - maybe it was the pep talk or double espresso I downed before practice - but finally, I finished a workout that was anything but soft.
Riding on this momentum, I entered a 5k race (the Fall Foliage Half Marathon & 5k in Rhinebeck, NY) this past Sunday. The conditions were perfect and my legs felt good despite a 56 mile time trial bike the day before. I started out with a 5:34 mile and instead of easing up as I would have a few months earlier, I pushed harder. I ended up racing for the overall win, getting outkicked in the last few meters, but setting a new post-baby PR of 17:38.