Andrew and I were standing on the Metro platform looking at each other doubtfully. “This is going to be a joke” I said as I broke off the end of a baguette and shoved it in my mouth.
I was referring to was the Paris Half Marathon that we were sleepily making our way to that morning whilst the city of love was only just starting to wake up. I was under the assumption that I hadn’t done enough training to get a personal best.
This is how I felt all morning until I got to the start line. It was like those teenage wolf programmes where you see the character undergo a transformation at full moon, developing dilated pupils, sprouting claws, a howling jaw full of razor sharp incisors and the sudden growth of mangy fur.
Luckily for the good people of Paris, my transformation wasn’t quite so shocking but my body did instinctively kick into gear. It knew that we were going to go hell for leather for the best part of two hours and would stop for no one, not even the voice in my head.
When I blew over the finish line that day I’d shaved 11 minutes off last year’s PB with a time of 1:47 mins and finally kissed goodbye to the nine minute mile. As I received my medal, the wolf was gone and there was just a slightly incredulous me left standing there in a massive poncho, shivering with adrenaline and completely confused.
Over numerous glasses of wine afterwards I started analysing what on earth I had done to shave so much time off? How can someone go from running no faster than nine minute miles all their life to suddenly taking nearly a minute off every mile? And I hadn’t even trained for it.
And in a drunken mist, I worked it out.
I’ve stopped “training”
Before you cancel your run and head straight to the pub, what I am not saying is that I have stopped running or cycling. Instead, I’ve reached a point in my relationship with running and cycling where, on the whole, none of it feels like training any more. I’ve stopped treating every activity like an utter prison sentence that I need to serve in order to get a half-decent time in the events that I enter.
This shift in mindset has been totally subconscious and without realising I’ve turned all of my “training” slots into the fabric of my social life. My training is now my lifestyle and I can’t remember the last time I set out to do a proper ‘session’. This way I am getting stronger and fitter in a more efficient and effective way. And all of this is producing some surprising results as I witnessed in Paris.
It’s not training when you’re having fun
Running has become a way to see new parts of the country, cycling has become an excuse to have brunch with my friends and yoga is specifically my me time. There is not one part of it I don’t enjoy which is in stark contrast to how I felt when I was training for my first marathon.
My lifestyle has absorbed my training by turning sessions into ways to see friends, explore new places, unwind and get some headspace. It all feels like a natural part of my routine and I certainly have lost that sense of dread that I used to have, especially during marathon training. A lot of it comes from building a friendship circle of like-minded cyclists and runners and seeing them almost always involves an active pursuit.
The key to my personal success in Paris was all down to my mindset. I’ve changed the way I view my journey to getting fit and strong for events by maintaining a constant level of activity. Gone are the days were I would look at a training plan and shudder at the sight of a scheduled two hour run. Now that run is turned into an adventure or an occasion. It might involve travelling to a new place and hitting a scenic trail with a massive pub lunch planned at the end. My training is now my social life and the best part of it is that I’m getting fitter without even realising it.