My TED talk – Week #3.1

9 sessions during this week, post-injury: 2h swimming (4.2k), 5h30 riding (120k) and 4h running (38k).

Monday:

New start. Training phase #3. 1st week. Let’s boogie! Today, I will start off slowly, which in my dictionary means “2h ride followed by a 10k run”.

Just like most days in 2013, I wake up at 6 (at the latest) and start my morning routine. My current routine lasts 90 minutes. I specify “current” because it evolves every week. For me, a morning routine is very important. I believe it is the reflection of the quality of the day you are going to have and the kind of person you want to become. If you look at me during my morning routine, you should be able to guess what I want in life and what is important to me. This is my philosophy.

My current routine is made with 15′ of active stretches, 45′ of various strengthening exercises (push-ups, crunches, pilates and some I just made up…) and 30′ of meditation. I do this daily.

Once the routine is over, the real day starts. About 15′ for breakfast and 30′ to get dressed. Yes, you read right. If you’ve ever biked at 8am when it’s 4 degrees Celsius outside, then you know cold is serious. Considering also that my wardrobe is still in “Singapore” mode, you understand how it can take me 30′ to find more than just low socks and tank tops!

Unfortuantely, the ride ended after just an hour. Despite my two pair of socks, my toes were frozen! Cold hurts, I swear! I remember, 15 years ago, after I saw the movie “Titanic”, I was telling myself: “Come on, don’t you think Di Caprio could have swam in the frozen water? Don’t you think he could have survived and stay with Rose? I could have”.

Well actually no! I would have drown and died just like everybody else!

I felt a bit of tingling in my calf but nothing much. I went back home a bit disappointed though because it is not too fun to feel that cold and also to wonder during each downhill if I am going to die because of an ice plate or not.

2014-01-05 07.27.24That’s how I decided to go to a gym and register. 12:19pm, I opened the door. 12:20, I signed the contract. If thanks to me, the secretary now believes she is a great saleswoman, perfect! The place is great. Endless rows of cardio machines, a bike linked to a screen that allows you to run against guys all over France. I don’t know how I’m going to use this in my training but it sure looks fun. Of course, you have the weights machine. This will allow me to start over with the program I had started in Singapore. 3 rooms where you can choose the class you want to attend (pilates, power yoga, stretch…), at any time of the day, thanks to a digital screen. There is also a massage chair and a sauna that apparently, only myself use 😉

The afternoon’s 10k run went fine. However, my calf started getting hot later. And so did my brain as I am wondering again what can my condition be…

Tuesday:

Local pools in France are clean. Once a year, they have to be emptied. It’s mandatory. Only problem, they all do it at the same time! 😦 Therefore, no swimming during these Christmas holidays.

Today, I have my appointment with the gym’s coach to design my strengthening plan. I love to meet “professionals”. You always think you know everything about everything. You have an opinion about everything but when you meet someone specialized, it is a pleasure to just shut up and learn.

I told him: “When I was in Singapore (Yes, I always try to put in a bit of dream when I start a conversation), I used to lift weights 3 times weekly to reinforce my larger muscles (shoulders, pecs, thighs) and every morning, 30′ of planks, crunches, push-ups and all”…”I also do more on my right side because I have had 3 surgeries on my right knee”…”Also, I don’t know if I should do slow reps or fast leps as I don’t want to become a muscle machine and lose my speed”.

Apparently, his brain too was on fire as after a few explanations, he told me: “Listen, the cardio, you  handle it; the weights, I handle it!” 😉

I now have 5 sessions per week, all included. Pecs and shoulders on monday. Thighs on tuesday. Back on wednesday. Thighs again on friday and biceps/triceps combo on saturday. He also showed me a 15′ abs-routine that I do 3 times a week. Thanks to Anthony (the coach), I learnt that you actually work on a muscle only once a week (or that you need at least 72h of rest before working it again. I saw a documentary about the Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson whose coach said that thanks to anabolic steroids, you can lift your “maximum weight” twice a day!!!). I thought the minimum was three times a week. I learnt you must lift the maximum weight you can lift 4 times 10 reps and that you need 90” of rest between each set. I love to learn!

He ended our conversation, asking me if I do any sports. “Yes, triathlon”, I said. “How many times a week?”…”Fifteen”…”Fif…Fif…”…”Yes, fifteen times”…”Man, that’s a life there!”

“No, it’s a dream” 🙂

I spent New Year’s eve like a good son, with my mother 😉 We went to the movies to see “The wolf of Wall street”. It’s very entertaining and well directed but it’s not gonna change my life. Later, we watched “Nouba”, one of the shows from the Cirque du Soleil. I had been lucky enough to attend their shows twice and I must admit, I am a fan! The level of creativity of some acts amazes me. For instance, their was a diabolo act. Diabolo is not something new, we agree? It’s been around for a while now. Nevertheless, these three Chinese girls did things I had never seen before. There, I wondered: “Can you imagine the number of hours, one must spent doing something, in order to create something new?”. You definitely won’t create anything new by practicing diabolo (or anything else) 3 times a week, in my opinion.

I think 2014 is the first year ever where I don’t take any good resolutions. Probably because I take good/new resolutions every other day. By the way, I have the pleasure to announce you that today is my 52nd straight day without any Mac Donalds, KFC, Burger King or any other fast-food. Oh yes, I am proud 🙂

Wednesday:

I wish that the next 365 days be the most incredible, happy and intense of your life. To you all.

I started 2014 on fire. Woke up at 4 even though I had set my alarm “only” to go off at 5. I baptized my alarm “Everyday in 2014”. This year, I decided to wake up at 5am, 365 times and not allow myself to wonder, why, how, what and other existential questions. This morning, I changed my routine (See, I told you it changes every other day!): 20′ of active stretches, 20′ of reading, 30′ of meditation, 30′ of writing and 30′ of japanese. This keeps me busy from 5 ’til 7:30am. I know, I said Japanese was currently only my top 6 priority but I changed my mind. If I qualify for the 2020 Olympics and cannot reply to the japanese journalists, I will be full of regrets.

On my book shelf, there is only one book in japanese. It’s titled “Who will cry when you die”. Well, now I know the answer for me! I spent the whole afternoon at the gym for a brick workout. A total of 6 hours which for a triathlete is normal. A 42k ride followed by a 16k run. But suddenly, towards 6pm, as I was resting on the massage chair with my eyes closed and my mouth wide open, I heard my little sister’s voice screaming: “Greeggggggg!”

She was panicking because my mother had just called her “panicking” saying: “He’s been in the gym for 6 hours, it’s not possible! He must have had a heart attack and be laying dead in a corner!”. Finally, my sister called my mother to reassure her and then she put me on the phone…

“You said you’d be there at 2pm!”…”But mom, I left at 1”

She hung up on me as if she was thinking: “Damn, I worried for an hour, called the cops for nothing, and now I sound like I am a jughead! Erase that moment right now!”

My mother is very attentive to her diet but she has a thing for potato chips. In order to console her, I wanted to stop at the local store to get her some. But it’s January 1st and in France, everything is closed! C’me on man.

Thursday:

2h ride and 45k today. Bike is not my element yet. I’m really gonna have to spend time riding in order to improve…and make my ass accustomed to the saddle. Weight lifting too today. I am really curious to see where this work is gonna lead me because it is the first time I ever do weights this way. In all case, my intuition says it’s good.

Tonight, I went to see “The secret life of Walter Mitty” with Ben Stiller. This blog is slowly turning “movie critic” instead of “triathlon”! On my way to the theatre, I was expecting an unbelievable movie. The slogan of the movie is “Stop dreaming. Start living” so I was excited, waiting for a movie that looks like my incredible life. For a few years now, I tell myself that one day, someone will make a movie about my life. And today, on that day, I am thinking that “my movie”, is this movie!

But the beginning disappointed me. Nothing to do with my life or what I have inside of me. Maybe I should write the screenplay of my movie rather than this blog. However, after 30 minutes, yes, something happens and your thoughts start to wander. I wonder what kind of questions would such movie trigger with someone with a more “regular” life than mine? Should I quit my job? Should I dare more?…Should I..Should I?”. I did some incredible things in my life but watching this movie, I felt: “Greg, what you want is small. You should be doing things even more incredible”.

To me, something incredible is something that scares me. It’s my definition. I am scared to go to India. I am scared to see poverty, maybe. I am scared to go to Brazil. I am scared to see violence, maybe. I am scared to go to Black Africa. I am scared of human contact, maybe. I am scared to take a bag with only 500 grams of changing clothes, leave my house and run to wherever I feel like, for a week, a month, a year, without planning anything. When I lived in Japan, I once calculated that if I were to run 20-30k per day, it would take me 2.5 years to go back to France. I would run from Tokyo to Hiroshima, where I would hop on a ferry towards China. There, I’d head south towards Thailand, then west and India, Pakistan, Turkey, Greece, Croatia and I’d learn how to say “hi” in any language in the world.

“Life is either a daring adventure…or nothing at all” – Helen Keller.

Friday:

January started 72h ago. So far, 8h of training and 12 of sleeping. Needless to say that I am tired. I am very close to go back to sleep. Also, the 25×400 running session that scares me is scheduled this morning. But I stayed up, went to the track…and ran faster than a month ago. 1’27 avg per lap.

Physical fatigue is an illusion. It doesn’t mean anything. The day I am invited to speak on a TED stage, I’ll speak about fatigue.

I noticed 3 different types of fatigue :

  1. The nervous fatigue you feel, while doing something that, deep inside, you don’t like. Back when I was an osteopath, I needed 10h of sleep per night to survive. Since 2011, I have worked as an english teacher and interpreter and now 6-7h per night are enough to load me with energy. Solution: Leave! I made loads of mistake in my life but I was a hero the day I left that career.
  2. The physical fatigue you feel while doing something you love. For the last 5 months, I tell myself that “triathlete” is my job, so I train like a professional; 2-3, sometimes 4 times per day. So of course, there are times where I am drained. Tens of times, I told myself: “Greg, you’re tired, postpone the session and rest, you deserve it”. But in 100% of the cases, I still went out to train, in 100% of the cases I even had a great session and even better, in 100% of the cases, I was happy, smiling and proud coming back home. Solution: When your body is tired, go out and do your activity. It’s only if you’re tired during the activity or if your times are slower that you can officially say that you’re tired.
  3. The spiritual fatigue you feel while doing something you love. Back in Singapore, I remember the end of a very hard interval training running session. Coach Shem told something simple but which stayed in my memory: “Forget the legs, it’s all in your head now”. This is how I develop the following tactic. When my legs are going full speed, screaming for a break, my spirit goes: “I am in Singapore. It’s 27 degrees. I love the heat on my skin. Hey, there are some trees over there. They’re beautiful. I am running at 20 km/h. I am really lucky. I have an incredible life”. When my spirit says that, I am able to ignore the pain and even speed up. However, after weeks and weeks of hard training, came a moment where my spirit wasn’t able to “disconnect” anymore, and where instead he would only focus on the effort and the physical pain of the moment. This is what I call spiritual fatigue. In my opinion, it is in this context that I injured my calf last december. Solution: Rest for 24h warrior, you deserved it.

Today, I did run my 25 intervals, I swam for 90′ and lifted weights for 60′. Driving back home and for the first time since I came back to France, I felt genuinely and deeply happy, just like when you’re in love, that your hormone are going full speed, that you’re smiling for nothing and singing by yourself.

Do you realize if I had listened to my physical fatigue of this morning? I would have never felt that.

TED ! Send me an invite, I am ready.

Saturday:

Every morning, between 5 and 8, during my morning routine, I drink a big glass of water with a multi-vitamin, another big glass with some magnesium, 1/2 liter of lemon water and some green tea in a giant mug with “Happy Birthday” written on it. My little sister gave it to me. That is a total of about 2 liters of liquid that I drink before even starting my day. I am really happy about this new habit. I really feel like it’s doing good to me.

If there is another topic on which I could write a book, it would be cereal bars! For real, ever since I came back to France, every time I see a different brand, I just buy one piece! It may sound fun when put this way but what you eat and drink during your training can actually make or break it! There are two key points I pay attention to when I read the packaging. First, there must be more proteins than lipids. If I want some fat, I’ll grill myself a salmon when I’m at home! A ratio of 2/1 or 3/1 sounds good to me. Usually, it’s supermarket brands that offer bars with as much lipids or sometimes even more. The 2nd aspect is the number of calories. No, not to lose weight but in order to keep on training well. Most bars offer 100 calories. The problem is that after a 90′ cardio work-out, 100 calories are not enough to save me from hypoglycaemia. In addition, if you only take 100 calories and drive by a Mac Donald on the way home, you’re taking a big risk! 😉 What I take is 200 calories. After a work-out, it’s perfect.

I take 2 kinds of cereal bars here in France. One that’s 200 calories after my cardio work-outs and another one that has lesser calories but as much proteins as a steak! After lifting weights, I find it perfect.

Today, I could check the truth of my theory about fatigue. Woke up, was tired, still went to the pool, felt empty after just my 2nd 50m rep, stopped, took my bike for a 30′ easy spin, went back home, drank a sip, ate some ginger bread, went to bed.

Sunday:

Some people do deserve a lot of credit. I arrived at the gym at 6am and I was the first one. No, the credit shouldn’t be mine. I am a super-hero. I am supposed to be there first. But a man arrived at 6:15 and another 4 or 5 around 7am! Respect, I say! To go out on a sunday morning when it’s night and cold to go exercise, you have to be motivated! Maybe they are super-heroes too, I should have asked them…

I am a member of the MaccaX triathlete team. 2 days ago, I asked a question on the forum as I had doubts about the structure of my long runs. There, thanks to their answers, I realized I was making a huge mistake! Instead of running 90-120′ steadily, I ran 45-60′ easy and the other 45-60′ at 10k race pace! Considering I did this during the 2 months I stayed in Singapore, suddenly, my calf injury makes a lot more sense. So I decided to take even more rest and to spend next week lifting weights and doing some pilates and yoga. I’ll try to go to the pool too. I’ll use a pull-buoy and my leg will think it’s rest.

In 2001, back when I was training for the Paris marathon, I had already done a similar mistake! I used to run my long runs at more than 160 bpm! I finished the marathon in 3h48, whereas I had bet on 3h30, and develop a groin injury afterwards. But once I healed, understood this lesson and adjusted my training plan, 6 months later, I ran the Marseille-Cassis half-marathon in 1h25. No doubt, I’ll come back stronger.

I have another evidence that 2014 has huge successes in store for me. One of the christmas/new year tradition we have in France is to eat what we call “a Kings cake”. The cake contains a broad bean or a Christmas crib figure. The youngest child in the family goes under the table and says: “This slice is for ____. This other one is for___…etc”. If you’re lucky enough to get the slice containing the bean or the figure, you are proclaimed King or Queen. This year, in my family, we ate that cake twice and twice I got the figure. Don’t wonder, if a king is to be crowned in 2014, it will be me. 😉

Since I told you last week that “liberty” was the theme for 2014, I will let you meditate, for the next 7 days, on a quote I found in the book I am currently reading:

“Fear will keep you from being free”

(this article’s cover picture is offered by the talents of photograph, Fabrice Leroux)

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