From my experience, this is what happens as the vibrant colors of autumn fade into the soft white of winter: my race season comes to a close, I joyfully bid adieu to the previous year with copious amounts of gravy covering every dish I eat, and I retreat into my den to hibernate for a month or two.
Then as the year draws to a close, my email inbox alerts me to the existence of a sacred list. It is the list of race dates for the upcoming year. It should only be accessed by those with a strong will, a big heart, and deep pockets (when did races get so expensive).
The excessive amounts of food I’ve been shoveling into my mouth lately has made me pleasantly optimistic (and 10 pounds heavier, but I’m optimistic about that too). I am well-fed, have pent up energy from my long hours of hibernation, and a gift certificate to BASE (yes, shameless plug, I know). I have everything I need to get a head start on my training. I’m certain this year is “my” year (relatively speaking. I’m still usually in the middle to back of the pack).
The first week of training is easy. Sure, it’s cold outside and I’m stuck watching Netflix on the trainer for hours each afternoon, but I’m motivated. I can almost feel the weight of the mass-produced finishers’ medal around my neck as I stand triumphant somewhere near the podium.
It’s within the second week that I question my commitment to race this year. Why? Because boredom is a powerful enemy that will sap all motivation instantly. And boredom is not selective. It will come for you too. Boredom will drain you of all will-power. It will crush your very soul until there is nothing left but a human shaped blob mindlessly double tapping images on Instagram.
Oh, don’t worry. Not all hope is lost. Boredom has powerful inspiration-sucking magic, but boredom is like a vampire - it can only come in if you let it.
So don’t let the boredom in.
Don’t let the boredom in.
Don’t let it in.
I imagine ominous music playing right now… building suspense until….
I tell you a few fun tips to keep the boredom at bay!
1) Avoid long intervals
Whether riding on a trainer, running on a treadmill, or swimming in a pool, keep the workouts engaging with some variety. I understand that the goal is to build endurance, so change up things like cadence or add in some quick little sprints or drills. Give yourself something to focus on rather than the HOURS you still need to ride…
2) Play games
If you aren’t expending too much effort (and if you’re not swimming), you might be able to play games on your phone. If technology supported games aren’t an option, try playing games in your head. Give yourself challenges like counting by 3’s or trying to spell difficult words backwards. Close your eyes and see if you can open them in exactly 60 seconds. 90 seconds? 1,387 seconds?
3) Talk to yourself
This has multiple meanings. In one sense, it’s highly entertaining to have a conversation with the other versions of yourself that live in your head. If you don’t “suffer” from multiple personalities (it’s not suffering, I always have someone to hang out with), you can choose to have conversations with your body parts. Ask your legs how they are feeling. Check in with your heart and your arms. Usually it’s a one-sided conversation. But when your body parts starting talking back, things start to get REALLY interesting.
Sing the same song over and over again or try switching it up. Sing out loud (not recommended while swimming) or in your head. Make up new words to old songs. Who knows, maybe you’ll become the next Weird Al.
5) Be bored
You caught me. This isn’t a tip for how to keep the boredom out. Don’t fight it, BECOME it. Embrace the boredom with all your heart, body, and mind. Let the boredom possess you like the gate-keeper in the original Ghostbusters. Sure, you lose your mind to boredom for a few hours, but you still get your training in, right?
There is no conclusion to this article, only a final piece of unsolicited advice: If boredom has already taken you prisoner and you are trapped in its lair, hoping this post will somehow set you free, you might need a new hobby - one that can get you outside or into adventure. Might I suggest a fat tire bike and some nordic skis?