Thursday, March 15, 2018

Crunch: On Competition & the Value of Short Term Goals

I went skiing with my buddy Brian a few weeks ago.  Despite losing a day at Mount Snow to comically extensive airline delays, we wound up having a great time out at Okemo once we finally got out there.  We put in something like fifteen runs over the course of maybe five hours plus lunch.  It was enough that we staggered off the mountain at the end of it, exhausted but happy.  About the only thing that kept me awake on the drive home was Brian’s minute-by-minute updates on Army’s lacrosse game against perennial powerhouse Syracuse.

Me and Brian at Okemo a few weeks back.
I’ve skied a lot this winter, and that’s been great, but it hasn’t been particularly conducive to my overall fitness goals.  Nevertheless, I’ve been thinking a lot about fitness training plans since our weekend on the mountain, not least because Brian and I have been working out together on and off for decades.  When I finally called it a career in the pool, Brian became my workout partner in the weight room.  I learned quite a lot from him.  Fast forward two decades, and we’re both on what Brian recently called a “fitness journey,” with the man himself training for an upcoming Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) after dealing with a variety of foot and Achilles issues, foot surgery, and multiple shoulder surgeries.  Meanwhile, I’m slowly but surely starting to focus on this year’s Swim Across the Sound.
Alas, I’ve got further to go than I might like.  
Brian brought the point home with his talk about the APFT.  After significant time on the shelf, he thinks he’s finally got a shot at scoring 290 or above, which would mark something of a return to form for my friend and again qualify him to wear his APFT Badge.  You know, those Army guys all love their badges and tabs.  And really, if you’re an Army officer who’s trying to set the example for your soldiers, averaging 290 or more is pretty much expected.  I know it’s bothered my buddy that he’s been hurt.
So, wanting to help, I said, “Sure!  I’ll take the APFT with you.  Why the Hell not?”
You’d think I would know better.  But then again, maybe not.  I mean, I do want my buddy push himself, and anyway, I couldn’t help wondering how I’d do on the old test, too.  Hey, Brian needs the push, right?
If you’ve never taken one, the APFT consists of two minutes each of push-ups and sit-ups and a timed two-mile run.  Each event is scored on a 100-point scale by age-group, which means that being good at one or two events only helps up to a point.  To score 290, you really need to max two events, so that you have a little breathing room on whichever event happens to be your weakest.  As a former swimmer, this has always meant max’ing push-ups and sit-ups for me and then diving across the line to somehow eek out 90 points or so on a rather breathless run.  But I haven’t taken an APFT since way back in the summer of 2000, and until Brian brought it up, I hadn’t had a clue what we’d need to do to get back over 290.  
As it happens, it works out like this for Men, Aged 44-45 Years:
 -- Push-Ups: 66 (100 pts)
 -- Sit-Ups: 72 (100 pts)
 -- Run: 14:06 (100 pts); 15:18 (90 pts)1
As always, I think I can manage the first two events reasonably well, but it’s going to take a Hell of a lot of work for me to get under 7:39 for back-to-back miles on a two-mile run.  My last 5K saw me average a rather unimpressive 8:22.
Sunday's treadmill selfie.
This was my answer when Sally asked how
it was going.
But it’s funny how short-term goals can focus the mind.  I’d been out of the pool for a month when Brian brought up his APFT project.  That was this past weekend.  Since then, I’ve been in the water twice.  I spent more than two hours at Crunch on Sunday and another hour last night, lifting weights, doing yoga, and running nearly four miles on the treadmill.  Moreover, between skiing, work, general focus in the weight-room, and a commitment to enjoying some much-needed off-time, I’d let myself balloon all the way up to 206 lbs.  As of Tuesday, I was down to 203.5 lbs, and if that’s still not great, it’s not bad considering that I’m only just getting back into the swing of things.  
The one thing I haven’t done is ease into it.  Instead, this has been a kamikaze fitness attack fired by pure competitive determination.  But in all honesty, that’s exactly what I need if I’m going to get back under 200 lbs before the end of April and set myself up for the coming open water swimming season.
If there’s a message in all of this, it’s that it really helps to have short-term goals and to care about achieving them.  Because, really, how can you face your friends knowing that you’re the weak link in the chain?  
You can’t.  
And that’s what’s got me back working hard.  I needed a reason to care about going back, and now I’ve got one.

1. Brian set his personal running goal at 15:00, which would score 92 points.

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