Roger Marolt: Getting pumped for training
I was an athlete searching for a reason to train. I’m using the term “athlete” generously. Are you an athlete if you are not competing in anything? I mean, I ski, run, mountain bike, hike a lot, play a little golf, hit some tennis balls once in a while, enjoy throwing a football, head to the batting cages with the fellas now and then, chill with yoga regularly and am generally a slayer of impromptu backyard games but do none of it for points, times or trophies. This means I’m “active.” If I am “sharp,” too, I’ll have old age licked.
I suspect many Aspenites are like me. After I ran out of talent and youth enough to truly compete in sports, I dabbled in running 10Ks, half-marathons up Pikes Peak, the Leadville 100 mountain bike race and the long forgotten Aspen Triathlon but discovered this wasn’t my thing. All I needed to qualify for these events was an entry fee check. The thrill of searching for my name somewhere in a long list of finishers was fleeting, at best. I realized I could basically re-create these contests on my own and do them when I wanted to.
And still I kept training, if only to get better at training, to work hard today to prepare myself for working harder tomorrow. Sure, there was always the fitting in part — fitting into Lycra bike kits, Lulu Lemon shorts, or a snug Patagonia thermal layer — but that’s only taking things to the next level of mundane.
I am not sure I even needed something to keep training for. If nothing else the force of habit and endorphin addiction is probably enough to keep me huffing and puffing until I can neither huff nor puff again. Nonetheless, I came across a bona fide purpose for my training that has not only motivated me to keep going hard but has inspired me, as well.
It’s donating blood that has lit this fire inside of me to achieve personal bests in my daily tests of strength and endurance. I never saw this coming. I did not freely give away a pint of my blood with this in mind. It occurred to me afterward.
Last summer was the first time I donated blood. I was motivated by watching a loved one suddenly needing several transfusions in an emergency situation. I watched this person literally return to conscious life as someone else’s blood dripped into their body. It was truly remarkable. I knew I needed to do this for someone else.
What I experienced when the blood started to flow out of me was not euphoria. In fact, it was the exact opposite of the scene that inspired me to give it. I felt drained. The revelation was stunning — of course I would feel weaker! This process is all about transferring some of my strength into someone else’s body!
So, what about this motivates me to train? It becomes all about creating awesome blood for someone who will benefit greatly from it. The healthier I am, the more red blood cells my body creates, the greater the benefit to whomever ends up with it inside them.
You can safely donate blood about every four months. This becomes the training period for my next “event.” After you donate blood, it is estimated that your physical aerobic performance may decrease as much as 17%, so the goal would be to recover all of that loss by the time of your next donation. It creates a little pressure. It’s like beginning from scratch in an training plan.
I have started keeping mental notes about performance marks in things I like to do, personal bests, if you will. My goal is to get back to or even surpass these thresholds on the day before my next blood donation. I actually get nervous when I go out to test myself in this way. While beating the mark can be almost euphoric, falling short stinks because I know it will be weeks before I am at this level of fitness again. The week after a blood donation is a recovery week similar to that after a grueling endurance race.
This view of giving blood as a motivation for me to train and produce high quality blood may seem simple minded. For me, though, I have finally figured out how to make my athletic performance a matter of life and death. I have treated many sporting events in my life as such, but this one actually is.
Roger Marolt is a proud member of the four-minute club for donating a pint of blood. And who says he’s not competitive anymore? Eamil at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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