Training for triathlons can be exhausting physically and mentally. There are days I question if it is actually good for me to push my body into the pain that I do. This worry is especially acute when I feel a little iggle or niggle during workout and I wonder about the long-term consequences. There are times I know that I would be less neurotic if I didn’t care so much about doing the next practice or race perfectly.
Then I go volunteer at the Women’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Centre at Women’s College Hospital.
And I am thankful that by luck -of-draw I have a passion for this crazy sport called triathlon.
Women are admitted into the WCR for 3 -12 months to follow a monitored personalized “training” plan. It was a shock to my view on the world when I started volunteering 18 months ago – the target heart rates that these women are ‘training’ at range from 75-120! The women in this program have either had a cardiac incidence or are at high risk. They are overweight. They are diabetic. They have high blood pressure. They are on a multitude of medications. These women are as young as 35 and as old as 90.
Most of them have not ever made exercise, healthy eating or healthy living a part of their life. The terrible consequence is the deterioration of their whole cardiovascular system. They are part of this program to change this.
When I walk into the centre I realize that my sport has given me many things that I take for granted – especially on those days when my body is in pain and my mind is buzzing with my work-life-training schedule.
Working with this demographic (which is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum from who I usually ‘train’) I have realized several things:
Triathlon forces me to cross train and it actually prevents a lot of overuse injuries. Triathlon has allowed me to understand what food MEANS and how to use it. Triathlon (esp biking and swimming) has ensured that I know I must do both aerobic and strength work to keep my musculoskeletal system functioning. It has taught me to trust my perceived effort. It has shown me what my heart rate means.
The women that I supervise at the WCR are there to learn all of these things. It is incredibly inspiring and energizing to coach these women to a place where they understand their bodies.
Little do they know they are teaching me as well. Teaching me to appreciate what my sport gives me. Their collective wisdom teaches me many life lessons along the way as well:
I was eating an apple while volunteering yesterday. There is this amazing 80-year-old (German, survived a bombing in the hospital during the war, 4 children, is a spark plug of energy, went from having breathing attacks while walking 4 minutes in the hallway to chatting away while hopping on the elliptical yesterday) who commented ” Ayesha, it looks like you are enjoying that apple!”. At that point I realized that I WASN’T in fact enjoying it fully. I mean, I DO really like apples. But I wasn’t REALLY enjoying it.
I realized that she was saying this because she probably couldn’t enjoy all the textures and flavors that apples have. And I realized that there will probably be a point in my life when I too will no longer be able to enjoy apples. Youth and the enjoyment of apples is really wasted on the young!
Katie, my dear, thank you for making sure I never take another apple for granted.
WCR thank you for making sure that I don’t take the health triathlon has given me for granted.
PS – I have posted a video of one of my swims on my Facebook Fan Page. Check it out
Results from the long course meet are as follows:
1st 200 free 2:23.56
1st 50 Fly 31.47
1st 100 free 1:05.24
1st 800 free 10:48.98
5th 200 free 2:57.29
6th 100 free 1:19.58
2nd 800 free 13:34.16