My Weekly Blog #4

Why Cheat Days are a Bad Idea!

The term "weekend warrior" amuses me. I mean, what is a calendar exactly? The Romans decided that they want to divide the time that we have on earth into years, months, weeks and days; they did some arbitrary distribution, created the concept of time, of seconds, minutes, hours and then we count up from them, we live our lives according to this "Calendar", this arbitrary set of numbers, which if you think about it might even be wrong. Today might be Sunday(I am writing this on a "Wednesday").

And if it is a Sunday, and you are living it like a Wednesday: Hunched over your computer table, bitching about your boss to your colleagues, bitching about your colleagues to your boss to get a better appraisal (that's what the folks back in my 1st team used to do; especially one particular ego-centric joker), online shopping for stuff you don't need, waiting for the "weekend", waiting for the clock to signal closing time for you on a Friday, so that you can drink your sorrows away and then in this new trend, working out on Saturdays and Sundays( "harder" than the rest of the week and call yourself a "weekend warrior"): Don't you think you are doing something wrong?

I have never understood what's so special about the "weekend" (not the singer, he has 1 good song or infact, the 1 song I have heard was good) . When I was working my corporate job, I didn't wait for the weekend to do what I wanted to do. If something needed to happen, a workout, a project, something which depended on me, I didn't really look at the calendar to see which day of the week it was. I still don't.

The internet is saturated with messages: of living in the moment and doing what you love but life isn't that. You can't do what you love all the time, the world would come to a halt and nothing would work because life isn't that. You have to invest time in doing things you don't like so that the world keeps on moving. You have a human obligation to play your roll in moving this hamster's wheel forward and take your turn.
And even if it sucks, it doesn't mean you're not learning anything from it. Like my old job. There was a technical component to it, which got added on my CV, got programmed into my brain and that would help me in the future. But then there was this other component: Of dealing with pretentious morons with a smile on your face. There was a guy in my team, who had no idea and who used to repeat the last 3 words of your line to pretend that he knew. I have had so much fun with that guy, because I just used to make shit up and then have him act like he knew things I just made up. (I know, i'm mean).
Or the subtle art of smiling at your "superior" as he talks about the virtues of the workplace and working hard while online shopping a toilet seat for his mouth.

These are life lessons which you won't learn anywhere else. Infact, if I look at it now, I love the fact that I was in such a dysfunctional work environment with so many different people, and I stayed in a job I began hating after 6 months, for 4 years, because I learnt humility. I learnt how to disagree while smiling and learnt that your ego is the biggest challenge to your happiness(apart from traffic).

But I also learnt what was important to me and I made this distinction early in life. If I wanted a career in that particular field, I would have been a different employee. I wanted to be associated with sports, play sports and work in sports. And that's how I lived my life. To me, days of the week didn't matter and to me the time of the day didn't matter. What mattered to me was my desire to do things that, when I look back in life, I could put a finger on and be happy about. Concrete milestones along my life, that would be my legacy.

Which brings me to the title of this article. Cheat Days.

Now, Cheat Days are very different from Rest Days.

Rest Days are the ones on which, your body is demanding rest, you can actually feel the effects of your hardwork. Then, if you're a type A driven person, even though you don't want to stop, you stop and let it relax before going back into it. It takes a lot of self-confidence in taking rest days because most of us are rather insecure about losing fitness or our grip on things.

Cheat Days on the other hands are the "outs" you take. Like in terms of diet; people talk about their "cheat day", when they allow themselves to transform from human beings to pigs. When they gorge on stuff, they have not being eating because somehow they believe that they have "earned it".

I don't know if you've ever done something in your life that you really loved or were really passionate about. But if you were, I'm sure you never felt the need of a "Cheat Day". Like for example a relationship. You don't have cheat days in your relationship if you really love the person. You might have rest days, when you get tired of your partner's shit. But not cheat days, if it comes down to cheat days it means that it is over.

When you give yourself an "out", from a commitment or a goal, the mind, the soul, it begins to work towards that out. You can't wait for that 1 "out". If you're on a diet to lose weight and if you give yourself 1 day in a week where you can eat Pizza, you'll spend 6 days of the week thinking about Pizza. That's not healthy. That's "living for the weekend". But instead, if you are really passionate about losing weight, if you actually love your body, if you actually want to be healthy for yourself instead of using "thinnify" for your Instagram photos to show to the world that you have a healthy body, you will not give yourself a way "out". Because you'll know that the components to a Pizza are detrimental to your goals.

Which is why I have never consumed alcohol or smoked in my life. And infact have never had to lie to my parents about it. I know alcohol is bad for me, I know smoking is bad for me and because I love my body, I value the gift of life and I pride myself on being an active person, I never felt the need to "try" like many people do. It's like poison. I know if I drink it, I would die, why would I want to try it? There are others ways of having an adrenaline rush, there are other ways of enjoying life, natural ways of inducing endorphins which doesn't involve me, injecting or ingesting harmful substances in my body.

And this is why I don't enjoy social outings, I don't stay up late, I eat early and I wake up early. This is why I run as much I do and enjoy doing things that I do. I love doing that. I love my life, I love the chance I have been given and I want to honour my body's true potential. I want to take it to the limit and because, I have the rare gift of common-sense, I don't want to do things that would stop me from doing that.

I want to leave this world a better place than I came in, and I cannot do that if I am taking cheat days and living for 1 day in the week. That would reduce my opportunities by 3,12,000 days if I live to be 100 years old.

The Japanese Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei, wear the clothes in which they would be buried in, every day they set out to do their run. They do that because they should commit harakiri if they begin to doubt themselves and their goal, because that shows that they have not fully committed to their goal. They believe that if you have fully immersed yourself in a goal, you should accept the problems, the difficulties and the happiness all as a part of the package and not let yourself be affected by the emotions. In other words, they would commit suicide if they even think of "cheat days".

I don't urge you to be that extreme, but atleast learn to be truthful and passionate about your goals, believe in yourself and the beauty of your dreams and you'll see the desire for cheats days disappear!

And please stop calling me Ultraman.

Believe me, I appreciate the respect you have (or not) for my extremely long shuffle, but please don't call me Ultraman.

Yes, I swam 10k, biked 421.1k and then ran 84.3k but I am not the kind of person who (I'm paraphrasing an article from Outside Magazine here) believes that it is the intensity which is a better validation of your athletic prowess than the distance. I cringe when someone calls me an Ultraman, let me explain:

First of all, doing the Ultraman at that time was more a means of getting my self-esteem back on track. At the start of 2015, I was going through a purple patch, athletically speaking.
I ran a Sub 3 Marathon, where I would have run much faster if Procam had managed to do proper crowd control, I was hitting a Sub 35 10k, a 5k in the Mid 16s and everything was fine and dandy.

Shit went south from there and I don't want to spend another blog retelling the story, but I ended up doing a 13 hour Ironman when my goal was to finish in Under 10. Granted, under 10 seems like an audacious goal when you're training on a bike-trainer with no feedback, for a race where almost 80% of the distance is bike.
I just put in hours and hours on the trainer, not knowing the intensity or the effort, eating on the trainer, gaining weight and I ran lesser, I swam lesser because I thought I was some sort of a prodigy.

And to be fair, Sub 10 isn't exactly mind-boggling. It's 1:05 swim, 5:30 bike, 3:15 run(with 7-9 minutes in transition). And I could(and still can) run 3:15 for fun. I ran it last year despite having a 102 fever. And 1:05 swim is fine too, if I ever decide to get serious like I was about swimming, 1:05 is a decent goal. It's that 5:30 bike. I've done 180k in less than 5:30 before, but I'm really not sure(after all my education on the subject of biking & bike geometry) that I can run a 3:15 off the bike. I have tried a lot to improve my position on the bike, but my sad reality atleast in 2015, was I wouldn't be running a 3:15 off the bike, which I didn't.

I failed, miserably: By 57 minutes on the bike and a whopping 100 minutes on the run.
And I don't care what people can and cannot do, a 4:55 marathon for me is a sin, it is a crime.

People said a lot of shit behind my back while clicking the "like" button on my photos, but that never has and never will be my driving force. I was given this life, I was given this competitive mindset and I was given this ability to enjoy what others might call torture. And if I do not honour that, I am failing as a human being, I am failing in life.

So I decided to do 7 Half Iron Distance Triathlons in 7 days. Yes, the date was pushed because a particular actor(who now acts like a triathlete) got whiff of the idea, and knowing the fact he would steal my idea, I pushed for this challenge to prove to myself that I was better than the 13 hour Ironman.

Now, when you are doing such an event, you need to keep the intensity lower than you would for a race pace effort, and you have to ensure that you have recovered well before you start. I did neither.
I did 7 70.3s in a cummulative moving time of 37 hours, that's 5:15 per day. No, not a good idea. I hadn't recovered from the Ironman, the weather and pollution made my already vulnerable immune system, sick.(to properly recover from a marathon, you need 5 weeks. I did an Ironman and then 7*70.3s in a period of less than 4 weeks.)

This led to vicious cycle of injuries and attempts to prove to myself that I am not a fat, slow loser that I was appearing in the pictures. I had gained weight, I was heavier than when I had started running, I was in no shape to do the same intensities, I had no idea about recovery and there's a huge negative spiral that develops in your head when you go from doing pretty darn well in a marathon the year before, to pulling out at 8k, walking in the dark to your hotel and crying on the bed, the next year.

Ultraman was a goal of mine, not because of the numbers. Yes, it is huge race, but to me distances are purely numbers, it's how strongly you can get through those numbers. (Maybe that's why I did those 70.3 at 5:15 average).

I wanted to be competitive. I had done 3 Ultramarathons in my life before that, I was 3rd in my 1st Ultra, 2nd in my 2nd and 1st in my 3rd. When it came to outlasting the opposition, going to a dark place in my mind and then getting out of it, I was your man. My goal was to show the world, this tiny little man from India can go out there and kick ass at an international event.

But like I told my student, "Words are mere words, until you can attach actions to them". I couldn't kick ass at that event. It took me 4 hours and 22 minutes to swim 10k. People who are slower swimmers than me, from my own country, have done this 10k swim faster than me. It took me 10 hours and 13 minutes to run 84.3k, I can run hours faster than that. Hours.
It was perhaps the only event in my life where I went with a goal of finishing, I went with a mentality of "3 long training days", "Survive" and the only time I was in control was the 1st 50k of Day 3. Yes, I survived the 3 long training days, but it was a terrible performance. It doesn't do justice to my abilities and it really breaks my heart, even the amount of attention I got for it.

Yes, I did finish the event. I went and did something that no other Indian had done before. But see what happened because of me. People have now begun to use it as a business model, they struggle to finish but because they have it on their CV, they can make up some idiotic "1st to do this" title and launch their business. I contributed to the finisher culture, I desperately hate.

I can do 20 Ironmans, I can do 50, even 100. It doesn't matter, it's just 140.6 miles. If I am doing the 1st Ironman same as the 100th, if I am not improving, if I keep doubling down on 1 strength and lacking in the rest, I am not understanding why sport exists in the 1st place. Doing 1 Olympic Triathlon in under 2 hours is much harder than doing 20 Ironmans in 13 hours apiece.

Sport is not meant to show the rest of the world you can afford more race entries, or to show off to the world that you were the
"1st/Fastest/Fattest/Thinnest/Tallest/Shortest/Youngest/Oldest/Civil Servant/Toilet Cleaner Indian living in India/Abroad" to endure a distance. Who gives a fuck even if you win? Even if you win the world championship in a sport, in the words of Kilian Jornet "You were better than a bunch of people in that sport, that year. In the whole scheme of this world, it means absolutely nothing at all". Sport is about commitment, it is about dedication, it is about waking up at early hours to squeeze in all you can so that you stand at your next start line, confident that you will not be wreck at the end of it. Sport is a metaphor for life, understanding the ups and downs, listening to the nonsense your mind begins to spew even before you head out for a training run with the fears of "what-if" and then consciously telling your brain to "Shut up and quit whining".
Sport is about self improvement, it isn't about competing with others and getting jealous because they can run a particular distance faster than you. It is about looking at people faster than you and realising the potential human body holds for improvement, and what all you can achieve by being consistent and being strong. Sport is about moving forward.
But in this current zeitgeist, people forget this. It has become about business and running 4 kms followed by posting 20 selfies with nonsensical hashtags on Facebook so that students will join your coaching. People become so inwardly focussed they forget what made them get into sport in the first place. Believe me, that business mindset is not why you started doing your sport. You didn't do it to achieve "fame/fortune/1st to something". You started doing it because it brought you happiness. 
After doing my Ultraman, 1 particular moron said to me "Now you should retire and do speaking gigs, write a book". I was 26 at that time, and that guy somehow is still alive because I am a nice guy and do not act on my psychopathic desires to murder people. 
I hate that title of Ultraman. It was set of numbers, I struggled through them and I didn't live up to my potential. Infact, it broke me, mentally. It reiterated in my brain that, all I was capable of now was shuffling through, at the fag-end of a long race and then somehow live in the castle of glass created by my "achievements", unhappy and brooding about my capabilities.
You know what makes me happy? While running today, I passed through a speed trap. It showed my speed as 15 kmph. That happiness, was WAY more than when I crossed the finish line of Ultraman. I picked up my pace to 17 kmph, and then had a huge stupid grin on my face because I was doing something where I was pushing myself to the ceiling, rather than pushing away so that I don't fall on the floor. 

This would be fun to do while running.
When I collapse at the finish line of a marathon, the clock showing 2:17:xx and have the title of a mere "marathon finisher", I would be very happy. Titles don't matter to me, what matters is the effort I gave and how close to my potential I got.

Sports Roundup/Interesting Incidents:
Not much happened to be honest, apart from the Tour De France where Geraint Thomas pulled off Scene 1 Act 2 of Macbeth, killing King Duncan(aka Chris Froome).

People are saying that G doesn't have what it takes for a 3 week Tour, and that's what happened with Simon Yates at the Giro. The 3rd week of this year's Tour is very hard and tricky, Tom Dumoulin is on form, doing really well and even Primoz Roglic seems like a threat(he is a very good TT guy also)

Let's see what happens.

Maybe i'll write a full recap for those who want to read it.

I think I have already gone over 3000 words on this blog, so i'll stop now.

Have a great week y'all.


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