I’m getting ready to do my first 70.3 on Sunday. While everyone I talk to these days seems to know exactly what this is and has done one, I am aware that is not the norm. If you aren’t in the know, it is a Half-Ironman distance triathlon consisting of a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run.
When you hang with triathletes, cyclists and runners, your perspective on sane exercise skews. I barely blink when someone tells me they are running the Leadville 100 (yes, running 100 miles at 10,000+ feet elevation), although I did give pause when I met an ultra runner who had plans to do five 100-mile runs this summer in hopes of finishing just one. A marathon seems like a jog in the park to these folks. A sprint-distance triathlon with a 500 to 750 meter swim, 12 to 20 miles on the bike and a 5K is dismissed as a short training workout that probably calls for an additional 50-mile ride later in the day.
I signed up for a full Ironman next summer – one year from Sunday to be exact. One of the main reasons is because, well, all the cool kids seemed to be doing it. These triathletes jumped on the 2.4-mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and full marathon race like it was a 5K. With a more than $600 entry fee and a 20+ hour per week training commitment, I’m not sure what I’ve done. At least I’ll have lots of peers with whom to commiserate.
If these reports of exercise extremism make you feel delinquent because you only worked out once most days last week, don’t. It’s all about who you hang with. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just came out with a report in May 2013 saying that fewer than 21 percent of Americans achieve the minimum recommendations for muscle-strengthening and aerobic exercise weekly. These recommendations call for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (like brisk walking) and 2 total-body strength-training workouts per week. A lot of people I know do that in one day. That’s not bragging, that’s just illustrating the other extreme.
When is it too much? When have we passed over from the realm of sane exercise into unreasonable? Remind yourself that there is always someone stronger, faster and crazier than you. You have to race your race or do the workout for you – not because everyone else is doing it.
But use the peer pressure to your advantage as well. Perhaps that ambitious friend of yours will push you to do things you never expected you would – to visit the gym an extra day this week, to run a half-marathon or to hit a cross-fit workout that just might hook you for life.
So pick your friends wisely. Wouldn’t you rather someone pressure you into a yoga class or kickboxing…or an Ironman…than into having an extra beer and plate of nachos?