Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Lessons from Behind the Shovel

It has snowed every day since my last post. This is not a complaint, rather a statement of fact. Mother Nature has decided to bless my home with its vile sputum.

When it comes to snow, I am sort of lawful good versus this neutral evil's presence on my land (Aside: I was thinking, originally, that I am chaotic good. But, truth be told, I just don't look that good in a golden bikini. End aside). When faced with 2 options: 1. snow removal on my driveway, or 2. doing something less important, such as getting to work on time or rescuing children from a burning building, you will likely find me out front of the house with a shovel in my hand. There really is no way around it (Aside 2: This is a neurotic fact that the Wife has had to deal with for years. If we had moved someplace warmer, it would be a non-issue. End Aside 2.)

I have a large driveway which means I spend a lot of time out there with a stick in my hand. This also give me ample time to think. Most of the time, I dream of someplace sunny. That, or monkeys. However, during one of my recent OCD sessions, I started to correlate how the process of shoveling snow very much mimics training. I shall share this lunacy with promptly.

Start Slowly
Whether you're removing snow, just starting your season, or simply starting your workout, there's no need to make the first minute the hardest minute. Getting in to your pace and finding your groove is a much better way to stay in it for the long term. Starting too fast will more easily lead to exhaustion, burn-out, or injury. Not to mention that you may finish early and what in the world would you do with all that extra time? (Hint- the correct answer is train more.)

Actual pic of me and our recent snow
Get the Right Equipment
This doesn't necessarily mean the most expensive. It means get the stuff that can do the job. If you're going running, get a pair of running shoes that fit you (preferably something in a non-neon color). If you are doing group rides, get a road bike. If you are doing time trials or triathlons, get a tri bike. If you are going mountain biking, don't forget to ride off the cliff some sort of fat-tired thingy will suffice. If you are shoveling snow, don't use your garden spade.

See, there is such a thing as equipment specificity. In biology, we teach that structure matches function. If you want smooth, efficient function, then get the stuff that was designed for that stuff. In snow removal, I'm a pusher and not a thrower. In cycling, I'm a spinner and not a grinder. In running, well, I do something that resembles running. My gear reflects these habits.

Careful with Your Electrolytes
Because I have the right equipment and because I am efficient in my shoveling, I don't salt the drive. I don't need to. There's no snow left. There's no ice. There's only the original blacktop, the same stuff and consistency that you would see in the summer. If you do the job correctly, you won't need the salt.

The same can be said for training. Salt tablets or electrolyte supplements are found in many an endurance athlete's gear bag. Personally, I don't use them. Even in the longest, hottest events, I haven't needed them.

I would likely be more right than wrong when I tell you than 98% of the people don't need them 98% of the time. Even for the people who do 'officially' need them, they certainly don't need supplementation for each and every workout. ('Officially' in quotes as it's highly unlikely that the average athlete has done any blood work and urine samples pre and post workout to quantify their needs- most people are holistic in this regard and do what they think is best based on perception) (Aside 3- Want a fun afternoon? Try drilling a salt supplementer to give you a firm definition of what the words "heavy sweater" means. Then, try convincing them that they really don't need 'em. This will be hours of entertainment if you have the stamina. End Aside 3.)

Don't Get Plowed
There is nothing more beneficial to a community than the plow truck. These selfless beings arise in the wee hours of the mornings and drive their 4 mile-per-gallon vehicles slowly through the dark with the singular goal of removing all but the last inch of snow from the ground. They make sure you are aware of their awesomeness by announcing their presence with un-muffled motors, nail-on-chalkboard type scraping of metal on asphalt. And, just in case the sound doesn't alert you, they have bright, flashy lights on top of their cars implying that the average motorist cannot see a vehicle 4x the size of a typical SUV. (Coming from a guy who spends a lot of time on these same roads biking and plodding running, they may actually have a point there.) Many of these trucks come standard with a fertilizer spreader loaded with electrolytes that they probably wouldn't need if their plows actually did an efficient job of removing the snow. Sigh.

In my world, the other meaning of 'getting plowed' is just as significant. Drinking too much alcohol is also a non-efficient way to run my season. Sure, I'll have the occasional fifth of vodka glass of fermented grape. Okay, it may be more than one glass. And it's probably not correct to use the word occasional. The term glass could be better replaced with carafe. But, the concept still stands, as my repeated experimenting has proven enough for the hypothesis to become a scientific law- I'm a goon the positive effects of alcohol are temporary while the impact on training is much more long term.

Therefore, I don't invite the plow truck into my driveway. And I don't invite ethanol into my mouth. (At least, not on a school night.) (For either.)

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