Ahhh winter training. The term brings back fond memories of grueling workouts at the boathouse up in Hanover. As a rower at Dartmouth, winter training is infamous. With long stretches of temperatures in the negatives and feet of snow on the grown, winter training was a critical component for us – if we had less time on the water than most other teams we raced against, we’d have to make up for that in the early season with better fitness!
But winter training was just as much about mental strength as it was about physical fitness. As a figure skater growing up, I worked extensively with a sports psychologist to have a mind of steel at each competition. Rowing (and triathlon) required a slightly different type of mental strength – yes, it was key not to psych yourself out as in skating. But there was also a component of being able to turn off your mind and even harness it to push through pain that you didn’t think possible to push through.
There is something about having to motivate yourself for a dreaded workout when it’s freezing cold and dark outside, and your non-athlete friends are curled up with a mug of hot chocolate and a book. It makes you stronger in a very intangible way. I will never forget the walk down to practice, bracing myself for what laid ahead as I made my way along a peaceful, snowy path lined with gently whispering pines. This quiet would be shattered by blasting music as I opened the boathouse doors. It was in that boathouse that my teammates and I shared many highs, but also where we supported each other through the lowest lows of being broken down by the demands of training.
As Adam and I returned to chilly Chicago earlier this month after a week of training in Sunny Las Vegas with Team IE, as we trudged through the snow to get to the pool in subzero temps, as I’ve chugged away on the trainer and as I’ve run through the snow along Lakefront Trail, I’ve had to smile to myself. THIS is winter training.
People often ask, “How are you a triathlete living in Chicago?? How do you stay motivated when it’s so cold/snowy/dreary?” I can tell you it’s not always fun. Some days are just plain rough, and there are certainly days when I wake up to my alarm only to want to curl back up in bed. But it’s the confidence that this is when the magic happens that gets me out from under the covers. This is what will make me stronger in mind, body, and spirit. In short, this is when champions are made.