Saturday 23 February 2013

Dedication or Insanity?

  I have had a question burning in my mind for a while now. Why does it seem like running, swimming, cycling and the all encompassing triathlon is only for professionals? I don't mean athletic professionals, but people with careers. Let me be more specific, more or less office type careers. Careers like lawyers, doctors, professors, those in management, deskies (desk workers and yes I just made that nickname up), just to name a few. I think you get the idea. Now I don't want this post to offend anyone, but I have a few things to say about this topic and what I'm dealing with. Also let me say this is certainly not a pity party point of view. Just a few issues I don't think a lot of athletes past their late twenties have to deal with.

I think I worked with this guy...
   The reason this came to me is that everyone I have met and every athlete I've researched since I began triathlon training all seem to come from this working background. It leaves me feeling very underemployed for these sports, something I never would have considered as an issue prior to beginning. I work in construction as a finish carpenter. I install and case doors and windows, run endless miles of baseboard and other trim, lug heavy wooden mill-work and tools around and build bitchin' built-ins. It's certainly not the absolute most physical job in the world, but after a 10 hour work day, yep 10 hours, it takes its toll. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not jealous of the deskies nor do I hold that thought of work with disdain. I used to be one myself and may in some shape or form work in that environment again. Life's funny like that. I have 5 years of college behind me and have worked the gambit of jobs and careers. I worked in a call center and made my way up the corporate ladder to support desk which was help desk for the help desk. I became operations manager of a custom sportswear company in Toronto call "To Be Seen Promotions". As my skateboard career winded down I ran my own production company for action sports videos. I have been a cook off and on for more than 18 years eventually working my way up to a food service manager in a large corporation complete with a shirt, a tie and weekly "bored" meetings. This was my last desk gig. I became disheartened with corporate bullshit and sitting in front of a computer all day. I feel now like I felt then, it's not the human condition to be sedentary all day. I wanted to work with my hands and create something I could be proud of. Not looking at the corner of the task bar every 15 minutes to see how much time had passed. I'm aware that I made the choice to work a physical job and leave the office and money behind. I don't regret that choice for a second, but why have I never met another athlete that works a job like mine? The stereotype of the construction worker with the fat belly is truly not a stereotype at all. It's too close to the truth for comfort.

   Is it a money thing? Triathlon sports do cost a bit to start. I've spent well over $2000 already on running shoes, running, cycling & swim gear, wet-suit, neat toys like my Garmins, and it would have been a hell of a lot more if Christine hadn't given me a hand-me down-bike that was already a hand-me-down bike. I've seen people spend as much or more on hobbies without a high paying job, so no I don't think it's an income thing. Hmmm drive maybe? Well a lot of the guys I work with own their own companies and hustle everyday for jobs. They must have drive to do that, right? it must be a time restraint thing. Now that I think about it, my perfect partner Chris works as much as me with her commute time and is still an amazing type 1 diabetic athlete. Double strike for her and she does it. Not money, not drive, not time, then what? Are professionals the only ones intelligent enough to know exercise is necessary for a healthy life? As I look around at my beer bellied, chain-smoking co-workers one might think so, but I still don't think that's it. I think it boils down to dedication, a value I hold closest to my heart. 

It was -18C after 10 hours of baseboard
   Let me be the first to say it is not easy to sit in front of a computer all day. It leaves you mentally exhausted. Mentally, but not physically. In fact most people after sitting all day would want to get up and go do something active. Now try climbing ladders to case windows and crawling on your hands & knees nailing baseboard for 10 hours. Let's see who the hell feels like doing anything except going home, eating a hot meal and flopping on the couch in front of the mind-melting boob tube with a beer. I understand why no one from a physical job wants to do anything unless it's the weekend. That's what we call the weekend warrior, not an athlete. I am and have been since my teens an all around athlete. It's how I identify myself. It's where I gain my sense of pride. So this is why I chose the hard life. It's about building character and fueling dedication. It's why I'll be out running, in the dark, at minus 18 with windchill, in the snow, all my muscles sore from working 10 hours. This is why you'll see me next to the lawyers, doctors, professors and the rest of the deskies on race day. At least on that day careers don't matter anymore.

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