Lisa Alhadeff: When The Going Get's Tough - Part Two
Here is the second week of my diary, another week in the life of me, Lisa Alhadeff. It was with some trepidation that I sent the first week off to EpicTV as I had some concerns about quite how anyone would be interested in four weeks of my rambling.
So why would you read this one? Well, I’ve tried to be honest, and I hope it’s relatable. It’s hard to be motivated to train in the evenings, especially in the winter, even when you love seeing improvements. Let’s face it, training isn’t why I love climbing, in fact it often doesn’t involve climbing at all.
That said, I definitely wish I had time to train more and, perhaps more importantly, sleep more. Most of us as climbers have other passions, commitments, jobs and pastimes. I see so many climbers in Sheffield who balance life with a burning passion for the sport that I love, and I’m constantly inspired by them to keep going, even when the trips or goals seem like a long way away.
Monday dawned grey and uniform in Sheffield to produce one of the most spectacularly uninspiring starts to the week of January so far for me. I met a friend at 8am for coffee to make some final prep for the week, and slumped over first a Flat White and then an Americano. About halfway through the second coffee I made it to consciousness and headed off to set up my room. There must be someone on my side because, despite warnings that the students would be less than enthusiastic, I was met by 36 receptive faces and the day ran smoothly.
I tried to be a bit more organised with the week’s training, and actually planned each session for the week in advance. It got to the end of the day and I’d made it to a coffee count of three. It was one of those days where I’ve already drunk more coffee than ideally I’d like to by the end of the day but I’m tired and there are three hours of training to do. I drink another couple and try to wing it through the evening on coffee and cake.
On days like this I think “Oh my god, it’s only Monday and I’m already tired”, and wonder why I make the choice to train, or whether I really want to do a PhD, or climb at all. It’s hard to articulate. I suppose it’s a cascade of doubts triggered by the prospect of more things planned for the week than I can imagine completing in that moment. I wonder on these days whether I’m trying to do too many things well and actually doing everything badly, or whether I’m making the right choice in pushing myself hard. Do I spend too much time climbing and working to be a good friend, sister or daughter? I think we all have these doubts, to a greater or lesser extent, and I’m learning that it’s got to be good enough to do as much as I can, and that’s where I fall back on the plan. This is what I said I’d do at the climbing wall tonight; so I’ll give it a go.
Having forced myself to train, I found (as I often do) that it massively improved my mood. I felt strong and I had fun making up problems on the Moon board. An upshot of not being able to waste time on the internet in my rests (or send emails) is that I socialise more, or just use the rest time to actually rest.
It’s about the days you don’t feel amazing as well as the ones you do.
As if making up for yesterday, the sunrise on Tuesday was beautiful. The day was largely uneventful, with Sheffield’s second year engineering students proving themselves to be pretty motivated.
Despite being more psyched for training than yesterday, it was a hard session second day on, and unsurprisingly performance was not top notch. But OK, whatever, here’s hoping it’s about the days you don’t feel amazing as well as the ones you do! I finished the day with slow-cooked beef curry and I fully expect to see the gains from both the session and the curry, hopefully by Thursday.
The end of Wednesday marks the first rest day this week, it’s over half way through the week and I have no more two-day-on training sessions, so overall there’s a general feeling of relief, for me. I went with my sister to a lecture by holocaust survivor Agnes Grunwald-Spier, and it was, unsurprisingly, fascinating and humbling. It was also the end of exams and we’d planned to go for half-price sushi after the lecture. It felt almost irreverent to go straight from a lecture on such a topic to a meal out. I’m amazed by the strength of the people whose stories Agnes told (including that of her own parents) and I left wanting to know more.
Today was bicycle collection day. I left the Uni and got the train to Rotherham Central at 11am, with the idea being that I would then cycle to AMRC to set some trials up before cycling back to Uni in time to “critique” the second years’ presentations.
It was an ambitious plan without much room for error and I’m amazed I managed to pull it off. Having to ask for directions (and actually remember them) was something I’ve not done for about six years. I was pleased to find that shortly I reached the edge of the map, so could tell where I was, and it didn’t take long to get to the AMRC in the winter sunshine.
The bike works by assisting, to a chosen degree, when you pedal. I tried various settings while successfully navigating my way to the AMRC, but erred on the cautious side because the bike’s computer ominously warned me that if I didn’t put some effort in I’d be on my own in 9 miles…
I cycled back in time for the students’ presentations in the wind and rain. I’m sure there are plenty of people who wouldn’t fancy an e-bike but I have to say, it was a lot less effort on the hills and on training days I’m seriously put off cycling to the AMRC by the idea of being tired before I train.
Tonight’s training session involved finger boarding, followed by a short-ish board session and then some aero cap. Somehow I started off tired, it was cold and it took ages to warm up and then I just ended up short of time the whole way through so that the rests between exercises were only about 5 minutes. The result was that I finished the session ruined. But, I got through it and tomorrow is both Friday and a rest day.
When I train, I pretty much have two states – on or off. Trying really hard only becomes an issue when there are psychological pressures like wanting to do a project. However, I find that getting both the style of problem or the level of difficulty of a problem (especially the former) is what lets me down when it comes to getting the level right.
Friday signified the end of the Engineering project week – back to machining next week – and the evening was spent playing games with friends. Bring on the weekend!
The last training day of the week, and I was already tired. A visit to the Depot Bakery on Kelham Island yielded baked goods, and I faithfully went to the Foundry to put in the hours. The session was a campus session, which I followed by an aerobic power session that I’ve not done before.
In spite of the campusing, the power session was hard and by the time it got to the core session that was to follow the week I was frazzled. The failure to complete my 25 pull ups (I made it to 12) resulted in some tears, more of exhaustion than anything else, but I managed to turn it into finishing the pull ups with a second set of 13. I was so slow that the effect on my core was probably actually quite good.
I got to thinking about volume, about how I battle to complete my training each week. I want to get the absolute most I can out of my training, I never ask Lattice to reduce it, preferring to fail to complete. But how do you get to 4-5 sessions of hard training per week?
I was intense, and intent on improving, from the moment I started climbing.
Tom Randall’s approach is one I heartily endorse: that of incremental increases over an extended period of time. This is something that is essential from a physical point of veiw, in that increasing load slowly and steadily allows your body to keep up with the increase. It reduces the chance of hurting yourself. However, it’s also essential from a psychological point of view as well, in terms of building habits. Just like failed New Year’s resolutions, drastic changes in behaviours and lifestyle work for very few people.
First, every fourth week was a complete rest from training. Then, rest weeks became more active (although they still exist), then slightly less frequent. All the while session numbers slowly increased, creeping up so slowly that I might not have noticed were it not for the reduction in free time in my day. To make it stick, however, I have learned to tell Lattice when I need a break, when I’ve had enough, and to take a week or two off.
I follow my training plan religiously. I have always been this way. I was intense, and intent on improving, from the moment I started climbing. One winter as a student I walked several miles to the climbing wall in the snow, so as not to miss a climbing session. I probably still would. That same winter, I fell out with my parents over a planned bouldering trip to Stanage. They felt I was being irrational in my obsession over getting out. They were right, it was too cold for me to climb (and also slightly wet) and I returned home after a couple of days.
I suppose the point is, it’s my personality which pushes me so hard. But, to stick at something when it can be hard you have to make it work for you. Some weeks, I buy coffee and cake before every session. Sure, it’s not perfect, but I don’t spend that much money otherwise and I’d rather be slightly heavier in the winter but also stronger, than lighter but lack the motivation to train. Sometimes I look at other climbers, more disciplined in their diet than me, and wonder if I should be more so. But I think it’s OK to do what you need to do to make it easier to train, be that train with friends, go to the pub afterwards or have cake.
We decided to dedicate Sunday to a Thai feast. I’d once again made use of the slow cooker to make a salmon red curry, and we supplemented it with dumplings and rice crackers.
I now have two weeks which I’ll primarily spend either machining or measuring in the Lab, after which I’m driving to Font. I’m starting to get quite excited about this, although Alistair is on a conference in Germany the week beforehand which means I have to drive there all alone. The saving grace is that I intend to claim expenses from him (if he didn’t know that, he does now) and I’m planning a crazy solo trip to McDo. Until next week!