Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Ideal Ratio of Masochism to Hedonism

This ad was in a recent issue of Bicycling magazine:

The tag line reads: Masochists tend to be more fit than hedonists.

I have no idea what product it's supposed to be selling (I'm a marketing agent's nightmare in that regard), even after going to the Optum website, which is really cool. No matter. I ripped the page out and tacked it to the wall of the pain cave, so I can put all of that indoor training in perspective at the very moment when I need some perspective.

It really makes you wonder why we endure all this suffering, particularly in the off season, when indoor workouts are the only option and why are they so freaking HARD?!

During my high-cadence workout early early one morning last week, in the time-space warp that makes a 5-minute interval feel like a lingering ride through the third circle of Hell and the 1 minute rest in between just enough time to grab a swig of hydration, I thought about the trade-off between pain and pleasure.

I readily admit: my Transition period was all about pleasure. There were tough workout days, of course, but these always came with immediate rewards: morning martinis after the Akron Half Marathon,  expensive cocktails after the Las Vegas Gran Fondo. Obviously, my hedonism mainly takes the form of things that come out of bottles, like a soused Genie.

Anyway, back to the indoor training thing.
My high-cadence drill workout, early season.

Sometime between 'I can do this' and 'WTF?', I started thinking that this masochism thing really isn't so bad. I felt like I was peeling off that layer of alcohol-induced insulation that I was working on over the past month. (I won't need it, no matter how cold Northeast Ohio winter gets. I have Gore-Tex). I was shedding the skin of the just-finished season, ready to begin the transformation into what I'll be next year when I roll up to that first starting line.

The suffering makes me tougher, and stronger. The suffering pushes me to where I used to think my limits were.

When I train, I often think about the reward I've just earned. (Maybe that second bottle of Mission IPA? Gardener martini, anyone?) But as soon as I get off the trainer, I weigh out the balance between that perceived reward and the pain I just put myself through. And you know what? I often find myself walking away from that so-called 'reward'. Because I know that the real reward isn't on that top shelf of immediate gratification.

The real reward is what happens during race season next year.

The real reward comes with strong finishes, podium photos, the satisfaction of a long and strong race season.

That's my kind of hedonism.


  1. Expertly expressed as always. I see it all as a continuum. That is, not one thing after another, or one thing because of another, or even one thing instead of another, but as one continuous cycle. Miss one component and the balance is destroyed, the circle is broken.

    1. Ah, Chris - I like the way you think! Described your way, there's no need - or option - for a choice. It's all one and the same!