Examining Epictetus #18: Winter Training

Dachau, Germany. It was a hot July day with the temperature in the middle nineties. I spent the morning touring the concentration camp. From there, I took a train to the town of Dachau to run a 10k race. I was dehydrated and nursing a strained calf muscle. Therefore, it was one the hardest races I have ever run.

After the race, I took the train back to Munich. On the ride, I enjoyed a conversation  with another runner. We spoke of the running scene in Germany and soon our conversation turned to winter running. Training in the winter plays an integral role in the runner’s year. As I listened, I thought of the mild winters in Western North Carolina where temperatures rarely go below the twenties. The thought of running in a German winter was less than appealing.

Six months later, I got a first-hand experience of a Bavarian winter. The temperature hovered near zero, snow covered the ground creating hazardous footing, and a brisk wind blew down the River Isar. The act of running suddenly became arduous. I had to wear more clothes, spend more time warming up, and even more time convincing myself to walk out the door and into the sunless afternoon. As I ran, I remembered the conversation on the train. If I wanted to improve my summer running, then the winter is where I would separate myself from the runner I used to be.

We must endure a winter training, and can’t be dashing into situations for which we aren’t yet prepared.

Discourses 1.2.32

It is in the winter where progress is made. It is the time to prepare for the upcoming season. Everything is more difficult. Progress is exceedingly slow. Yet, here is where courage is developed, discipline is solidified, and weakness is pushed away. To find success in the summer, one must train in the winter.

‘But if we are endowed by nature with the potential for greatness, why do only some of us achieve it?’ Well, do all horses become stallions? Are all dogs greyhounds?

Discourses 1.2.34

We all have the potential for greatness. But as Epictetus states, not all of us will achieve it. Only a few will be a Roger Bannister running a mile in under four minutes, a Michael Jordan dominating the court, or a Michael Phelps swimming laps around the competition. So many of us dream of greatness, yet so few of us will ever get there. As frustrating as it is, this is reality. Should it be a deterrent, knowing the odds are not in our favor?

In short, we do not abandon any discipline, for despair of ever being the best in it.

Discourses 1.2.37

We may never become the best, but we can become good. We can find success in any endeavor we undertake if we are willing to do the work. This should be enough reason even if we never reach an elite level.

Right now, at this moment, I am in the winter of my life. It is cold, dark, and often lonely. Frustration is knocking at the door hoping to bring the cold inside. But this is the time when I am also finding out who I really am and who I will become in the future. Someday, the season may change. I may find myself coming into my summer where things become easier. However, I cannot look at someday. Today is where my focus needs to be. It is winter, and I must train.


Words in italics from Discourses 1.2 by Epictetus

Feature photo by Andrew Krueger on Unsplash

Two Keys to Confidence

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of hanging sheetrock in my kitchen. We are currently less than one week from having our kitchen cabinets installed. My wife and I can’t wait to have a fully functional kitchen again, rather than the torn down empty space where our kitchen used to be.

The pleasure of hanging sheetrock. I did this once before. Over ten years ago, I did our master bathroom in a house we owned in Florida. I didn’t do a good job. My seams were not smooth. The holes I made for the outlets were not very clean. There was no pleasure in this job.

A few months ago, we paid to have our sheetrock installed in our living room and hallway. That job cost over a thousand dollars. The walls looked amazing. I even got to help hang a few panels. The hour I spent helping changed my life, or at least it changed my life in regards to hanging sheetrock. I saw the right way to do the job. Exactly the opposite of the way I did it the last time. That plus a couple of YouTube videos (which I didn’t watch the first time), and I was able to do a quality job for less than $100. In the future, I have two basements and a stairway to sheetrock. I am pretty confident that I am only going to get better each time I do it. Saving money and learning a new skill, indeed this is a pleasure.

Confidence comes from discipline and training. –Robert Kiyosaki

I didn’t have much confidence in doing the job ten years ago. Like any new experience, confidence doesn’t come easy. But with repetition and a strong desire to improve, confidence increases. Discipline and training. Is there any other substitute that puts perfection in the work? It is not motivation. It is not on a whim or from a passing fancy that expertise can be built. Discipline and training. Those are the two keys that will take you to the next level and fill you with the confidence you need to be successful.

AAR – Spartan Races & Medical Emergencies

Temperance 12/3/2019

After Action Review: Spartan Races and Medical Emergencies

Spartan Races

The Sunday before Thanksgiving, I ran my first Spartan Sprint. I didn’t know fully what I was getting into, and I didn’t have the best training leading up to the race. The day before, it rained for fourteen hours. Come race day, it was cold, windy, and muddy (ankle to knee deep mud).

As a team competing for the first time, we decided we were going to do this together. No man left behind. To go about four miles, it took us two hours. We were cold, exhausted, and smiling from ear to ear. Over the next few days, we were already planning our next race.

I went home after the race, cleaned up, and started moving furniture. After about two months, we were finally going to start living in our new house. By the time Sunday night rolled around, I couldn’t move a muscle.

Lessons learned after my first Spartan Race:

  • Get in better specific shape. I was not in my best physical shape. My training was off, and the training I did do was not tailored to obstacle course racing. My next race is planned for April 2020. In order to perform at an optimal level, I need to plan accordingly and then execute the plan.
  • Have the right gear. The night before is not the time to start planning what to wear. And when it comes to these types of races, I am now a big fan of “less is more,” regardless of the weather conditions.
  • Bring a full change of clothes. I live ten minutes away from this event, yet my drive home was miserable. I didn’t have a full change of clothes, and I was covered in a 2-3 inch layer of caked on mud.

Medical Emergencies

I took the next Monday off from work. I was dog tired and still had a bit to do before we could live in our house. My morning was casual, until I became a first responder to a medical emergency. Typically, we think of first responders as those who arrive on the scene in a professional capacity (i.e. EMTs, paramedics, police, and firefighters). But if you are in an emergency situation and have the ability to provide assistance in any way, YOU are the first responder.

The first thing I did was call 911. I then assisted the victim to ensure no further damage would take place. Later, as the trained professionals arrived, I helped pick up the stretcher and carry it up the stairs.

Lessons learned from this emergency:

  • I could have been more clear-headed on the phone. I was starting to panic and it was evident in my voice. I mixed up the last two numbers of the house address which cost an additional couple of minutes.
  • Over twenty years ago, I took a Combat Life Saver class. I have a rudimentary knowledge of what to do when your battle buddy’s guts get spilled out.* The only practical uses of the class back then was how to treat a hangover with an IV. Twenty years is a long time, and my medical skills are nearly non-existent. If I want to be any use to those I love, or even to those that just need help, I need to get trained. Proficiency in the basics is better than nothing.

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Miguel Cervantes said, “To be prepared is half the victory.”  When I think about my performance in the Spartan Race or in dealing with a medical crisis, I was definitely not prepared. And even though both those instances happened just last week, they are both in the past. There is nothing I can do to change what happened. But there are things I can change. I can learn my lessons and be better equipped for the future.

If you would not have a man flinch when the crisis comes, train him before it comes. –Seneca

 

*Not a lot you can do here. Lay him down and pile them back up on top of him and tell him to wait for help. Like I said, rudimentary knowledge.