Thursday 29 September 2016

Brendan O'Connor: 'Triathlons are as close as most Irish guys will ever get to a threesome'

I am in training for nothing. Deal with it

Published 08/08/2016 | 02:30

Competitors in Triathlon entering the water for the swimming leg
Competitors in Triathlon entering the water for the swimming leg

I feel I should be in training for something. Everyone seems to be in training for something. Have you noticed that? It's especially true at my age. Guys my age are always in training for something. It mainly involves triathlons and variations thereon - sprint triathlons and ironman triathlons and so on.

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Triathlons are the national craze. Presumably it's as close as most Irish guys will ever get to a threesome. So it's not enough any more that some people run, some people cycle, and some people swim. Now everyone has to do all three, at the same time. Not only am I not in training for a triathlon, I don't even know how they work. Do you dry yourself after the swim and then get on a bike? That would slow me down by ten minutes straight away. And I really only like to put on baggy comfy things after a swim, preferring to allow the body to dry fully under a pair of baggy shorts and baggy t-shirt. I certainly wouldn't be getting into the lycra after a swim. You'd need talc for that. Or maybe they leave the swimming until the end. Maybe they swim in the lycra. I don't know, and I certainly won't be finding out. The less I know about these things the better. I find a good way to achieve doing less in this world is to know as little as possible. Once you know about things there is always a minor chance you will end up doing them. Whereas what you don't know will never end up hurting you.

So anyway, getting back to me, I am in training for nothing. And some people seem to find this a bit pointless. It's as if I am wasting my life by not having some goal that I am pushing myself towards, something that is forcing me to confront myself and challenge myself and grow as a person. But the way I see it, there is enough of my present mortgaged for the future in terms of an actual mortgage without me deciding to start mortgaging my free time as well, for something I will do in the future that will then be done and then I will just move on and have to find some other goal, some other thing that I am "in training" for.

If anything I'm going backwards in my physical prowess and general fitness. I am possibly in training to sit on the couch all day, a goal I am slowly working backwards towards. I am gradually lowering the ante on my cardio and doing less and less, in fact close to nothing, on the resistance front. If I keep going with my current regime I feel I will be ready to stop completely by the time I hit 50. I will have hit my fitness goal.

The other thing I don't get about all these things that people are in training for is that they all talk about the great crack they will have. When I hear this I think there is definitely something lacking in me. I used to think I liked a bit of a laugh. But cycling up a mountain with my veins popping out of my head is not my idea of a good laugh. Clamouring to get into the water with 500 guys to swim in a big traffic jam doesn't sound like my kind of thing either. I would have thought that the whole point of swimming is that it is a bit of downtime where you don't need to speak to anyone. In fact generally, swimming makes it pretty much impossible to chat because your head is in the water with one ear popping out every few strokes. Indeed the sea is a way of swimming where you don't even need to have anyone near you, because there is a whole sea, so plenty of room for everyone to have their fun without bothering anyone else.

The one thing I have started wondering is if a goal of some kind would help me to get better at swimming. I am beginning to worry that I am going nowhere with it, or indeed getting worse. I feel this most acutely when I darken the door of a swimming pool. I don't go near a pool if I can avoid it these days. The sea is obviously a much more invigorating, head-clearing experience. But there are days when time and tide force me indoors, and I like it less and less. I kid myself it's because the pool is such a sanitised experience compared to the sea. But the truth is that swimming in a pool is hard going next to bobbing around in the sea with the salt holding you up. It's the difference between a stroll in the country and running up and down the length of a 25m room. Anyway, I will paddle along, telling myself I am not in training because I am not a competitive person. For people like me that's code for, I'm not entering anything unless I think I can win it.

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