Yoga and Endurance: Interview with an Ironman

Shut Up and Run! , says she almost 365 days a year through her insanely popular, funny, inspiring and often irreverent blog of the same name.  She’s a wife, mother, social worker, certified running coach, marathoner, blogger extraordinaire  and as of Nov 1 – Beth Risdon is an Ironman.
I saw it.
Clair, Beth and Erika – now even more bonded!
It was an Unbelievable, Life-changing experience.  For Beth and all the athletes.  For spectators/cheerleaders like Erika and me.  Witnessing the true grit and will of the human spirit (especially from someone you adore) during an Ironman was just awesome.  I dare you not to get super inspired by these super heroes.  I am in awe.  I want some of the Kool Aid.
If you’ve stopped by MarryMeYoga like, ever (Thank you!) you might know that Beth of Shut Up and Run fame  is a dear friend who agreed to let me pick her brain about Yoga, training for endurance sports and her approach to getting it all done –  Ironman – the granddaddy of endurance.
Yogi’s, marathoners, triathletes, health aspirants and lovers of life – I hope you enjoy this Interview with an Ironman.
Beth, You are an  accomplished tri athlete with drive like I’ve never seen.  You stay as fit  as ever even when you aren’t training for a specific event. Over time, where has  Yoga fit in to all that? 
For years, like the past 15  years, yoga has been an integral part of my workout routine. I always saw  it as a treat I gave to my body. A time to slow down, to think, to not be  so crazed and manic. For someone like me who tends to be very “Type-A”, yoga  forces me to calm the eff  down. 
Here’s Beth calming the eff down:
Whereas you have run impressively in a number  of high-profile events like the Boston Marathon and participated in triathlons,  relays, and cycling events galore (not to mention a 21-mile run with Dean  Karnazes)  I want to focus on your recent Ironman finish in Florida.   I followed your blog to keep up with your training schedule.  Wow!   Will you comment on the overall physical demands of Ironman  training? 
It wasn’t as bad and grueling as I expected. I am still not sure  why. I came into training with a decent foundation as I had just run a  marathon. Yet, still, I ramped up from training 6-7 hours per week, to  doing 12-17 hours per week of swimming, biking and running. For me, the key  to not falling apart was sleeping well, good nutrition and time management.  And wine. Yes, there were days I cried because the workouts were really  long. But, for the most part my body really loved the challenge and the variety.   
And now your family.  I know you are a  passionate wife, mother, and friend.  How did you prepare Ken and the kids  and others you spend time with for the time commitment of this undertaking? 
We talked about it in the beginning – how I was going to need for  them to understand I might be tired and how they might have to pitch in more  than normal. I made it my absolute priority to not let my training  adversely affect my family. This meant early morning workouts, doing family  things when I would have preferred to nap and letting some small things go. The  house wasn’t always its cleanest, and our dinners involved lots of short  cuts. But my marriage survived and Ken even told me he thought I did a good job  of balancing it all. Again, time management and planning are key  elements. That said, I am a huge believer that  my kids need to see me taking time for myself and my goals. It can’t always be  about them.
Beth and her 2 awesome children:
And now your job and your writing.  How  the heck did you fit everything in? 
I make a list at the beginning of each week that includes all  work deadlines, training sessions, appointments, etc. I break it down per day.  There is no magic answer. I don’t mess around. I just do it. There was little  time for reading books, socializing and other things, but I met all of my  obligations. 
Let us in to your heart and mind for a  second.  I described you to friends of mine as one with the heart of a  champion.  Will you comment on the mental and emotional aspects of  training.  
It’s simple. I do not entertain the thought of giving up. I do not  give myself the choice to NOT do a workout. There is no excuse (with the  exception of being injured or sick) that is good enough to keep me from my  training. It is a decision that a person makes. I think people make motivation  and discipline a very complicated process. It is not.  You simply have to become comfortable with being uncomfortable and  realizing it won’t kill you.
Do you see aspects of Yoga in any of  that? 
Absolutely. Yoga teaches you to be strong in mind and  spirit. It all goes together.  
Did you have any specific visualization of  meditative aspects to your training – especially as race day approached? 
Yes. Mostly I visualized myself being in my lowest low  mentally and physically and what I would tell myself to get out of that space.  It usually involved telling myself that things would not necessarily get worse.  It also involved staying in the present. With the Ironman distance, you can  easily doom yourself by looking at the day as a 140.6 miles to cover and 13  hours of constant movement. The key is to only accept what is in  front of you. Okay – now I am going to swim for an hour and a half. Now I’m on  the bike. I am going to ride for 20 miles and see how I feel. You have to break  it up into sections that your mind can accept. No one should go into an  Ironman saying “I am now going to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run a  marathon!” It’s simply too overwhelming.
Beth accepting what’s in front of her – not a bad view!
What’s next?  Thoughts on your Yoga  going forward??? 
I’ve got the LA Marathon coming up in a few weeks and  I’m hoping there will be another Ironman for me this year. I’m also planning my  first ultra marathon trail race (50K) in September. I’d like to bring yoga back  into my fitness regime. I do believe it feeds the body and soul in a  way that nothing else does.  
So many treasures to ponder, Beth.  Thanks for letting us in to an Ironman’s lair.
My biggest take away is the time management piece.  Writing things down, organizing – sticking to the plan.  Let the people who count in on your goals and heart’s desire.  Be honest, own where you are.  Inspire others to really live.  I know Beth has done that for me as an athlete and as a friend.
And of course Yoga along the way to keep your body and soul in check.
I do believe (Yoga) feeds the body and soul in a  way that nothing else does.
 – Beth Risdon, Ironman
Were truer words ever spoken?
P. S.  Thanks for the Interview.  Love ya!

2 thoughts on “Yoga and Endurance: Interview with an Ironman

  1. Look at us! So bonded! All I can say is you are up next! Love the post and thanks for letting me be a part of it!

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