I'm in a serious motivational funk and I'm not sure how to claw my way out of it. I used to fence as a kid and I've recently started again, and I'm terribly out of shape and my endurance is shot, and it makes me quite awkward and uncomfortable. I'm shy about asking other foil fencers to have bouts with me because it embarrasses me how slow and inaccurate I've become. I know that if I don't fence I won't get better, and of course I know they won't judge me--it's all in my head, but my head is a bit of a mess.
Have you ever had to deal with this sort of thing, and how?
I am dealing with this very thing right now, and not for the first time. For the last 3 years, on this exact weekend, I have competed in a 70km mountain bike race but this year that I decided not to race it. In fact, this is the first year in over 18 years that I am not competing in anything. It has been tough on me this week knowing that usually at this point I am in the best shape I can be in. That I could ride my bike up hills like no other and descend with the best of them. But just a few weeks ago I went out for a ride with a friend and I was served a giant piece of humble pie. A hill that would almost go unnoticed to me a year ago had me gasping for breath more than once and a descent that I could have done blindfolded had me white knuckling the entire way down. But has that stopped me from riding? No. In fact, I am loving how challenging riding has become for me again and how a 2 hour ride kicks my butt the way a 5 hour ride used too!
Also, when I was a kid I was a highly ranked competitive swimmer and that 12 year old swimmer could swim laps around the swimmer I am now. But that is ok because when I was a kid I had the time to swim twice a day as I wasn’t trying to build my career and I had Mom and Dad there to do everything else for me. I still swim except I laugh at the fact that most small children could swim faster than me.
The same goes for every other sport I played growing up and in university. Life was different back then. But life moves on. Life changes. Our interests change. Our commitments change. Our priorities change.
Here’s my advice to you. Go get yourself fit. Start building your cardiovascular fitness. Get outside and run. Start at the track and run one lap, then progress that to two, then three, then a mile and then start to try and run faster. Get into the gym and start building your strength back up. Join a group fitness class and build up your confidence again. There won’t be any judgement from anyone and each day you push yourself will help you realize just how hard you can work.
While you are getting strong again keep fencing. Forget about the fencer that you used to be and accept the fencer that you are. A fencer that is a bit awkward, out of shape and uncoordinated. There is nothing wrong with that! Forget about being shy and ask others to fence with you. Yes, you will probably lose most of your matches but that is only going to make you stronger. Leave your ego at home and don’t worry about the other fencers judging you because I can guarantee they are not. At most they will probably be excited with winning.
I promise you that you will start to be the fencer you want to be soon, but you are not going to get there without a little bit of work and a lot of humility. You are the one that needs to decide whether or not you are ready to take that step.
Attached - Arnold Schwarzenegger out for a bike ride in Santa Monica yesterday.