Mafi Mushkala!

This week was a resumption of my work travel – of the long haul variety.  After a relatively long break of about two months, I found myself on a familiar route, headed to Qatar.  I am a negotiator in the energy industry, so from 2004 until 2006 I found myself in Qatar at least two times a month, if not more.  Qatar is one of the key producers of liquefied natural gas in the world, and we were negotiating to buy LNG.  Heading to Doha (the capital of Qatar) is in some ways like coming back to a friend.  A friend that has grown up and changed with time, but a friend nonetheless.  My first trip back since September 2008 made me think of my favourite Arabic expressions, including “Mafi Mushkala”… One of the hardest things about a job with a global remit is trying to get the balance right between work, travel and training.  When you sit on a plane for more than 7 hours, it really messes with your body.  Dehydration sets in, the pressure changes of the cabin versus the ground mean that joints swell (and muscles contract).  Jet lag and unfamiliar surroundings can lead to horrible sleep loss.  And it is SO EASY to just compensate for all of this by eating poorly and drinking way too much coffee when on the road. To get the balance right, I have found that I need to be flexible.  It has taken me a long time to try to manage a flexible approach to my training and fitness – and I still don’t get it right all the time.  Last week was a test for me on multiple fronts. Even before I left for Doha I was facing a training setback – an ache in my knee.  Following my first runs in what is probably close to 20 years, which started off so well, all the sudden I had an ache, an ache that surfaced with each impact and each step, while going down the stairs at my house, or just strolling down the road.  I had to ease up, to make the pain go away. Mafi Mushkala! No problem.  The swelling that had appeared meant no jogging.  No problem.  The great thing with triathlon is that there are three disciplines, so I turned my attention to my swim drills and also went to spin class and just “spun” lightly at about a 120 beats per minute heart rate, just to keep the blood flowing and to stay somewhat in condition.  I would wait for the ache to subside, then try to address the root cause, which we think might be using new muscles and loading differently. Change.  Adapt.  No Problem.  Mafi Mushkala! Once I got to Doha I knew that I would need to keep my training rhythm going.  There is no time for slacking in the build up to a triathlon, or indeed in my quest to maintain fitness.  We arrived on Tuesday evening, at about 8, and I decided I would get up at 6 in the morning and go for a cycle in the hotel gym the next morning.  My alarm was set, but alas, I didn’t change my time zone!  Wednesday’s training disappeared far too easily for my liking. Change.  Adapt.  No Problem.  Mafi Mushkala! Not to worry.  I knew Wednesday would be a full day and night, with lots of temptations waiting for me (coffee pots on tap in the meeting room, yummy buffets at the hotels, a great dinner out with colleagues).  No problem.  I would just be focused and disciplined and I would double up my training on Thursday to get a pre-meeting swim in, and a post-meeting pre-flight cycle done.  I managed to get my time zones correct, my alarm rang at 5 am, and I headed out to the sea…  I was really looking forward to an open water swim in the sun without a wetsuit.  But I found a big sign at the water’s edge: Danger: Sting Rays Suddenly I had visions of the Australian nature guy who died from a stingray.  My inner wimp resurfaced.  My morning swim was off. Change.  Adapt.  No Problem.  Mafi Mushkala! So with a quick display of flexibility I decided to do my double at the hotel endless swimming treadpool, preceded by a cycle at high power to work on my knee strength (which we suspect is the root cause of the ache I am feeling post run).  I did it.  I got in a great workout pre-flight, and kept with my goal of making sure that I trained for two disciplines while on business travel.  No Problem!  Mafi Mushkala! (Flexibility and trying to keep to my end goals while facing setbacks are things I am trying to get better at during myfitnessyear…)

2 responses to “Mafi Mushkala!”

  1. Great post!!  I have such trouble finding balance too.  I have to travel frequently for my job (just not to Qatar!!! LOL) and it is truly so easy to just sit and veg in a hotel room. It takes such discipline to make myself eat well and work out when I’m on the road. Good luck with the knee pain.  Hope it subsides.  I’m struggling to lay off mine, but I WILL.

  2. I think my big wakeup call on getting the balance right was in May.  I had a really bad end to 2008 and started 2009 with a lot of work travel (see blog entry No More Excuses).  In May I jumped on the scales and was shocked to see the difference from March to May—clearly I need to make time to stay healthy and well (at least that’s what the digital scale god let me know!).  As for knee pain, I totally recommend a joint stability routine.  I have such bad knees that I thought joint weakness may be at the root of the oogie feelings I was experiencing.  I am very lucky as my sports therapist’s brother is a triathlon coach, so I asked him to develop a stability and core training routine for me (also to work on proprioception issues which I have due to my nerve disease, so loads of balance work – the routine goes from my toes to my hips).  It really seems to be working.

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