Thursday, March 27, 2014

Just keep going

My trainer recently asked me what the hardest thing about running was for me. I imagine she was trying to get a pulse on where I was physically and perhaps mentally. I told her that it wasn’t so much fatigue in my legs and muscles. For me, running is just the most intense exercise I can do. I’m pretty sure I’m close to my maximum heart rate because my heart always feels like it’s going to beat out of my chest. I’m not out of shape either. I’ve been working out consistently for almost two years now, but running is by far, the most physiologically rigorous activity I’ve tried to date. Nevertheless, I want to improve so I keep at it.

Anyway, a couple of weeks back we were running a couple of miles to prep for the 5k. I was trying to play it cool because she made it look so easy, but I was panting like crazy and trying not to collapse. At some point though, after she’d gotten a few paces ahead, I slowed down to a walk. In a gentle, yet firm way, like any good coach would do, she urged me to keep going and try not to slow down. Miraculously, I made it back to our starting point without fainting or getting sick, thank you very much. Then, coach was gracious enough to let me catch my breath and hydrate before starting sprinting exercises. And it was the same…I wanted to be done and then I was gently, yet firmly challenged to go “one more time.” By the way, any trainer who tells you “one more time” is lying. They really mean three to five more times. But it’s just what I needed. If left alone, I would’ve stopped. But with a supportive guide there, I did more than I thought I could.

There’s a term in fitness called overloading. Essentially, what it means is that in order to improve, the body system must be stressed beyond its normal level and it will adapt. The mind and body are indivisibly connected. If you tell yourself you can’t, then you can’t. If you tell yourself you can, you can. It’s that simple. Then your physiology catches up with whatever internal truth you accept. It’s pretty amazing.

Here’s my take home from that session. There’s a lot to be said about just continuing to put one foot in front of the other. It’s not particularly novel but it is profound. While running your course, disregard the finish line. Sometimes seeing it can make the final steps the hardest ones to take. Just focus on your next steps. I’m a smart girl. I had a hunch my trainer was trying to pull one over with the whole “one more time” line. Yet and still, I shifted mentally and ran with my all when I told myself it was my last time. I drew upon energy I didn’t know was there. Such is life…keep running your race, one foot diligently in front of the other, challenging yourself to go farther than you ever thought you could, and you’ll be amazed when you reach the finish line. It doesn’t matter how you stumbled or struggled on your way there. It’s about persevering. But you won’t receive the victor’s prize unless you endure to the end.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Something to call my own

We all have different rituals and routines we do to ground us. One of the things I do when I move to a new area is get a library card. It’s a simple act but for me it’s my symbolic way of settling into a new place to call home. In the last four years I’ve gotten a new library card three times. And not just because I moved across town or over county lines. I made multiple out of state moves in those years, a bit disorienting to say the least. I was determined when I moved back to Virginia that I was staying in the region for at least the next several years. Too much change is draining for anyone. It’s hard to adapt when life feels too transient.

When I got back to the area, I decided in addition to getting my library card, I needed an activity to call my own. I decided that activity would be exercise and that’s when I joined the recreation center at my place of employment. Like I mentioned previously, it started with Zumba and a walking group. Then as I gained confidence in moving regularly, it spread to strength training and jogging. Now, it’s a regular part of my routine and my lifestyle and it’s hard to remember a time when this newfound friend wasn’t with me.

While the physical benefits of exercise are well known and the aesthetic benefits are much appreciated, neither of those reasons are why I move. You might have heard people say athleticism is 90% mental. I’d agree. More notable than any physical changes I see, it’s the psychological changes that keep me going. I’m challenged to reframe my view of the shy, scrawny teenager I used to be, to the woman who grows in strength and confidence each day. Exercise takes me out of the internal feelings of loneliness and disconnection I feel on bad days and shows me I am part of a community. There are fitness class regulars that smile when they see me and miss me when I’m gone. I matter. Exercise is also portable. I can do it virtually anywhere, with or without equipment, with or without company. All I have to do is awaken my body and start moving.

You might have heard people say the only constant in life is change. I suppose that’s true for certain aspects of life. I’m convinced that at least some things, however few they might be, do remain the same. These are our routines, our rituals, our habits of familiarity that soothe and comfort us and provide safety. They’re our “things,” the behaviors and activities that are uniquely our own. They’re the things that collectively define us, ground us, and stay with us and no one can take them away.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Moving forward

I did it. I signed up for my first race. I’ll be running my first 5K in April. It’s kind of surreal but after months of my running friends assuring me I could, I finally am. Add that to the list of things I’m knocking out this year that I never thought I’d do. It’s only March, yet I am kicking butt with this personal challenge/facing my fears list, if I do say so myself.

I’m also steadily progressing in my personal fitness which is really exciting. It’s really not so much about my body’s aesthetics changing that I enjoy as much as it is learning about myself. I’m discovering I have this awesome stubbornness about me that I didn’t realize was there. I find that if I struggle with an exercise, I discipline myself to return to it repeatedly until I master it. It’s like I have to prove to myself that I am able to face any challenge. Hiding and avoiding is no longer an option. It never really was. My true state is tenacious and defeat only pisses me off enough to try harder and win next time. I kind of like that about me.

What’s more is that as I venture into this new area of wellness and healthy living I’m meeting people with a shared passion. These new friends are mentors and guides to me whether they realize it or not. They inspire me to shift how I see myself. They don’t see me as shy or timid. They see me as confident and joyful. They see a risk taker and someone who is willing to at least try. Between the new people in my life and the old ones who have cheered me on all along, I feel ready to face yet another challenge.

So, I ask you this. How are you stretching yourself? What are you doing to meet your goals? In what new ways are you challenging yourself? What life experiences are your tutors at the moment? Who in your life is showing you who you are?  If you’re not progressing, you’re regressing. So devote yourself to finding what moves you and keep moving forward.