Coming Back to the Mat

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During a yoga class this week, my instructor said, “Everybody has a reason to come the first time, but what brings you back to the mat? Why,” he paused, “do you keep…showing up?”

It’s a powerful question that I have been pondering for several days now. People come the first time for a variety of reasons – because they got a Groupon or Living Social deal, for fitness or flexibility, for the social aspect or because a friend asked them, because of curiosity…. I have had guy friends tell me they went to see the girls in the cute little yoga outfits, sticking their booties up in the air, and girlfriends tell me they go because of the cute yoga instructor up front. I went mostly kicking and screaming, with great skepticism and trepidation.

In my mind, yoga was for the people who already knew how to do yoga, because if you didn’t already know the Sanskrit words for the different poses, if you didn’t know how to do the different movements, if you couldn’t keep up, then they would look down on you in distain. In short, it was a special club, that you either already belonged to, or you weren’t invited to join.

Last summer, I ran a marathon on an injury, and when the event was done, my team of coaches and trainers all told me that if I wanted to be able to keep running long term, I couldn’t run for a minimum of two months to really let my body heal. After two weeks I was stir crazy for something active to do. The only thing they agreed that I could do without further injury, was yoga, and only if I promised to do it at 50-60%.

So no one was more surprised than me, when I realized that I still wanted to show up regardless of injury. It went from being the only “allowed” exercise, to realizing that it was fun to see what crazy poses I was able to do. Then that changed to something even deeper, which is learning that it is less about perfecting poses (although I do like to strive towards looking pretty), and more about just being. It is the challenge of accepting myself in whatever condition I come to the mat, and choosing to be present for that hour or so. It is remembering the wonder that comes with doing things I had no idea I could do.

Anything worth doing in life usually takes some effort, and unless you find a deeper reason than what you started with, chances are that you will give up on it. This is true in relationships, diets or lifestyles changes, exercise, work patterns, and yoga. Eventually, the Groupon expires, the novelty wears off, it’s a lot easier to look at a yoga magazine than to show up and do the hard work in class if you want to see pretty people, and injuries do heal.

Yoga may have started out as an end unto itself for me, but it became about reflecting and finding inner peace and breathing. It became about the mat itself, letting that be my own space, where there is no judgment, except the judgment I bring to it. It is the smiling at myself, and giving myself grace, and listening to my body, and challenging my mind, and laughing when I fall, and choosing to get back up again. I come back to the mat because the mat will always meet me wherever I am.

10 Keys to Starting Whole 30

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I have a number of friends who like to do New Year’s Resolutions. They often involve a new exercise thing, joining a gym, going on a diet, giving up cake, starting to spend more time outdoors, or committing to reading a certain number of books in a year. One of my friends wanted to do the Whole 30, which is, in essence, a paleo cleanse. She is more or less gluten free, but she really wanted to do a “hard reset” on her diet for the new year, and she asked me for some advice since I’ve done it in the past. I offered to do the 30 days with her to support her efforts, and also because I think it’s a good form of discipline for myself. Her questions and initial apprehension in getting started made me realize that there are some easy tips to put her on the path to success.

  1. Set your mind in the right place before you even start – that means deciding from the outset that you can and will do it. If you doubt yourself, you will have a hard time. Your mind is powerful, so use it to your advantage. It also means choosing a date to start, and well, then, just start. There is always a good reason to put it off or wait or something…the fact is, making a different in your routine is hard, and that’s what you’ll be doing.
  2. Hold it lightly. What I mean is, decide that you will do this, prepare, be committed to it, but if something happens on day 10 and you have a piece of bread, don’t beat yourself up, get back on the horse.
  3. Set aside one hour each Saturday or Sunday to prepare for the week ahead and write down what you plan on having for each meal, list some snack ideas, and identify the prep work you need to do. For instance, note that you need to take the chicken out of the freezer on Tuesday that you are going to use on Friday.
  4. As you plan your week ahead, spread your “left overs” out across several days and don’t try to eat it all in 3 or 4 consecutive meals. Your body and mind likes variety and it will keep your food interesting. Another idea is to make your left overs into “new” food. If you make a roasted chicken for dinner one night, repurpose the left over chicken into lettuce wraps for lunch the next day.
  5. If you are doing this with a partner, plan your meals together. So, if you are deciding what to have for dinners, I suggest that you pick two meals and your partner picks two meals that you definitely want to have that week. The other three meals can be leftovers or “pick up meals”. Your partner’s buy-in and involvement will keep him or her invested in the effort, and will help you in the motivation department, too!
  6. Also as you are planning, take into account your “busy” days, and don’t try to do too much. I have a yoga class on Tuesday nights, after work. So between getting home, taking care of the dog, changing clothes, getting to class on time and fighting rush hour, I have very little time to prep a meal. Tuesdays are a great night for me to use the slow cooker, or to have left overs, and I put that into my plan.
  7. Speaking of too much, don’t try to start lots of new things when you embark on the Whole 30. I know it’s tempting to decide that you are going to turn over a BIG new leaf and start Whole 30, a new exercise regimen and getting up 45 minutes earlier every day to take care of all those house chores first thing, all in the same week. Don’t put yourself under this kind of pressure to make so many drastic changes all at the same time. Be proud that you are making one change, and be confident that when you are ready to add more change to your life, those new changes will still be waiting for you!
  8. Don’t plan to make big decisions in the first 7 days. Your body is getting used to a new routine, and may be going through some withdrawal. It’s possible that you will be irrationally cranky.   Don’t add to the stress that you are putting on yourself by artificially adding to that, if you can avoid it.
  9. Set up your pantry and put away all the unnecessary stuff. I put all my baking supplies (sugars, flowers, chocolate chips, etc) away in a plastic bin and put it downstairs. Out of sight, out of mind! It’s amazing how this works – it’s not that I actually forget I have it, but it has been moved so it’s not as easily accessible. This means it’s easier to overcome the temptation to eat that snack or bake some cookies.
  10. Lean on resources that are fun, full of ideas, and easy to use! The first time I did Whole 30, I thumbed through the Well Fed cookbooks by Melissa Joulwan almost every day. I also visited the Nom Nom Paleo and The Clothes Make the Girl website regularly. Both of these had Whole 30 specific plans and tips that were really valuable.

Finally, decide you are going to have fun – yes, I know this makes 11, but this should be more of a general guiding principle of life, don’t you think? We can do pretty much anything for 30 days…make it an adventure, and you never know, you might even create a new habit!

I Am A Survivor

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I am a survivor.  Six years ago today, I suffered a stroke.

For a long time, I didn’t tell most people because I was ashamed; I thought of it as a weakness on my part, and that somehow, having a stroke in the first place, was my fault.  I am ready to tell my story now because I realize that I have overcome some great obstacles, more than some and far less than others, but the journey is worth telling.  And perhaps in some small way, sharing my journey can encourage someone else in his or her journey.

People have asked me what the experience was like….It started when I woke up.  I was alone in my house, and I noticed that my entire left side was prickly, like when you have been laying on your hand wrong and it is just starting to fall asleep, only, it was the whole left side of my body.  I went outside to let the dog out and fill up his water bowl, and I noticed that my hearing was incredibly acute.  I could hear the dog barking 8 blocks away, I heard insects flying near me, only they were across the patio, I could hear the blood going through the veins inside my head; it seemed very surreal.  I picked up the water bowl with my right hand and when I wanted to go inside, I remember telling my left hand to open the door, but it wouldn’t move.  I used my right hand and told myself to “wake up!”

I should have known something was wrong at this point, but it didn’t occur to me because I was young, I was healthy, and symptoms of a stroke are very serious and only affect older people….little did I know.

When I tried to brush my teeth, I couldn’t swish water around in my mouth, and I realized couldn’t make a smile in the mirror.  That’s when I got scared….so I called my parents, only, I couldn’t make the right words come out.  I knew what I wanted to say, but the words weren’t there.  I finally made my dad understand that I didn’t want an ambulance, but I thought something was wrong…please come.  When he got to the house, I was feeling fine again, so I felt bad for getting him out of bed early.  Thankfully, he and my mom had the sense to make me go to the ER to get checked out.  What I didn’t know is that I was having a series of small TIAs (trans ischemic attacks), sort of like mini-strokes.  While I was in the hospital getting checked out, I had an actual stroke where a blood clot hit my right frontal lobe, and I lost movement in my left side, from my cheek bone to about my knee, which lasted for several days.

After I got out of the hospital, I had to learn how to do many things all over again, and it was frustrating.  Driving, writing, talking, picking up small things, holding a fork and knife, thinking….  I learned that the best way for a person to heal from a brain injury is to sleep, so I had to sleep 10-12 hours each night.  I struggled with missing words and not being able to express myself, I struggled to remember things, I struggled with physical weakness on my left side, I struggled with clumsiness, I struggled with becoming very tired without warning.  I often wondered if I would ever get back to “normal” again.

Having had a stroke does not define who I am, but it has certainly changed the way I see and live life.  It has changed certain priorities for me, it has challenged me to learn who I am, and honor that in myself.  I still have to pay attention to myself when I get very tired.  I laugh at myself when I forget things that I know.  I have to be more conscientious when I get a bad headache and determine if I am dehydrated, or am I tired, is it just a headache, or is it more serious?  I have had to learn how to give myself more grace.  And in the midst of all that, I have chosen to live.

I took culinary classes at the Art Institute, and I wore a mesh glove so that I wouldn’t chop my fingers off.  I learned how to ski.  I started working with a personal trainer, and we spend a lot of time on balance exercises and strengthening my left side.  I auditioned for a play and figured out how to memorize all my lines.  I competed in a Sprint Triathlon at altitude.  I trained for and ran a Half Marathon.  I’m currently training for a full marathon.  I started writing a blog.  I bought a motorcycle.  I passed the Level 1 certification towards becoming a sommelier.  I decided that the only person that can truly put limits on me, is me.  I go on vacation, and take pictures, and make memories, and love the people around me.

Some days, I still struggle with finding the right words, and I get frustrated that it’s not as “easy” as it once was.  Sometime I hit the wall and stop functioning, and I’m pretty sure that my left side will always be a little bit weaker than my right side.  But I am a survivor.

In six years, I have learned so much about myself, about living, about loving, about not taking things for granted, about courage, about what it means to “show up”.  Today, I celebrate life, recovery, hard work, and hope.  Today, I celebrate the people that have surrounded me with love and support and encouragement.  Today, and every day, I live life a little bit differently….because it can all change in a moment.  Take the time to tell the people around you that you love them.  Be nice.  Take risks.  Live out loud.  Own your choices.  Be courageous.  Laugh.  Say you’re sorry.  Listen.  Be present.  Celebrate the life you live.

It Takes A Village

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It’s easy to think that you just train, you put in miles, you get up, you tell yourself you don’t hurt as much as you do, and then you do it again. But it is so much more than that. It is the entire community of people around me that has gotten me to where I am today. When I stop to think about all the people that have influenced me, encouraged me, kicked me, and prodded me, I am overwhelmed.

I had people cook for me, give me tools, give me gear, help me set up my Garmin watch, set up the Garmin connect on my computer, set up the tracking device. I had people email me asking when the race was, and encourage me, literally every step of the way. I had, and still have, individuals who inspired me to keep going, and in turn, I was told that I inspire others. It is a beautiful cycle.

I had a team of people that have kept my body in tip top shape – massaging muscles, making sure my spine was in alignment, showing me specific running stretches, stretching with me, reminding me when I need to rest, and giving me advice to keep me from injuring myself.

Even though I didn’t have a coach, and I made up my own training plan based on some pretty good guesses and something I read in a book, I had a whole team of trainers working with me. They challenged me to do the long runs, and then the longer runs. They explained the importance of speed and strength work. They told me not to skimp on core work and keep up with my plan. They reviewed my chart, my progress and told me where I was trying to do too much and when I needed to push harder. They affirmed my plan, and gave me options. They told me about different ways to approach running from the “run/walk” method to heart monitor training. At the end of the day, no one method is perfect, but part of my joy has been to try many things and see what works for me.

 

And then it was the day of the race. There were moments that I vividly remember….

I remember hitting the 1-mile marker and thinking simultaneously, “I wish these people would all get out of my way, they are slowing me down! And wow, I just have 12 more to go.” At the 4-mile marker, I realized I was almost a third of the way done. When I hit 5 miles, my hip started to hurt and I thought, “meh…give it two more miles and see how it feels.” At somewhere around mile 7, they were handing out gels and I had some because I knew I needed it, but oh, it was gross. Just before mile 8, I ran through a fire department and under two great flags – the Colorado state flag and Old Glory…. I jumped up to try to touch the flag, but missed by at least a foot. Somewhere around mile 11, another fire department was out in their fire fighting pants and boots (no shirts), giving us high fives. Upon reflection, it seems that I might have preferred them back at mile 4 when I might have been able to remember what they all looked like!

And I was humbled, oh so very humbled at the end.  I was somewhere around mile 12.5, and it was all I could do to keep putting one foot in front of another.  I kept seeing these people pass me, young people with their pony tails bobbing, still looking perky and talking to their friends, and older people with silver hair and skinny chicken legs…and all I could think of was that I hoped I could grow up to be that old person someday.  It was inspiring.

I remember crossing the 13 mile mark and thinking to myself, I’m almost there – I couldn’t quite see the finish line yet because it was around a curve, but somehow I was able to pull out the last of my reserves and I picked up my pace one more time…I was determined to finish strong, with a smile on my face and my arms up in the air.  And then I was over the line, and I realized I’d done it – that thing I’d set out to do, it was done.  My legs felt like rubber, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted something to drink or to just fall over.  But it was humbling to realize that I am part of an elite group now – I can never say that I’m not a runner again, and that is humbling in and of itself.

You learn a lot about yourself when you put yourself beyond your comfort zone and then push yourself even harder. In January, this seemed like an impossible thing to attempt. I did it, but I didn’t do it alone…it took a village.

Opportunity

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Either you ran today or you didn’t.

This phrase shows up on t-shirts and posters or tagged in an inspirational post on Facebook, and while some might see a challenge to get out there, or shame in the fact that they didn’t, I see “opportunity”.

Every day is made up of a thousand choices. Some are mundane like deciding what to have for breakfast and whether to wear the blue shirt or the brown shirt and which route to take to work. Some choices matter a lot more, possibly because they have the potential to impact other people, perhaps because they define how one interacts with the world, and there is even the chance that a seemingly arbitrary choice can even change the course of a life. You may never know the ripples that your choices make.

There have been abnormal weather patterns around the country this week, and in Denver it manifested itself in 35 mile per hour winds, which I think, is crazy to battle while running.   This being the case, I chose not to run this week for four days in a row. It would have been easy to convince myself after getting home from work that I might as well just finish out the week in style and blow off tonight, too.

Opportunity. There is power and responsibility wrapped up in that word, because what it really means is also having the courage to own the choices you make. This afternoon, I had a moment of wavering indecision, choosing between a delightfully sunny patio and a pair of beat up Saucony’s. Truly, I was coming down on the side of the patio when I started to think about the rest of the week, when I didn’t have the same opportunity – it was gorgeous today!

Either you ran today or you didn’t…today I ran. That doesn’t mean I run every day. I don’t actually think it’s good for a body to run every day….but today I had the opportunity, and I took it. I own it. I had a great run.

The piece of my whole experience that really hit home for me today, though, was when the song “If Today Was Your Last Day” by Nickleback filtered through my playlist. While I was running, I listened, really listened to the words, and that’s when I realized that this song was talking about exactly the same thing.

Either you ran today, or you didn’t.

Either you made a difference today, or you didn’t.

 

I assume I’m going to wake up tomorrow, but what if today was my last day…did I live like it matters? Did I make the world a better place? Was I kind? Was I generous? Did I give it my best? Opportunity comes in many forms…. And I just thought I was going out to do four miles.

#IRun4

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Once upon a time, there was a boy who had bilateral hip dysplasia.  It hurt, and he had to stay in bed.  This boy had a friend who liked to go running.  “You can run for me anytime!” the boy said to his friend.  That simple phrase sparked a movement, and Irun4 was born.

Today, this organization has approximately 10,000 members in 24 countries, and it pairs up athletes (who are normal folks), with people who have disabilities or diseases that prohibit them from running or being active.  The athletes can dedicate their runs, workouts, or races to their buddy who can’t be out there.

I have two very special people in my life who inspire me on a daily basis; Kevin and Daryl are both my cousins, from opposite sides of the family, so even though they don’t know each other, they are sort of cousins, too.  For different reasons, neither one can run anymore, so when I’m out there, and when I start to get tired, I remember these two amazing guys who would trade places with me in a heartbeat, and just that thought makes it a little easier to push through.

When Kevin was 12, the summer after his 6th grade year, he was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy.  MD is a genetic born disease where the muscle cell walls break down and don’t grow.  He described it to me this way, “Imagine a balloon with little holes – the balloon can’t hold in air with the holes.”  There are nine major groups of the muscular dystrophies – he has the one called Facioscapulohumeral MD (FSHD), and it initially affects muscles of the face (facio), shoulders (scapulo), and upper arms (humera) with progressive weakness.  Kevin’s is the third most common form of MD, and while some forms of MD are life threatening, his is not.  He does not live in pain, but because his 12 year old muscles are supporting a full grown man’s body now, it is safer and better for him to be in a wheelchair all the time now.

I remember being in college and, as college students do, a group of us (including Kevin) were sitting around talking about whatever.  The topic turned to the dreams we have when we sleep, and somebody asked, “what’s your favorite dream?” and we all took turns answering.  When it was Kev’s turn, he said, “It’s when I dream I’m running.  When it feels so real.”   That statement has always stuck with me because he dreams about something that I just take for granted.  The last time he was able to run was in junior high….

Daryl has been a runner his whole life – fun runs, runs with family members, cross country in school, track, etc.  When Daryl was in college, he was road-tripping home for Thanksgiving with some friends, and enroute from Grand Rapids, MI to Loveland, CO, they were in a car accident.  Daryl was thrown from the vehicle, and when he woke up, he was a paraplegic.  Today, he is an accomplished musician, writer, and teacher.  Recently he told me he is getting back into Hand Cycling, which sounds pretty hard core to me.

These guys inspire me because they would love to run, even though they aren’t able to anymore.  More than that though, they inspire me with their amazing attitudes every day.  These are not the guys that sit on the sideline – they are out there living!  They are out there in their communities, at work, sharing with family and friends, living courageous and joy filled lives.  It is my honor to dedicate my runs to these two extraordinary men – they inspire me to go further, push harder, and challenge myself when I think I’m done.

#IRun4KevNDaryl.    #WhoDoYouRun4?

 

If you are interested in learning more about IR4, donating, or being matched up as an athlete or a buddy, please check out their site here.

 

 

Looking Forward

Pooh Piglet

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”

“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh.  “What do you say, Piglet?”

“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.

 

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

“It’s the same thing,” he said.

 

-A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

 

I know what is going to “happen exciting today”!  I am going to fly across the country to see my best friend, my god-daughter and their family, I am going to run in a whole new place, I am going to eat fresh seafood, and I am going to watch the sunset over the Pacific ocean.  Excitement doesn’t have to be created out of the most extraordinary adventures, although many extraordinary things are very exciting.  The moments in life are the ones that end up being most precious, and the ones that I hold closely in my heart.

A simple breakfast of avocado smashed on whole grain toast, sprinkled with rosemary salt and drizzled with honey is one of the most exciting things I can think of in the morning. *  In my mind, I always call this Magic Toast because it has such great memories associated with it.

The Pacific Northwest has such amazing food!  From the fish and the vegetable markets to the Asian influence and flavors.  There are farmers markets and shops, spices and sticky buns.  There are more coffee snobs than I thought possible, and wineries and craft beer to be tasted.  I know that I will be going from one culinary experience to the next, savoring each moment, each taste, each flavor.

It’s the moment when you walk out of the airport and your people are there to pick you up, and you realize that it has been a lifetime and also just yesterday when you last saw their beautiful faces.  A hundred pictures float in front of my face, and I am so grateful that I get to be with them today, in the now.

It is running in a new place for the first time, seeing something beautiful, going farther than you thought you could, it’s getting running gear in the mail, and trying it out later.  For me it will be the excitement of running at sea level and seeing what a difference that makes.  It is packing my running shoes in the carry-on bag…just in case.

It is watching the sunset over the ocean, seeing the light play on the clouds and finally dip down below the horizon; then turning around and running back to the cottage at dusk, followed by grilled salmon over greens and a local Riesling.

*Note: This is not a pale approved breakfast at all.  However, when I have it on those rare occasions, I don’t care.

Character Development

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Not every run is going to be awesome.  I’m not going to go further every time.  I am not going to always be able to do negative splits.  (Shute, 4 weeks ago, I didn’t even know what negative splits were.)  My point is, I know my runs are not always going to be amazing.  Mentally, I’d prepared myself for that day.  Being mentally prepared does not make it any better when that day comes.  It came for me today.

I have been exhausted all day, and I really seriously considered blowing off today, but I thought to myself, “no, I need to just get out there and get it done – I’ll feel better when I’ve finished.  I’ll be so proud of myself….”

Nope.  I just feel tired.  More tired than I was before, in fact.  I know it’s good to push through on those days that are harder than others.  Incidentally, I do believe that there are times when it’s actually a good decision to blow off a run.  I/e, when your body is telling you it needs a break, when it is so cold that your eye lashes will freeze to your face, when it’s so hot that heat stroke it likely in the first half mile, when you are recovering from injury or sickness, and maybe even when your best friend is in town visiting for one day.  I did not have any of these legitimate reasons to not run today.  Being tired is not good enough.

So I pushed through.  I finished what I set out to do, and I’m going to be brutally honest here, I don’t feel better, I don’t feel more energized, and I am not motivated to get out there bright and early and do it again tomorrow.  Mostly, I just want to go to bed.

So, the best thing I can say about today is that I did it, and now, the day is done.  And even though a day like today is probably good for my inner character development, I really hope that I don’t have many more like this.  I’m pretty sure I have enough character as it is.

High Five

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There is a camaraderie that I’ve noticed among runners, and it doesn’t really matter how long you have been categorized that way.  There are those that have been running for years, those that are just starting out, those that are “seasonal runners”, or those that get out there and are trying for the first time.  There are the serious runners, the ones that are wearing gear that is weathered and potentially wearing out, they move in a lynx-like fashion down the path, their heads high, their stride smooth, their shoulders back and their jaw loose.  I strive to look like that some day…  And then there’s the rest of us, in varying degrees of Not-Looking-Like-That.

I remembered when I first started….  I couldn’t run more than a mile, and I was SLOW.  Painfully slow.  I planned out where I would run based on how much “traffic” I thought I would encounter, cars as well as people – I certainly wouldn’t run on a busy street, no matter how many lights I could avoid or in a popular park, no matter how smooth the path would be, I thought I was too slow, and I didn’t want to embarrass myself.  I kept hoping that someday I would get good enough that I could run on the “busy” streets or in the pretty parks.

I made excuses to friends when they asked me how I was doing, how far I’d gone or how quickly I’d finished, saying things like “It was a good run, but it was still so slow – I’m not going to tell you how long it took – I don’t want you to laugh at me.”  And one day, I remember a friend responding with, “I would never laugh at you – you still got out there.  You went further and faster than any other person who sat at home on their couch.”  That was encouraging, but it didn’t make me faster.

When I first started, I struggled profusely, and I kept my head down whenever I passed one of the “real runners”.  I’d sneak a glance at them, and hope that I could look so cool one day.  They were always so focused, and damn it, they just looked good.

It turns out though, that when you run almost every day, you get better, stronger and faster.  You have to push yourself, don’t get me wrong.  I kept running when I thought I needed to slow down or walk, I made my feet move faster when I thought I couldn’t go any faster, I ignored the searing pain in my chest when it seemed like I couldn’t get enough oxygen, and then one day, I realized I had improved enough that I could run on the busy streets now.  Most of the time, I still choose to run through the quiet neighborhoods because I like looking at the houses, see the trees, and the way the sun makes interesting shadows on the street.

I still don’t think I’m a real runner, but when I was out there this morning, I saw the woman I used to be.  She was coming towards me, slowly, and obviously struggling to just keep going.  She glanced up and immediately looked away.  I knew that look.  I’d done it at least a hundred times on this same street.  It was the look of shame, of not being good enough or fast enough or polished enough.  It was the “I’m so sorry that I’m out on this same street with you – I don’t deserve to be here.  You’re the one that is the runner.”  As she came closer, I said, “Hey, high five!” and I held my hand up.  “Way to go us – we got out here this morning!”  And suddenly her face lit up like a Christmas tree, she grinned and walked a little bit taller.  We high-fived and as we went on our separate ways, I ran a little bit stronger because today, her grin was the thing that encouraged me.

The Turning Point

Believe In Yourself

This week has been the turning point for me – I have gotten to the place where I truly believe I will run 13.1 miles, without stopping.  My phrasing here is important, so I will say it again, it’s not just that I will be able to run 13.1 miles, it is that I WILL run 13.1 miles.  In the last seven days, I have consistently done more than I thought possible, and by continuing to surprise myself, and continuing to press on, and continuing to beat my last distance, time, pace, etc., I have received the most amazing gift – I truly believe in myself.

A week ago, I was scared of what I was facing in my training plan because it seemed like such a huge lift.  In a matter of 4 days, I would run more mileage than I’d ever done in 8 straight days.  I also jumped from 5 miles to 7 miles in one go, and while I wanted to believe in the plan, I also wondered if the plan was actually meant for a “real athlete”…not me.  Self perception has an amazing impact on self belief.

Growing up, my brother and sister were the athletes in my family.  I was the artsy one, the actress – I spent my time in rehearsals, building sets, memorizing lines, being on stage.  At best, I could claim that I wasn’t terribly clumsy, and say that I loved to watch sports.  However, watching sports does not an athlete make!  It takes the experience of actually getting out there, putting in the time, the sweat, the pain, the triumphs, the disappointments, being challenged a little bit more than you are comfortable with….  That right there, that experience which I did not have, is why running a half marathon was a Big Audacious Goal for me – it was outside my comfort zone, and while I wanted to believe in myself, I had no experience that it was really possible.

On Sunday I was running my 7 miles, and somewhere around 5 miles, I was getting tired, but I knew out of determination I was going to keep pressing on.  Around 5.5 miles, I realized that I knew the rest of the route home, and it wasn’t really that far.  By mile 6, I realized that I had already gone further than I had expected of myself, and I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  By mile 6.5, I was finding another second wind, and when I reached 7 miles, I knew I was ready to be done with this run, but I also knew that if I hadn’t already been home, I could have kept going.  I knew that when my plan says to run 8 miles in a couple weeks, I’m not going to be nearly so scared, because I believe in my heart that I can do it now.

It was in that moment, I realized that if I can do 8 miles, I can definitely do 10 miles.  I will probably be tired at 10 miles, and I might feel like I am starting to hit “my wall”, but if I push through that wall, and get to 11 miles, then I will be home free.  Because after all the training I have done, 2.1 miles is nothing now.  My perception has changed.

So suddenly in this one week, I went from being scared that I had signed myself up for too much, to being supremely confident that I will absolutely complete my goal of running 13. 1 miles on May 18th.