“Turn down the volume of fear and turn up the volume of confidence and resilience.”
On Tuesday nights I have been helping my running coach with her New Beginners, an intro 5k group for women. This group is massive – I’m talking 60-70 women on any given night. Coach usually splits this group into 3-4 sub-groups, pending participant ability.
Typically I lead group two; these are ladies that are giving it their all, and completing some truly strenuous workouts – but have never before completed a 5k race.
Yesterday, for the first time, they ran the entire SUNY Albany loop – a full 3 miles. Prior to this they have been accustomed to running timed intervals; but when we gathered together yesterday evening Coach surprised them with the news that they were expected to do the full 3 miles. You could see the fear on their faces. When we took off, they were already chattering about how they couldn’t possibly do it. It was too warm, too sunny, etc.
It allowed me to pause and reflect on my own journey so far. From being a pack-a-day smoker to a half marathoner. From a race-related injury, two years ago, to recovery and how I also faced the same breathlessness and anxiety over what I now consider to be such a small distance. Just last year I was in this 5k group myself; anything above 2 miles after my injury seemed like a marathon distance. And now, just one week ago, I completed one of the hardest workouts I have ever attempted. I ran miles (plural) up a mountain (500ft gained elevation…I’m calling it a mountain). I did not stop, I did not walk. And then I ran back down.
I let that sink in.
I have noticed the gains in muscle in my lower body – in my quads, in my calves. I have noticed the ease with which a new pace goal can be achieved. I have noticed the ease with which I am conquering new distances. But for some reason I have the hardest time acknowledging that I am a runner. That I am worthy of such a title.
I have never felt like a runner, due to my party-girl background, or my body type, or my size or my pace. I was too big, too slow, and running was too hard to consider myself a “real” runner. I have often avoided races above the 5k that were reserved for “real” runners. Let me say that again. I have trained for, and still not signed up for, distances of up to a full marathon without ever registering for the race itself all because I did not think I was a “true” runner, that I would be “wasting” the space.
But yet here I was – running up mountains, crushing workouts, increasing distance, tracking my weekly mileage. Here I was spending half a Sunday making sure I get my long runs in. Here I was offering encouragement to women who were just like me, only a short time ago.
Never have I felt more in love with running, or my body, than I did crawling up that final hill with those women. Never have I felt more in love with running, or my body, than sprinting to the finish with them. Never before have I realized that I am tired of fighting my body, and of trying to make it conform to some mental image that I may or may not ever attain.
Today I am looking at the Syracuse Half Marathon registration dates. I know what I’ll be doing April 18th at 11:00am: signing my name to stand in line with the rest of the “real” runners this Fall.
Oh, and my ladies crushed that loop, for the record.
Your body will follow what your mind and spirit believe is possible.
I’ve had some killer runs recently, and I’ve rocked them. I have accomplished things that my mind did not believe possible and my body has never truly attempted. Up until this weekend I was really riding that high. I felt truly proud of my growth. I have felt pride in my diligent and dedicated approach to my training within the past year.
But of course with a period of highs there usually comes a period of lows. The following paragraphs may contain a lot of self-deprecating language, and ambiguity. For me sometimes the best thing I can do to cut down on the negative self-talk and replaying my missteps in my mind is to write it out. So I suppose this is what this is an attempt at.
Personally speaking, this weekend was not ideal for me. Sitting here, I don’t really have the words to describe how disappointed I am in myself – for letting myself down, for letting my emotions get the better of me, and for not staying true to a promise I had made to myself. And to add insult to injury, these decisions impacted my training. I missed a long run. A crucial long run. Due to my own stupidity and lack of forethought.
Of course missing this workout is putting me through a lot of remorse, self-doubt, and distrust in my ability to compete well this May at my 1/2.
Now this isn’t the first time I have missed a workout, and I’m sure it won’t be my last. But after spending months building myself up, recovering from my previous misadventures, healing my heart, and somehow miraculously digging myself out of a pit of self-loathing where I could finally feel pride in my abilities…I’m taking this hit hard. As you can tell, I’m not just talking about running.
I put myself in a position I didn’t want to put myself in. I allowed old wounds to re-open and I really only have myself to blame. I put myself in a position where I was unable to train, which is not only important and necessary to the core of who I am – but also something that provides me with a sense of accomplishment and purpose. Something that I use to ward off my self-doubts, painful memories, and quite frankly to bury feelings that need to be left buried.
I wonder how long I will repeat this cycle for. I wonder how many times I will take these steps back. How many times will I negate my hard work through self-sabotage? No, not just running. My hard work at healing my own heart as well.
I can’t make up the miles I missed on Sunday. I can’t take back the things that went wrong on Saturday. I can’t take back my actions, my words, my feelings. But I can move on. I can dust myself off and try to forgive myself. I can patch those old wounds and I can put my body through a hard run tonight to remind myself of what truly matters to me. I have to believe that I am capable and meant for more than I give myself credit for. I have to believe that my body will forgive me, even if my mind will not. I have to believe that running, racing, training will all be there to carry me through this too.
We all have them – fears and insecurities – and perhaps that is what drives many of us to shoot for more or attempt to complete a new endeavor. For me personally, my lack of confidence has historically weighed on me in such a way that it cripples my willingness to even try to push myself to new levels.
I realize that without altering that flaw in myself, I run the risk of never improving in the areas that matter most to me – my running, my physical fitness, my career. I pride myself in being a person that does seek improvement, so I can also see it as hypocritical of myself to put constraints and limitations on the heights I can reach simply due to fear or discomfort.
I am learning to become uncomfortable. I am learning to listen to my body and my soul rather than my negative self-talk or self-image. I cannot say that this is always something easy for me but it is something that I at least work on consistently.
My plan for combating my fear, as of right now, is to dive head-first into this 1/2 marathon training starting Wednesday. My last 1/2 was two years ago and resulted in serious injury and almost a full year off of running – the failure I felt, the embarrassment at my time and my injury due to not pushing myself properly throughout the full training cycle, is still very real for me.
Running doesn’t come easily for me, as it used to, and now that is something I must learn to try and navigate. To face head on, instead of dwelling in the past. Last Saturday was the first step – in completing my first race of the 2017 season I am setting the tone for my training, my nutrition, and my lifelong running goals.
Here is to smarter training, to healthier patterns, and to trying to believe in myself just a little bit more everyday.
It’s been almost two years since I have raced consistently, or with any enthusiasm. Very recently I have been inspired to try and change that.
I am a different runner now, my times will be slower, the effort will be greater, but the only way to get back into it is to work from the top.
Let’s call it a comeback?
I feel a bit lost.
The past few months I have spent exploring the pieces of myself that I want to cultivate, that I want to grow and flourish. It has been quite a year, and I have learned a lot about the person that I am and the person that I wish to be.
- I want to work hard. My current position does not challenge me, it does not afford me new professional development experiences, it does not help me to grow and it does not allow for me to put my nose to the grindstone. To achieve the level of satisfaction in my work and career that my heart desires I realize I must be challenged, I need the long hours hard at work when everyone else is home.
- I want to contribute. Again, this focuses more on my career and work-life than anything else. I do not just want to be a cog in the wheel. I do not want to be a placeholder. I want to be indispensable and recognized for my efforts and hard work. I want to be a part of the foundation that makes my work environment amazing.
- I want to be confident. This is in all aspects of my life. I am currently trying to put myself in a position to feel that I am capable, to accept my flaws but to realize that they do not define me. It is historically difficult for me to have faith in my abilities, thoughts and ideas. Through positive self-talk, taking chances and opening myself up to more opportunity to express myself I hope to increase my confidence.
- I want to be strong. In the physical sense of the word, I have always struggled with this. Chronic illness has often left me too tired, or in no shape to even attempt physical exertion. Over the years I have found a love-hate relationship with running and I have attempted to encourage this whenever possible. With the move to Albany this year I have found a supportive and amazing group of female runners; this group has allowed for me to accept my own definition of strength and I have met some amazing people and new friends through it. My rediscovered love of running has also lead into a new flirtation – with weightlifting. I am three weeks into a power-lifting program and while I don’t know that I see the physical differences, I feel amazing. There is something cathartic about lifting as much as you can. There is something powerful in allowing yourself to have pride for lifting heavy things. I will be registering for another half marathon in May, and I will continue to lift through this training cycle.
- I want to know my value. Of course this also ties into my feelings of self-doubt, and lack of confidence overall – but I want to learn to recognize my value more in everyday life. To start on this path I want to focus more on positive self-talk, which is notoriously hard for me but very important.
I have learned that I am stronger than I ever thought I could be. That I should be more selective with the people that I focus my time, love and energy on. That I should be more focused, and more fearless, in my career and in my life. I have wasted too much time on negative self talk, on people that do not deserve my attention, and in roles that will never recognize me for the asset that I can be.
As much as I hate the phrase: New Year -> New Me.