Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Shift: Self

But for a stark realization, today's post would have begun, "I didn't feel very good when I started running today...".

In fact, as I climbed the last of the stairs at the gym, I found myself slipping into my old fearful mindset.  You see, today I was to increase my running time from 17 minutes to 19 minutes, and as I stepped onto the cardio floor to head to a treadmill, my mind thought about that two whole extra minutes.  And I thought about how tired I was at 17 minutes on my last run, and how grateful I was to stop.  Out of fear, I was already giving myself permission to give up when 17 minutes ticked by on the treadmill.

It was then that it truly hit me.

It really is a mindset.

And my mindset was setting me up to fail, simply by giving myself an "out" when things started to get uncomfortable.  I had already decided that I wasn't going to be able to stretch myself, or move forward.

And in that crystal moment of clarity a small seed of reckless joy germinated somewhere deep within me.

It's a tender shoot, and I'll have to guard it carefully.  Negativity, especially fueled by the force of habit, is a powerfully destructive thing.

I don't think I've uncovered the cheat code to the mystery of life here.  In truth, most of you experienced runners are likely thinking, "Well...duh?"

But for me it represents a paradigm shift in my thinking.  A whole new world awaits.

My run today?

Well, my split for today was supposed to be 19 minutes.

I ran 25.

And I could have, would have, should have kept running.

What an amazing feeling.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Run Report 7/28/13

17 minutes at 5 mph on the treadmill.  Please don't laugh at my small time and turtle pace--it's only my 2nd week back running.

I didn't feel particularly good when I started running, and I knew I was in trouble when I looked down for my first time check and realized I had only been running for 2 minutes.  I suspect that my body is beginning to understand that I'm serious about the nutrition/running thing this time around, and has decided to pitch a tantrum in its bid to remain lazily corpulent.

"But that's OK, good sir.  I will drag your screaming, whiny ass from here into next week for next week's runs.  You may try and make this difficult for me, but I will prevail.  And believe you me, as the pounds fall away, have no doubt that I will be pushing you.  So you may as well just get on board, buster."

Such was the pep talk I gave myself as I pushed through and completed my time. 

Of course I started at 15 minutes two weeks ago, and 17 minutes was my gradual increase for this past week.  This coming week I'll move to 19 minutes.  Once I reach 30 minutes straight, I will then start increasing my speed gradually, by 0.2 mph/week until I reach 6 mph.  Then begin again slowly increasing the time.  At some point I hope to be doing enough treadmill work that I can transition to running outdoors some as well.  But I don't know when that will be.

It's slower than I'd like to advance, but I am determined to make this stick this time around. 

And I am positive this early foundation will be critical to success.

At this point I deeply dislike running, but I love the feeling afterward. 

And I'm loving the results on the scale of the combination of nutrition and exercise programs.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Starting Line

I ran before.  But then I stopped.

Now I run again.

Early spring when I was in the 7th grade, the announcements (read over the intercom like all things of import were back then) stated that Junior High track season would soon start.  It took some courage, but I managed to ask my parents if I might "go out" for track.

It was a loaded question, because it meant that I would be staying after school every day of the week.  And instead of riding the bus home, it meant that I had to be picked up by car.  Perhaps a trivial thing to many, but living on a farm well outside of city limits meant that somebody would have to leave home around 5 and drive the 20-30 minutes to get me, and then the 20-30 minutes home. Before the time change this would interfere with dinner preparation.  And worse, after the time change it was sacrificing precious daylight hours that could be spent in the fields or garden.

My parents were tremendously supportive, often telling me I could accomplish anything I set my mind to.  Anything that is, that didn't inconvenience them or cost too much money.

Still, they said yes.

And so I became a member of the track team.  I was practically built for the part.  Scrawny, yet leggy, like a young fruit tree, springing in the wind.  At that point in my life I was apparently powered by a nuclear reactor, or other some such nearly perpetual energy source.  (And my feet smelled like toxic chemicals to hear my mother tell it.)  I ran middle distance, 800m, often as a leg of the 400m relay, and occasionally the 1600m.  And I long-jumped.

I could have been really good.  I could have been state tournament good, I'm sure of it.

But I ran scared.

And so, 10th grade rolled around and I decided that tennis was much more my style.  Yet even on the tennis court, running stayed with me.  I was, without fail, in the lead on our team fitness runs.  I developed a reputation for doggedly running down any ball.  From drop shots to lobs, I prided myself in always at least putting a racket on the ball.

I could have been really good.  I could have been state tournament good, I'm sure of it.

But I played scared.

In fact, I remember once a week at practice we had ladder matches to determine the seeding for any tournaments the coming weekend.  Top 6 seeds were considered varsity, and 7-12 were considered JV.  For the ladder challenges, either a lower seeded player could challenge a higher seeded player, or the coach would assign matches.  One week it turned out that after all the "by choice" challenges had been paired, the only remaining match-up was myself, #13 and the #2 ranked player.  It was an improbable match-up.  I was completely relaxed because nobody expected me to win.

Not even myself.

But I got into a rhythm.  And started landing huge serves.  And not only was I winning, I was steamrolling my opponent.  I won the first two sets 6-0.  My opponent had no answer for me.  I was up 4-0 in the third set; two games away from clinching the biggest upset the team had seen in years. And as we changed sides, he stopped me.

He was crying.

He pleaded with me, telling me his dad was going to punish him if I beat him.

And I caved.  I succumbed to my doubt, lack of confidence, and my fear.  I mean, what if I won?

He celebrated his comeback victory heartily with the rest of the varsity players, with high fives and great bellows of "Come ON!!"  I quietly went back to the JV courts.  The coach gave me a long, searching look when I reported the score of our match, but he said nothing.  Two weeks later he asked me to forfeit a match in an interscholastic tournament to advance one of our varsity players.

I did as he asked.  And then I never went back to practice.

The years slipped by.  As college, marriage, a child, divorce, remarriage, more children, jobs, money, stress, bills packed on the pounds I was soon no longer a leggy, young fruit tree.  I started running on a treadmill at the gym to lose weight.  And lose weight I did--65 lbs.  But it wasn't until the very end that I began to enjoy running.

And then I quit.

I gained back the weight--every miserable pound of it--for reasons that I'll not be discussing here.

I ran before.  But then I stopped.

Now I run again, and I long to run without fear.