I have been running for about 2 years. One thing I have noticed for sure: the discipline and practice of running regularly lends itself to all sorts of lessons for life.
Decide in advance, if you want to be consistent. This morning, there was resistance in me. I woke up considering reasons (read: excuses) not to run. It is very easy to come up with perfectly reasonable sounding rationale to skip a run, most any day. When I was first at this, I had to trick myself. I had to do stuff like:
- make my bed the very instant I got out of it, before I even went the the bathroom, in order to help discourage me from deciding to get back in bed
- lay out my clothes the night before, to avoid becoming overwhelmed with clothing decisions and giving up on the run
- get dressed as fast as I was able, and push myself out the door before I could think twice about skipping
- never turn around to go back inside once I had stepped outside, even if I realized I was missing something - too easy to sit down and decide not to go
- write a blog, so if I bailed out, I would have to say so and feel embarrassed
By deciding ahead in those little ways, I managed to push, pull, cajole, and otherwise manipulate myself into doing the right thing, even if I didn't feel like it. After doing it long enough, it became more an engrained habit - something I don't WANT to avoid. Still, lots of mornings I make my bed before I go to the bathroom, and I push myself out the door before I can decide to think about it.
Improve in small increments. Starting running by using the C25K (Couch to 5K) method was brilliant. With the mixture of walking and just short bursts of jogging, I could manage, and the improvement was so gradual over the weeks that I got better without being in pain. Though I took a BIG jump in increment re: the distance I run recently (from 2.8ish miles to 5ish miles per run), within that framework I am only pushing for small increments of improvement. Adding a hill here or there. Pushing myself first to get under 17 minutes per mile, then 16...and today I finally reached my current goal of getting ONE of my miles (not all 5 of them..just ONE) to be under 15 minutes per mile. Truth: I shouted for joy when my phone reported that goal being met this morning. It doesn't feel heroic, aiming at small increments of improvement. It often feels like "not enough." But the little successes along the way carry me much further than when I used to make giant goals that would consistently turn out to be unreachable before I ran out of steam.
It's an inside job. I am very surprised at how much of running happens in my head. I mean...what a physical thing to do. Feet to pavement. Swinging arms. Breathing. I wouldn't have guessed that the MENTAL is such a big part of the equation. When I want to pick up the pace, I do it from inside my head. I just repeat the word push push push push inside my head. That's all. And my posture improves, my steps lengthen and quicken, my pace picks up. I never think about my leg muscles or push harder with my butt muscles or whatever. Just the word and the gathering of force, there inside my head, and somehow my body responds to that in a way whose connection I do not yet really feel.
The contest is all within me. I don't need to compare myself to others as I run - that is almost sure to leave me feeling discouraged. I stay focused on doing better than I did before, and ALL THE TIME I am excited about running, tickled with my progress, pleased with my body. It's okay that others can run twice as fast as me, easily. It's okay that others are about half my body weight. It's all okay. The contest is all within me. As long as I am striving to better where I am in comparison to where I have been, it's a win. It's enough.
Oh, there's more, but it's past my bedtime. Those are some good lessons that I carry forward, beyond my running, into my writing, into my workplace, into many other realms.
It's good stuff.
(This was yesterday's blog - I didn't have a decent internet connection last night when I wrote it.)