A couple weeks ago I ran a little 5k race. William was running a half marathon and I decided rather than feeling sorry for myself and being a poor spectator and cheerleader, I would do an easy run as part of the 5k. I knew doing so would be difficult because I love competitions and races are normally a time to test myself. I knew I needed to treat this “race” like a different kind of competition—a competition to test whether I could be in a race situation and do the smart thing for me right now, which is to go slow and easy because of my injury. I also knew that I needed and wanted to look after more than myself, that I needed a greater purpose than simply willpower as a way to achieve this. I set an intention to encourage others throughout the race.
I’ve mentioned this before, but I don’t feel like an adequate cheerleader. I prefer boosting others by offering an insightful encouragement in a private, one-on-one setting. It is discomforting to offer public encouragement and during this particular three mile jaunt, I couldn’t actually bring myself to do it. Instead, I was torn between feeling like everyone was incredibly slow, resulting in me wanting to yell at them all to get their asses in gear like our local high school football coaches, and one of silently urging them to do better, to keep it up, and to not give up. Meanwhile, I kept passing people. Thus, in between the already conflicted mental “encouragement,” I was competing with an internal voice which kept saying, If you were being stupid, you could have gone out at the front and won this 5k without a single speed workout in seven months. This was a truly powerful feeling to know and acknowledge the experience of being competitive was there for the taking if I wanted to, though at the expense of my injury and healing.
In the past, I greatly struggled with self doubt. I still do to an extent but not in the same way I did then. I felt unworthy to achieve my goals. I’ve had multiple discussions in the past about focusing on the big picture—not screwing up the overall trajectory in a single workout for the fun of it—and I’ve really struggled with this too. I have especially struggled with it these last few months because my feet get sore hours after a run is completed and stay sore for several days, making it especially difficult to gauge whether I’m pushing them too hard until the damage is done. Since that week of the race, they have been especially sore, and I’ve had to drastically cut back on running.
I want to run longer, faster, and harder than I have been able to. I want to pour my all into a run again and feel my lungs burn. I want to test my ability to compete with my mind when it is at the point of giving up. I want to mentally smash through the wall of disbelief in self that I had in the past and put every rough day I’ve had in this down-period behind me by breaking through to the other side in a tough run. In short, I want retribution for these months of inactivity. I want to feel badass a couple times a week by doing a good job at a hard effort. I like difficult. I like fast. I like adrenaline. I like competing with myself.
Last fall, I was doing exceptionally well at the mental side of running. During a training cycle, my favorite runs are track workouts. I look forward to them each week and I see them as an opportunity to train my mind more than I do as a way to get faster. I was able to get into a place during many weeks where I could push through every self doubt that came my way. I had mantras. I had a vision. I had the experience of giving up in past races that mattered, which I channeled, and I envisioned playing it smart and tactical throughout each repeat until I needed to give it my all in the final ones, just like in an important race.
Throughout these past few months, I’ve used this same track workout tactic a couple times to get through rough days or random push-up sessions. Realistically, I should use the tactic more right now when I need to take it easy, to cut short runs or not even begin them and rest instead. Rather than get caught in the downer mood of “not getting to”, I can focus on the big picture. I can channel being smart and tactical. I can use my visioning to push away mental doubts. Like the end of a track workout, it is mentally tough to focus on my overall trajectory and think about why I run as a lifestyle, rather than give up on my future goals and run today just to say I did. Ultimately, I run not to kick ass at a small town 5k without training and not to go as hard as possible consistently until I grind myself into perpetual injury. I no longer run to fearfully manage my weight or body image. I run because it feels as imperative to my health and happiness as brushing my teeth, showering daily, and smiling at strangers. I run to experience the joy of connecting to Jesus, of actively-meditating, and getting away from my anxious, overanalyzing mind.
Because I’m an achiever and a competitor, there will always be much joy in working toward faster, better, and stronger. This isn’t going away. But I recognize that in all pursuits we go through trials and low-points. We get tested in ways we didn’t foresee and we struggle with doubt not only in whether we can achieve our dreams, but whether we can even attempt them. This is okay. It means the dreams matter.
I’m going to end by sharing two statements/mantras that inspire me to keep going and I hope will be of use to others:
There is a quote plastered to my day-planner from a random Rich Roll podcast which says, You have within you the ability to realize anything you desire; otherwise you wouldn’t desire it in the first place. This statement is my go-to reminder every time doubts creep in. Some days, I have to employ it over and over again to cancel out the fear-based self talk.
I’ve been carrying around a water bottle boldly printed with the mantra, Head up. Wings out. It reminds me daily that the fight, the flight, the journey, the attitude employed in each and every step along the way is more important than the outcome. Pursuing happiness daily and overcoming the moments of doubt, worry, and our own selves keeping us “stuck” are actually the big achievements.
In whatever you are working on these days–whatever you are hoping for or doubting you can accomplish–know that we all are far stronger, far more capable that we give ourselves credit for. Keep your head up. Keep your wings out. You get the opportunity to wake up each day and begin again. Focus on your overall trajectory. Experience the journey. I believe in you. And I finally believe in me too!
And with that, here are a few meals and long and short reads, listens, and watches that I’ve been enjoying lately.
Eating: All the recipes from Sprouted Kitchen Bowl + Spoon, but these are my favorites so far!
– The Last Meal Salad
and other recipes that are divine:
Toast in other places:
Mushrooms + Garbanzos on Toast with Cider + Thyme, my recipe was a Community Pick months ago on Food52. Recently it was also featured in their round-up of 17 toasts. For the summer months, I’ve especially been enjoying Zucchini Toasts, Cashew Ricotta + Dukkah.
Skippy Dies. This book reminds me why I love great literature. I’m nearly through it and super excited to discover Paul Murray, who is about to release a new novel.
Vegetable Literacy. This is the cookbook that I sit down and read for hours on slow summer weekends. It then inspires me to go take care of my garden.
Running with Joy. I’m still re-reading Ryan Hall’s training journal day-by-day and finding lots of insightful faith-related takeaways.
Running and Yoga. Yoga has been my go-to on non run days. I don’t know that it is truly helping my foot, but it is definitely my best mental cross-training in lieu of running.
The Rich Roll Podcast. There were some really great episodes these last few weeks. Or maybe I’m going through a phase.
Light Bits to Watch:
Runners Racing the London Public Transportation. I love these types of videos. If ever there were an opportunity, I’d so like to race public transportation and I practice daily with the stairs vs. elevator at work. ;)
Runners talking About Running. A short video that reminds me why I’m glad there are more runners at my work than aspiring magicians!