Updated: May 19, 2019
Hear me out on this one! I promise you I'm not crazy... Well I probably shouldn't promise that, so instead I'll say, I promise it will make sense in a minute.
(Written originally in June of 2018)
Running. Damn, I hated that word. The action has always been one that I have perpetually avoided or at the very most, reluctantly completed to a certain point. Being athletic from childhood made my loathing of the activity complicated to say the least. Outperforming most my peers in other tests of agility or strength, my abhorrence for running surprised and frustrated all of my coaches, trainers, PE teachers, and my father – sorry pops. For me running has always been painful – I’m usually cramping within a few minutes and have a hard time getting my breathing under control. At practice I would run as far as I could and the moment my ribs started aching I would walk the rest. I didn’t care who was yelling at me to push through it or keep going, and I didn’t care what anyone thought – calling me obstinate wouldn’t have been a stretch. I never thought too deeply about why I never wanted to improve, I simply went on with my life and avoided running whenever possible. The truth is, my reason for this lifelong, passionate hatred stemmed solely from thinking that I am “bad” at running. I always looked at other people running with such natural ability, or so it seemed, and due to my difficulty, I guess I made up my mind as a young girl that I was “bad” at running and that was that. Well guess what? I started running on purpose – to the jaw-dropping shock of my family and close friends – and let me tell you, I have never felt more powerful.
Calling me obstinate wouldn't have been a stretch!
The last month or so of my life has been a whirlwind to say the least. Even though my relationship ending was mutual and thankfully wasn’t traumatic or painful, it is still an emotional process. Something I thought would never happen, and at the time, didn’t want to happen, ended up being a blessing for both of us. Now that I have the time and emotional resources to focus only on myself, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. Figuring out who I am on my own, what I want, and the kind of growth I want to create for myself have been the largest areas of attention and the word I have associated with this chapter is patience: patience for myself, my healing process, my growth, and my time frame. I decided to slow down, and be happy exactly where I am right now, focusing more on my internal growth than external advancement. That’s where running comes in among other things like becoming a morning person (I have a sneaking suspicion that my parents think I am a changeling at this point,) and it prompted the realization that in my effort to excel in my outside world, I was neglecting my inner world, but also that my inner world is bursting with promise.
I am not sure exactly what stimulated this experiment other than my desire to get outside. I had already been waking up between 6:30-7am every morning since being on my own, working out most of those mornings, and feeling great – but one afternoon last week my inner voice said “run” and in the spirit of my new outlook on life I complied, though I was thoroughly confused. I put on my sneakers and headed outside. I told myself I would walk for a bit and see how I felt, and it was glorious to be outside under the clear blue sky, just thinking about things between me and me, but ultimately I couldn’t put off the out-of-the-blue desire to run with anything but doing exactly that. I started jogging, thinking, “What is happening to me? Why do I want to do this?” and in an unforeseen turn of events the thought “I actually kind of like this” went through my head. Coming in the door from that first run all I knew is that I wanted to do that again, and that my chest felt like it had just been kicked hard by a large animal (a mule to be exact.)
"What is happening to me? Why do I want to do this?"
When we take the time to try something new we usually look for something we are interested in, learning to cook, sew, scrapbook, studying a new musical instrument or language, and I think all of that is great. Expanding your horizons is always worthwhile. However, if you are feeling like you’re in a mental/emotional/inner world rut, let me recommend trying something you “hate” because you think you’re “bad” at it, and here’s why: when you realize that you actually can do and can get “good” at something you always avoided, that’s powerful, and it makes you think “what else have I been avoiding that would enrich my life if I wasn’t afraid of it?” It’s not easy to do, that inner monolog can get in the way with the “that’s stupid” or “I could never do that” and if you listen to that talk then it becomes true, and overcoming that negative self-talk is one of the biggest parts of this journey. There has to be emotion behind your choice, it can’t be something that you know you’re good at, it has to be something that scares you. Pushing through that fear, even of something small, creates mental toughness that carries over into every aspect of life.
What do you avoid in your daily life?
Do you avoid talking or interacting with people? Try complimenting or creating small conversations with random people you come into contact with throughout your day – I know it’s scary, but that’s why it’s important. (Or join a toastmasters group!)
Do you hate/avoid reading because you feel like you’re not “good” at it? Read for 30 minutes before bed (preferably from an actual book so the blue light doesn’t interrupt your sleep) every night, and when you get frustrated with yourself, instead of quitting, take a deep breath and be patient with yourself.
Maybe we avoid these things because we are afraid of judgment, maybe something happened when we were children to put the idea into our head that we aren’t good at xyz, or maybe it’s a secret fear that we’ve never expressed but it lives deep in our soul for an undiscovered reason. Take time to reflect on yourself and whatever activity you choose to improve, make it one that gets you out of your comfort zone; make it one that you grow from, and don’t stop until that becomes part of your comfort zone (or keep at it if it becomes something you love.)
Even though I have only been running for about a week now, the change I feel and the hope I feel from this is ineffable. I’m not sure if I’ll be a lifetime runner, or if this is here to guide this next stage of my life, and it doesn’t really matter; all that matters is to keep pushing through the fear towards growth and discover the power within you to create exactly what you want, no matter how big or scary or impossible it seems.
So I am challenging you all to pick something you don’t like, pick something you have always avoided, pick something you’re afraid of, and surprise yourself – it might just change your life, I know it’s changed mine already.
Update: In the past 7 months I have kept up my running, and working on my endurance. I am happy to report that in January I completed my first 5k where I actually ran (never thought that would happen)! 31 minutes and I came in second in my age group, and in February I competed in a Warrior Dash which is a 5k with about 12 obstacles and I loved that as well!