I stood in my 245 pound body and thought to myself, I’m going to do that one day.
Mind you, I thought I hated running. I skipped gym class the days we were supposed to run the mile, but the expression on the faces of the racers stuck with me. Whatever feeling they had, I wanted.
That same week I bought the book ‘Running for Women.’ As I slowly made my way through the pages I started to walk in the evenings after work. I started out slow. I checked out murder mystery audio tapes from the library and would only allow myself to listen to them while I walked. Some days I walked longer than I had planned because I was invested in the story. Some days the story was my motivation to get me out the door.
‘Running for Women’ taught me to start my running slow. Anyone who hasn’t ran for a long while and then tries to run 30 minutes or even five minutes straight can vouch for how much they hated every single second of that run. The idea is to take running slow enough you don’t hate it and you begin to love it.
Every time I worked my way through a 30 minutes session I pictured myself crossing the finish line with that same look of joy I saw on my sister’s face. It took me ten weeks of walking/running until I built up enough stamina to run 30 minutes straight. Eventually I ran a half marathon, then two, then three. A few years into running, I participated in a few triathlons including a half ironman.
When I think back to those races (and it’s been a while) I don’t necessarily think about the race. I think about the journey it took to get there. There were many days I hated my runs. With every footstep that hit the pavement I couldn't wait to get back home. I also remember the days I felt incredible and strong. Regardless of how I felt during the run, I ALWAYS felt amazing afterwards. I felt proud of myself. I felt a sense of accomplishment like no other.
At 39 years old I have stopped using exercise as a way to change the way I look. I exercise because of the way it makes me feel.
Exercise is a drug. It fills you with endorphins that make you feel as though you can do anything. It releases happy hormones that brighten the color of your day. It helps you sleep at night. It changes the way you look at yourself.
From the moment I started exercising 15 years ago until today, I still believe all these things to be true. And yet.…yet….sometimes I don’t do it.
Call it laziness. Call it lack of motivation. I call it setbacks. Life loves to deliver us those sometimes. Over the last four years I’ve been knocked down and knocked out over and over again by setback after setback. But as my mom taught me, we pull up our bootstraps and we carry on.
Success isn’t crossing the finish line. It’s about lining up at the start. Success is picking ourselves up and trying again.
I thought about this today as I was out on my walk/run. I thought about how as adults we are quick to label ourselves as failures if we don’t reach our end goal. We question whether we are good enough. And yet, when our children sit at the kitchen table working through their math homework we don’t tell them to give up and quit when they get the math problem wrong. We don’t tell them maybe they aren’t cut out for math. We don’t put away their bike when they fall off the first time. We keep pulling their bike out of the garage. We encourage them over and over again telling them “One day you can do it! Just keep trying!”
And when they figure out that math problem or ride their bike all alone for the first time their faces reflect pure pride and a sense of accomplishment. You can see in their eyes. They begin to believe they can do anything.
The harder we have to work for something, the more pride we feel when we reach our goal.
Sometimes we don’t reach the finish line. Sometimes we need to start over….again and again.
I’ve had to start over so many times I’ve lost count. I’ve picked up that ‘Running for Women’ book and began that 10 week challenge a few different times. Sometimes I don’t make it through the 10 weeks. But sometimes after the 10 weeks are over I tack on another 10 weeks and find myself crossing a half marathon finish line.
This week I started over…again. Only this time, I am working through an app on my iPhone called ‘5k Runner’. It follows the same concept taught in ‘Running for Women’, but it’s more hi tech. It’s a 10 week program in which you walk/run for 25-30 minutes, 3 to 4 times a week. Once you launch the program a nice lady takes you through your daily workout telling you when to walk and run all the while you can listen to your music, podcast or audio book.
As it is every time I get my heart rate up and sweat a little bit, I feel awesome. I feel empowered. I want to share this drug with everyone I know.
The goal doesn’t need to be about running. It’s about doing something that makes you feel proud. Something that makes your heart beat and your face smile when you picture yourself reaching your objective.
And if you fall down….if you have a setback….just try again. Keep trying…over and over again. It’s not always about the finish line. It’s about the joy and sense of pride you feel during the journey.