I had an epiphany a couple of days ago while lounging on my couch (the ultimate place for revelations in case you didn’t know.) See I had just gotten home and for some reason I decided to veer away from my usual programming. I ventured into other genres and began scrolling through with my tempermental Wii remote clicker. Seriously the thing vibrates every 2 seconds and kind of has a seizure on the screen if you don’t point it at just the right angle. Anyone else have that problem?
I was about to give up my search when I came across Make it or Break It. You know the gymnastics show that everyone already saw light years ago?
Well I’ve been tied up with watching seasons of Scrubs, Weeds, and Big Bang Theory so I just hopped on board. Initially all I could think was OMG cheese as in wow this is super cheesy acting and I wonder if they hired stunt doubles with long term contracts for this show?
Eventually I got sucked in deep. Really deep. I watched 3 episodes back to back before the boy came home. It was glorious. Why was I enjoying this so much? why did I feel so emotionally invested?? and then it hit me. Oh yeah dummy!! I used to be a gymnast.
How the hell did I forget that!?!?
It sounds strange but I blacked out my past life as an athlete. Here I am now, trying to become a runner, and it didn’t occur to me that I had any experience to apply to this new sport. The reality was that I had this untapped source of strength and knowledge of how to compete all along. I was a competitive gymnast all throughout elementary school and middle school. Practice was a way of life because it meant I’d be prepared when I traveled to compete against other girls and could represent my team proudly. When that ended, I became a competitive cheerleader, going as far as winning nationals with my All-star team. I trained hard, several times a week, watched what I ate, and strove for perfection. It paid off.
I wasn’t satisfied unless my technique was sharp and my skills finessed. I had the competitive hunger. Not only was I competing against myself, I was also working hard to be the best in a sport I loved. Why have I been treating running any differently?
At first I think it was something I did to humor myself. It was so very difficult to run and that was intriguing to me. I decided I wanted to just finish races for the challenge. I had no idea what a good time was and frankly didn’t care. I was just happy to have survived. I might as well have been attempting to climb Mount Everest. I wasn’t trying to scale this mountain better or faster than anyone else. It was just a huge frickin mountain I wanted to climb just to see if I could do it.
Then it became a serious hobby. I thought o.k., I think I got the hang of this. Let’s try running half marathons. So I ran 7 within a year. Silly girl.I started getting PRs by default because I just started learning more about running. I tried a training plan and only stuck to a quarter of it. I wasn’t respecting the Sport. But it was hinting at something important even if I wasn’t listening. Training brought my time down 18 minutes and a whopping 50 minutes from my original half marathon attempt.
Now it has finally clicked. This is a sport. This is a competitive sport you can excel at with hard work and lots of dedication. I can apply the same work ethic to running and see results if I’m patient enough to stick with a plan. Running gives you back what you put into it. The first step is believing in yourself. The second step is to keep believing you are worth the investment of time, sweat, and tears it takes to get better.
Last night, I experimented with some speed work because all of the above had sunk in. I used a plan online that I tweaked to fit me as a runner and wanted to give it a go. My goal was to hit at least 2:12 for each 400 meter repeat and rest in between. I was so scared and really nervous to attempt this. Trying meant I was believing in my ability to train towards a goal. I was going to acknowledge my potential and it scared me thinking that maybe I would fail.
I set out into the night and warmed up for a mile. All these thoughts were running through my head:
Can I do this??
Maybe I’ll just try another time
I could just run easy miles instead
Don’t wimp out you sissy!
OMG I’m going to do this aren’t I??
And then I stopped running, shushed all of my doubts, and hit Lap on my Garmin. I was a blur of motion cutting through the heavy air. I couldn’t figure out how long I had left to go because my screen was only showing time and the number of repeats left. I stopped for 2 seconds, scrolled and took off again when I realized I was doing fine. My first split was 2.07!!!!
What!?!? really!!?!? Did I just do that?? I rested and started gearing up for round two. This was not going to be easy. I thought “I’m clearly going to whimper out and be too tired to do this again.” Then my Garmin vibrated to signal it was go time again. Off I darted into the dark neighborhood, not really knowing where I was turning next. Doubt creeped in. I conviced myself I was slowing down and getting tired. I was not going to make it under goal time. ::Vibration:: I didn’t check my split in time. No idea what just happened. Oh well. So I rested again and decided it was time to go home. When I was on the street my house is located on, I clicked start manually and tried one last lap.
I glanced down and saw I’d only made it .15 so far. The doubts all came flooding in, yelling that I was not cut out for this. I was already tired and was not going to make it. So I hit stop and walked home.
I logged into Garmin connect after showering just to see the damage but instead I was pleasantly floored. Not only did I meet my goal on the second split, I had smashed it with 1.57!!!
According to the track interval pace calculator, this split was consistent with training for a 24:30 minute 5k.
And that last split I gave up on?
Not as bad as I thought. I was still on track to meet my goal. Crazy what your mind can convince you of. I didn’t think I was capable of doing a track workout, but I hushed my harshest critic last night. Myself.
I’m learning so much about myself through running. But the most important lesson of all is how important it is to just give yourself a chance to shatter self imposed limits. You may think you’ll never be able to run a 5k, half marathon, Marathon, or Ultra. Or maybe you just think you’ll never be fast enough. But it’s all possible if you work at it!!
My best friend texted me later that night because she was considering the Disney Wine & Dine 5k. Why hadn’t she thought about training for the half I asked?
I told her she could do anything she set her mind to.
The difficult part was just deciding to try.
She laughed, called me Mr.Rogers, but said she was definitely going to think about it now.
And so the gymnast in me, that hard working inner athlete, finally got to step out of the shadows last night. She stood on a podium and received her medal. Finally ready to train for the next challenge and excel once more.
Did you compete in other sports as a kid?
What’s one thing you thought you couldn’t do as a runner?
Do you have trouble believing in yourself sometimes? What do you do to snap out of it?
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