I was just sitting here glancing at my training calendar for the upcoming week, and spied a speed workout for tomorrow that got me legitimately excited, like go home and layout my gear excited, and make a new, special playlist excited. Weather permitting, I should be in for a fun workout, but the excitement itself is more noteworthy than whatever happens when my feet hit the (cold) pavement. So much of training is mental, a constant bargain with yourself to get up and keep plugging, the required faith to believe what you’re doing now will payoff in a few months. But as I’ve become more and more committed to working towards my goals, the most important mental shift I’ve made is to take myself seriously as an athlete.
This started in kind of a cliched way. I love new beginnings; I love the idea of reflection and renewal that comes with the start of the new year, i.e. new year resolutions. (Yes, I’m one of those people.) Usually I task myself with learning something new, tackling some huge project that never actually comes into fruition, like an illustrated blog. Hey, what can I say? I’m optimistic, if nothing else. This year, though, I was tired of adding more to my plate. At some point creating more to do created unintentional pressure on myself and felt more distracting than invigorating (hence the never accomplishing any of these lofty things). Around this time I read a great post by Leo on Zen Habits about having a depth year, which is simply the intention to apply some constraint and take on nothing new, instead focusing on what you’ve already started. Truth be told, I already have plenty of things in my life that I like to do, and the idea of simply doing more of those things felt surprisingly freeing.
As I started to kick this around in my head, I found myself repeating a mantra of sorts: give yourself permission. It wasn’t just permission to not do anything else, it was more specifically permission to consider myself a serious athlete. Maybe some part of me thought I wasn’t quite fast enough, or that my goals were silly and had to be kept to myself, but I love running and I do aspire to do bigger and better things. Besides, training and everything else that comes with it is certainly enough to fill my spare time. Slowing down to enjoy the process and then allowing myself to simply be felt like being released from a mental torture chamber. Becoming a better, more focused runner feels so much healthier than running around in proverbial circles wondering if I was/am doing enough with my life. I missed the fact that I’m lucky to have this thing I love doing. What else is there? (I mean, besides a good book when I put my feet up to recover.)
For the first time in a very long time, I feel content. Taking myself seriously in this thing I love has made it easier to do the small things that frequently get brushed under the rug (strength training, I’m looking at you). If you know that your goal is to be a serious runner, it creates a filter for all these supporting activities. No more general bodyweight workouts, I’ve done my homework and have replaced these with movements and weights that will strengthen running specific muscles and motion. I’ve also stopped trying to strength train hurriedly before I get in the shower, and have carved out more dedicated time during the week.
The impetus to share this came from a thought after that excitement over my training calendar. As I was envisioning the workout I also started to imagine what it would feel like to achieve my goal, and I realized how very incredible it would feel to do what I set out to do. The only things standing between me and this elusive goal are more hard work and the belief that I can do it. So, focus, young grasshopper. You’re just a few hops away.
*Featured photo credit: Robert D. Raio