1989- 2019 BQ (Before Quarantine)
Before I was reborn into the world of runners, I didn’t see running as a sport. I saw running as merely chubby-kid torture, the worst part of physical fitness routines. I saw running as punishment for talking when the coach was or for people being late to practice. I never thought it could be enjoyable or something I would choose to do.
You see, I am the kid who used to pretend to be running in gym class by flailing my arms from across the field, but keeping my legs walking. I am the one who used to cut through the campus during team runs, hiding with the other forwards during practice before sneaking back in behind the backs.
I am certainly an athlete, but not a runner by design.
RUNNERS ARE ROBOTS
When I set off on this running adventure during the shutdown last year, I had it in my head that runners didn’t stop. In my brain, they were robots capable of unimaginable things. In my very first few months of running, that became my goal. I wanted to be a running robot, one that stuck to a pace and didn’t stop running until they were done-done.
The goal was just to run as far as I could without stopping and keep increasing my time that I could maintain a run. That goal felt stressful and lasted a very short amount of time since I could never break 30 minutes easily at all.
While I was proud to be running and in pursuit of a goal, I was not enjoying running for the sake of running and I was certainly not turning into the robot I wanted to. Running was still torture to me, not sport. This was not the way I viewed the actual sports I had played and loved my whole life.
I was not built for this; I do not have the technology.
PERMISSION TO STOP
One day a few months in, on a particularly hot day, my sassy self talk voice came out during a run and just screamed
“GIRL YOU NEED TO STOP!”
It was like the young chubby girl inside of me was still being tortured at practice and no one was listening to her. This was not fun; it just hurt. I finally heard her in there and gave myself that rest.
That break didn’t have to mean the end of my run though. That was the change. This was the mindset I needed to break– the all or nothing mindset.
I didn’t give up on the run, but just gave myself permission to take breaks that I needed, permission to work from the level I am at right now. This is exactly what we do in education. Best practice states you have to teach students from where they are at. You can’t teach someone to read before they know the alphabet. It is the same for adults and the same for fitness. You can’t start training by running a marathon.
Everything truly changed when I gave myself that permission to stop, that permission to start where I was at. I needed to work on that delicate balancing act of pushing myself yet being realistic with what my body could do at that time.
I started allowing myself the lifeline of stopping whenever I felt like I needed to. Some people in education are afraid to give students lifelines like this. They fear they will abuse those lifelines and take breaks when they don’t need it. However the truth is, when you have a lifeline, you tend to need it less and less.
That is exactly what happened. Slowly I didn’t have to think about it anymore. I just kept going because I didn’t need the breaks. Something about allowing myself to stop when I needed to gave me this sense of calm that I was no longer worried about things like not having the stamina to make it home.
Again like in my education practices, I allowed myself to work within my zone of proximal development. That is the space between the ‘too hard’ and ‘too easy’. That is where the learning takes place in the mind and body.
When people are pushed past this zone, they are left frustrated. Continuously pushing myself past my max would have kept me in this frustration zone. I NEEDED to stop so I could get better and push myself to the next level before I pushed myself to give up on running completely.
RELEASE THE IDEA OF PERFECTION
I released the idea of perfection that I had of runners. I had this fairy tale in my head that running was just easy for some people and they could go on and on forever. In giving myself the freedom to pause and take it all in, I let myself become a runner– a real life runner. Real life runners are flawed, take weeks off for mental health or injury. Real runners love running, but don’t always want to start right away. Real runners have real bodies that sometimes change by the seasons.
Real life runners have to balance their running with all the other hats they wear.
Those breaks were never anything to be ashamed of… in running or life.
FOR THE LOVE OF RUNNING
My running life LIVES on these intervals now. I enjoy my runs more because the pressure is lifted and I can just go. Wind in my hair, smile on my face, no stress. Amazing how running could flip to be the antithesis of what I used to feel it was.
With those breaks came this real sense of fun in running. I started enjoying it, laughing, making a game of it. I made deals with myself. If you stop now, add another quarter mile. If you break now, sprint up Hackett. 20 seconds on, 20 seconds off.
I started to love interval sprinting and seeing how fast my thunder thighs can take me. I enjoy the collapse after, the stopping. I enjoy the break I give myself. I laugh when I make eye contact with drivers who wonder what the hell is wrong with me. Sometimes they laugh too. I associate running with smiling now, with happiness, with neighbors waving.
I eventually got myself to run a 10 mile run and then onto a 12 mile the next week. Giving myself breaks let me build-up to that. I won’t say I did so perfectly or that I felt great after those runs, but you can’t get better at anything if you don’t push.
You have to always balance the fear of the push through. Are you afraid you can’t do it or it is actually out of your range right now?
The second I didn’t need to stop, you bet your ass I didn’t.
STOP AND SEE STUFF
You know what’s the best part of allowing yourself to stop? All of the extra things you get to see in your neighborhood.
One of my hiking solo date rules was that a bench was put there for a reason, so if you see a bench, you have to sit. Well usually you see views like this:
So besides the need, I have the want to stop.
I have that classic Ferris desire to stop because, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it.”—Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.