Ok dear readers, I would like you to weigh in on this one. I have been told over the last couple of days that if I want to improve at my current sport (hobby) then I need to get right outside my comfort zone and just go for it. The good old, “feel the fear and do it anyway”, kind of approach.
Is this true? Do I have to be that bad ass?
Seeing as I am currently on a mountain doing some downhill skiing, this thought feels me with even more dread then I can already muster up staring down the slope at the start of a run. I am much improved over last year and can tackle the intermediate runs but I cannot keep up with my kids. Not a chance!
But this comment about getting out of your comfort zone and going for it has had me reflecting on how I have improved in other areas of my exercise life.
I absolutely stepped outside my comfort zone training for a marathon and then completing it. But this was done gradually, one longer run after another with some nice speedwork inbetween. There was plenty of time to think about fuelling and training and monitoring how my body was tracking.
I absolutely have stepped outside my comfort zone by joining a swim squad and cranking up the distance in the pool every Monday night. I do my best every time I am in the pool but I am sure the coach is keeping an eye and only letting me do as much as she feels that I can.
However, downhill skiing is an all or nothing kind of sport. You either take that run or you don’t. And if you don’t then you will never know if you could. Could be an all or nothing kind of day today.
What do you think? Do you believe that you have to push yourself outside your comfort zone in order to improve?
Is this how you tackle your training and exercise goals?
Had another amazing conversation with one of the mums at school pick up yesterday. One of those conversations that makes your mind spark and flare like a dry piece of kindling in a roaring fire. She was talking about an elite team of athletes that she is currently coaching. Yes, we have some incredible parents in our school yard, you can like her facebook page here, and it is just a suburban, state primary school… and I digress.
She made the comment that there is a thin line between glory and pain. The thin line that you walk between going for the glory, the ultimate achievement and suffering the searing pain if you don’t get there. When training for glory, whatever that may be for you, getting a sub 3 hour marathon time, or finishing the full 42.2km no matter what, or making it through a 10km run without stopping, there can be times when you choose to “protect” yourself in order to alleviate the potential for pain.
This can be things like, “I didn’t train as hard as I could have so fair enough that I didn’t quite get my goal”. You are protecting yourself just in case, making excuses, and holding back. There can be no protection when going for glory. There can be no holding back. What is the point of that? If you want the gold medal (once again, whatever that means for you) then you have to behave like a gold medal athlete. Does a gold medal athlete sit on the couch, or do they go out for their training run in the rain, or in the heat?
There can be no consideration of pain when you are going for glory. You have to see that glory, work for that glory and take it. If you truly want to achieve your goal then you have to go for it. You can’t be thinking “what if I don’t get there”.
And then you can enjoy the glory when you get that gold medal. You will know that you did your all.
There is no plan B, baby. And that is a thing of beauty.
Having spent many years working in Organisation Development and similar roles, forever analysing organisation culture (for the fun of it), I have always believed it is not WHAT you do, by HOW you do it that makes the difference. Recently I wrote a comment on one of my favourite sites, Another Mother Runner, in response to a post about a crapalicious bike ride that one of the authors undertook. It made me think about this belief in terms of my training.
Does it matter HOW you do your training as compared to WHAT you get done? When I say “how” I mean how you feel, the mental space that you might be occupying during your long run, speed work, long ride or swim. We all have those runs that just feel ‘blah’. Don’t try and deny it – we have all been there.
I distinctly remember absolutely slogging through the last half of a 30km training run for a marathon. When I got to the end I was so proud of myself for having done it and felt a little guilty, that I might well have got it done, but I despised it and myself for at least half the time. Did the way I felt about my run and the potentially desperately lacking in form running style that I would have been displaying mean that it was less of a run? Did the “how” undermine the “what”?
Instinctively I feel that the reverse of my belief about the impact of behaviour on organisation culture is true of fitness and training. It is not “how” you run, bike, swim but “what” you get done particularly when your mind is trying to trick you and your body is starting to fail. Making it through those ‘blah’ runs, notching them up in your training diary, adding those km’s to your legs, is what matters. Learning how to master your mind and its broken records.
Trusting in yourself.
Letting your spirit get you through.
This blog has been brewing in my mind for a week and a half now. Basically it is a foray into my mindset and actions that enabled me to nail my first marathon. However, my husband feels that I should title it “F*@! the Wall”. All shall become clear…
First things first. All the accolades in the world go to one of my dearest friends for her throw away line that led me to attempt my first marathon. October 2011 my friend and I both run the Melbourne Half Marathon event. She absolutely hammers it and I struggle through with what is the start of the flu (or so I find out later). We meet up in the finish area and she says to me in an incredulous voice, “Man, could you imagine turning around and running that distance again!?!” Despite my ill health, I thought to myself, “well, actually, yeah I can”. And that was the seed that got me on the road to my first marathon. THANK YOU!!!!!!!
Now, I promised myself I wouldn’t write the traditional blow by blow, km by km report on my marathon. I have lots that I could say about it and I am itching to tell you all about the great friends that I made, how much I adore my talented physio, the fact that a dear friend waited for me at the finish to share the completion of my first marathon and the overall amazing experience that I had. Most importantly though, through distilling my thoughts and feelings over the past week and a half, I have determined the critical things that resulted in a hugely successful race for me.
It wasn’t the fastest time but it was the greatest run I have ever done. The most enjoyable experience while running and I am not sure if I am ever again going to experience anything like it.
This is what made it:
- The week leading up to the race one of my friends on Daily Mile said that all we had to do was “show up and start running”. I kept this gem of a thought with me all week which ensured I was calm and yet still excited.
- My brother told me how you use most of your energy in the first 5km and that is why my Ironmen mates were telling me to go out REALLY slow. I did this, I went out slow on fresh legs.
- I knew for myself that I had to have a running plan so I broke it down into smaller races starting with two 14k runs followed by an 8k and then a 6.2k. I had different paces planned for the different stages. Never did I feel overwhelmed by the distance.
- I fuelled at every drink station (another tip from my Ironmen mates) except the first one making sure to walk a few steps so that I got more water in my mouth than down the front of my dress.
- I had the pleasure of starting the run with a twitter friend @MarathonMel and then spending about 20ks with two Daily Mile friends chatting all the while.
- When 32km clocked over I started to notice how beautiful the weather was and how lovely it was to be running up St Kilda Rd under the Elm and Plane Trees.
- When 37km came along I was filled with the joy of knowing that there was only 5km left and it would be a walk in the park. A 5km run doesn’t even touch the sides anymore.
- When I hit 40km I was texting my hubbie and getting excited that I would see him, my children and one of my BFFs very soon (the same one that inspired me to run the full mary one year ago).
- When the 42km was almost out the way, I was scouring the crowd for my hubbie, kids and BFF and when I saw them I sped up and let loose with lots of cheers all the while blowing kisses to my kids. Aparently I was quite the sight.
- Running into the MCG is an incredible thing to do regardless but I made sure I revelled in it. Posing for the camera and smiling at the cheering crowds I sprinted (ahem) to the finish.
- My BFFs husband, who I adore, was waiting for me at the finish line and I couldn’t hold back my excitement at what we had achieved.
AND, the most important thing that I had in mind all the way is something that my husband said to me. I confessed to him my secret fear that I hadn’t run long enough, that my training wasn’t good enough due to injuries. I admited that I was frightened of “the wall” that everyone talks about and how when it hits you, that you have to “dig deep”. I was frightened of what “the wall” would feel like and whether my mind of steel could carry me through. Had I really been tested yet? Would those last 6k really be as horrendous as everyone says?
Let me tell you what he said. He laughed and reminded me of an old adage that we share among the two of us, “we don’t go by what others have done”. “That’s right”, I thought, “I don’t have to hit a wall, I don’t have to struggle through the last 6km’s, I can do this any way I want to.”
And with that belief etched in my heart I ran the race of my life. I crossed the finish line ecstatic, vibrant, full of energy. I obviously could have run much faster for those last 10km but it was all about making the distance and enjoying every step, every breath, every heart beat, every moment of my first marathon. I did that. I did it beautifully.
So that is why this blog post could be called “F*@! the Wall” and how it was that I never “hit” the wall, and how I didn’t have to “dig deep” or struggle through those last 6km and how I truly nailed my first (and potentially only) marathon.
I am a marathoner, I don’t do what others have done.
As expected, training for my first marathon has been an incredible learning experience. Some people enjoy learning the more technical aspects of running whereas I have learnt an inordinate amount about my particular body and my mental states. The top three things that training for a marathon teaches you, according to my model of the world, are:
1. That the marathon itself is not the achievement. It is all those training runs, the hours spent planning, preparing and running which are the real achievements. It is a huge commitment from you and your family.
2. The bad runs are valuable because they are signals that you need to check your training schedule, fuelling, sleeping and what other emotionally or mentally draining things might be going on in your life and how to better manage them. They also remind you to really appreciate the good ones!
3. Running seems to automatically make you part of a community and the hours logged training for a marathon completely embed you in that community. Through this I have learnt greater compassion for others, their particular journeys to the start line and also just a more general understanding of others’ passions and commitments. I admire anyone now that commits to something greater than themselves in whatever way that might be for them.
Go hard or go home. See your passion through to its end.
I was chatting to the girls at work about running, what a surprise, and made the bold statement that if I could register for the October Marathon now, I would. My goal this year is to run my FIRST ever marathon at the Melbourne Marathon event later in the year. By registering now it would mean that I am committed to my goal, I can’t turn back, I am on a path and the only way is forward, and that thought feels great.
Upon returning to my desk, I see an email from a dear friend providing words of encouragement and excitement for how well my training is going. The email says that her husband has already registered for the October Marathon and that he got a race number somewhere in the 400s.
That made me feel pretty excited. Not only had I moments before been declaring my desire to register for the race well in advance if I could, but the thought of having a bib number less than five digits long was pretty exciting. I mean, the best we usually hope for is 11953 or something equally unimpressive.
I jump online and quick as a flash register for the marathon. Phew! I have done it! I am completely committed to my running goal. I am really excited.
Then the email arrives confirming my registration and my race number.
Are you ready to laugh? What would be the worst (or best I guess if you are that way inclinded) three digit number that you could get?
Yep, you said it.
The number of the beast.
That will be me on race day. Apparently I have to get myself a red running dress, horns, tail and trident. Perhaps my red face and swearing like the devil might be enough.
Perhaps I am going to run like the devil?
What would you do?