Acceptance

On my way to work on Tuesdsay morning I had a “moment” in my car where it came to me that I needed to be more accepting and allow things to be as they are. I am never sure where these thoughts come from and they happen semi-regularly. Once I was hanging washing on the line in the beautiful sunshine and heard loud and clear that there was no rush, that I didn’t have to know what I wanted to be when I grew up, that it would all happen in its own time and that I am relatively young….  But I digress.

My “moment” in the car on Tuesday made me feel very peaceful. A sense of calm draped itself over me and I became sure that for me to feel peace it would be helpful to accept my day for what it would bring. To allow the day to unfold and not fight what might have been transpiring around me.

And it has been with me ever since. I feel much more accepting of the ebb and flow of my work as well as my family. It is incredible to me that just be agreeing with my inner self that I need to be more accepting and allowing, I actually have been! A miraculous feeling I can assure you.

Repeat after me, “it is what it is”.     🙂

Motivation

I had one of those really fabulous conversations with one of my work colleagues last Friday morning. We were discussing what we ideally would like for ourselves in terms of our fitness, physical appearance and personal goals (such as running half marathons). We got into the heavy stuff. The very personal parts of ourselves about what motivates us and what stops us.

We covered the ‘good old chestnut’ of whether we are motivated “towards” a goal, such as, I want to run a half marathon. Or “away” from pain, such as, I don’t want any part of me to look like two pigs fighting under a blanket. It is important to know which one motivates you more, or whether you are well balanced so need a bit of both to help you achieve your goals. I am the latter. I have both a desire to be the image of a really fit mamma who is able to play sport with her children for many years to come as well as motivated by not wanting a major back operation like my mother had to have three years ago. It is interesting how these motivations play out for me and on what days I need which one in order to get my sorry self out of bed and on to that road. And there is a whole other blog about just how good it feels to run….

Back to my conversation, we got very personal indeed! We even confessed to our internal talk. The little conversations we have inside our heads on different days that either inspire us to do more or give us permission to stop. My work colleague talked about how part of her doesn’t believe that the way you look is important, so therefore, when exercising starts getting tough, she tells herself that she doesn’t need to keep going because, who cares? Really, part of her does care, because she wants to be able to wear certain dresses and look fabulous. I think we all have conflicting beliefs that reside within us that we are constantly negotiating whether consciously or not.

My hilarious conumdrem is that I still think I am 22 and have an image in my mind of what I looked like then and think that is what I look like now (until I get a rude shock when I pass the bathroom mirror). I also think that I am as fit as I was at that age. Ah – no. No chance. So, part of me knows that I am heading towards middle age and that things just aren’t the same after two children and years of good living and that is the one that has to prevail, but sometimes, that is difficult to do. Thank goodness I have discovered the ‘high’ that you get from running. Seriously.

So my work colleague and I determined that everyone needs to find their “burning bridge”. Even if you are more motivated towards a goal then away from pain, we all need that “something” that motivates us to make a change. Because if nothing changes, nothing changes.

And if we want to run, and perhaps run 26.2, maybe even over and over again, then we need to change our perceptions of ourselves and what we are capable of. We can do it. Get out of your own head and into your heart and just run.

Uphill

This is one of those confession blogs. I have to ‘fess up to the mental state that has beseiged me over the last two weeks.

I have been pushing “uphill” and it aint been pretty. I get myself out of bed (ok so that is a plus), put on my favourite running gear (I guess another positive point needs to be awarded for that), and get myself out the door (alright – that is three points).

AND THEN. The 10km run turns into a 7km (minus 1 point per km). The 5km becomes 3km….(so now I am down five points and it has only been two days!). My mind starts to plot against me. “Just take it easy, you don’t want to hurt yourself again.” “You shouldn’t push too hard, you didn’t really fuel right yesterday and haven’t been drinking enough water.”  “It is just great that you are out here – better than being in bed, and hey, you are alone!”

It probably isn’t unrealistic seeing as I am conditioning my body again after a three month hiatus due to sciatic problems, but it just doesn’t match up with my personal goals and desires. I want to be running close to 5 minute kms again as I was so close to breaking the 50 minute 10km. I want to run a half marathon in 1:45 in the middle of next year.

I want to be able to run and just feel fit, free and strong.

Where has the mentally tough, physically resillent, girl gone? And how do I find her again? Any ideas?

When can I stop running uphill and enjoy the rush of the downhill speed?

Is eight really enough?

I had the absolute pleasure of looking after my nieces and nephew last night. They had a sleep over so that my brother and his wife could have some quality time on their 10th wedding anniversary.

I am not a natural mother by any stretch, so the thought of looking after a total of five children as previously filled me with dread and trepidation. I would never had said “no” if asked, but inside I would have been nervous and anxious about my ability to cope.  As my children get older and I get a little wiser (cough!) I know that I can look after five children especially since they are family.

It is wonderful for me to get time with my nieces and nephew so as to build a relationship with them which, I am sure, will benefit all of us as time goes on. It is also so very wonderful for my children to get time with their cousins. My parents were immigrants to Australia so we have no family here other than us and as a result, I have no idea what it would be like to have a clutter of cousins to play with and just hang out. It looks like fun.

Enough background. My important learning this time around is that mothering children as a herd works so much better than the individual parenting that I usually do with my two children. Well, I already knew that, but this time around I paid attention to my emotional state and how it differed from other days and why.

I certainly was less frustrated because I didn’t “sweat the small stuff”. I found that I was much calmer as a result and the bigger stuff wasn’t such an issue because I wasn’t already at number 5 on the way to number 1 (that would be blast off). The change in perspective was intriguing. I couldn’t afford to be affected by the (now) little stuff because that wouldn’t do me any good. Amazing how you can know that when in the situation but not able to execute it when the pressure isn’t on you.

And the children certainly worked a lot more out amongst themselves just because they could. If they were upset with one person there was always someone else. They amazingly played together for a long time and even cleaned out the cubbie which took quite some time and a huge coordinated effort. I was very impressed.

Reflecting on it, life is suffering. Both for me as a mother with the children not doing things the way I might have liked but letting that go in favour of dealing with larger issues.  And then for the children, as they might not have liked what was happening in their play and dealing with it. Great that they can experience that in a ‘safe’ environment such as the extended family unit. Brilliant all ’round. What a fantastic 24 hours.

Feel your heart swell

This is a blog I wrote a couple of months ago, but had nowhere decent to post it…. So happy I have established my running blog!

So what am I fired up about right now? Right now, I am reveling in that wonderful feeling that comes from having watched an inspiring video. It was a running video. But it doesn’t have to be a running video, or any kind of sport for that matter. You know the videos I am talking about. Those videos that have you captivated. The music is perfect, the story resonates with your soul and evokes feelings in you that make your heart swell.

For some of us, our eyes tear up, our throats tighten, and we are totally focussed on what we are seeing, there is nothing else that could possibly distract us from completely dissolving ourselves into what we are vicariously experiencing.

For me it was the Boston Marathon and Josh Cox (@iJoshCox) of Powerbar pacing one of the runners, Geoff, to his first sub-3 hour marathon. What was it that got me?

I related to his desire for a specific time and to want to achieve something that has eluded you for so long but you just know inside yourself that you are capable of achieving it.

It was the shot of the “group” running for 2:50. You can hear Josh saying, “this is the group”, and, as a runner, it took me to my place in a race.

You might not know the other runners around you, but you start to lable them. “Pink shirt and pony tail girl”, “Guy in the red Nike shorts”, or whatever feature catches your eye. A group of you start to pace together and this creates a bond out of thin air. You find yourself looking out for your “group” as you go through the drink stations. You hope that no one drops back. You find yourself saying some words to the girl in front of you as she starts to lose pace, doing what you can to inspire her even though your own legs are calling for a halt.

We don’t race each other – we race together.

I was also touched by some of the things that Josh had to say, like “your heart will get you through”. He is so right. When your legs are heavy and your lungs are hurting, it isn’t just your head that gets you through, but your heart…. Your love for running, your love for achieving personal goals, your love for the freedom and space – whatever it is for you.

In the end, feel your heart swell and ride that wave to the shore.

My Running Story…

You know, I wasn’t one of those really sporty kids – at the age of two I was diagnosed with asthma when my left lung collapsed. What I learnt through being an asthmatic is that as soon as breathing gets hard, best stop.

This didn’t necessarily stop me from playing sports, but it did stop me from being good at sports. I played hockey, softball, cricket and enjoyed cross country running at school (couldn’t have been more than 5km). I certainly wasn’t a fast runner, but at the age of 15 I think I just had more interest in it then some of my cooler friends.

As a teenager I joined the local lifesaving club. Please don’t be imagining some bronzed Aussie on a surf beach! I joined the local bay beach club. We spent our weekends driving around in the boat and practicing to rescue people because we didn’t get any real emergencies other than kids who had cut themselves when hunting around the rock pools. It was a lot of fun for a teenager – running, swimming, sun tans and did I mention driving the boat?!

I guess I got quite fit during that part of my life, but then I finished school, got a job and become relatively sedentary (other than the nights out at clubs where we danced until 6am). I played cricket with one of my sisters only because she guilted me into it and continued being a wicket keeper (best position on the field!) until I was pregnant with my first child.

Then it happened. Things had already been getting a little less taught and terrific and a lot more blurred by the beautiful life I had. Pregnancy was fine the first time around – didn’t put much weight on and slimmed down within weeks of the birth through no real effort. Then I started EATING! The breast feeding made me hungry and I had to fill this insatiable need to feed my face. Yada yada yada. Cutting a long story short, two kids and five years later I was a good 15kg over what I had been BC (Before Children).

I had tried going to the gym (hate it), and made some pathetic attempts at running with the dogs instead of walking them, but none of it really worked and I didn’t want to give up my food and alcohol. Then I had an epiphany.

I was chatting to a mum at swimming lessons, as you do, and she was busy showing me her feet that were absolutely wrecked because the week before she had run the Half Marathon at the Melbourne Marathon Event. And I thought, bloody hell, if she can do it, so can I! She talked about the late Kerryn McCann’s training plan and the group she had been involved in for training. I thought long and hard about it and realized that my brother had been doing a lot of running as well, so I spoke to him about it.

I figured that my brother and I have the same genes and if he can run a marathon (or three), then I can! OK – let’s clarify, he is 6ft 4 and strong….. Don’t let little details get in the way of your aspirations I say.

So, December 2008, I started talking big in the playground. I told my husband and extended family that I was going to run the half marathon in October 2009. I could only run for 12 minutes at a time and I have no idea how slow I was, other than, very.

My brother was amazing. He bought me a subscription to Runners World magazine and told me to text him my progress. This was sensational considering my own husband was rather doubtful of my ability to commit and follow through on my claims.

It is not that I am one to give up, but more that I am REALLY others focused. I always put others’ needs in front of my own. I don’t know why, I always have, and on some level I believe that it is a nice attribute to have to care about others more than myself. What this means though, is I haven’t always done exactly what I wanted to do and that I haven’t always been able to follow through on my desires. I think many mums are in this position.

This is why I love running.

Once I decided to train for the half marathon, I had to change the way I operate. And about time too as potentially I could have started to raise a couple of brats. I started to put my needs and wants at the same level as others and start working on how I could get them. I have to say, my husband was very supportive of my training plan even though he was doubtful of my ability to follow through.

My first event was the Mothers Day Classic in May 09. An easy 8km event. My brother agreed to run it with me which was really touching considering that it was a very short run for him comparatively and I ran VERY slowly. I told him to run his own race, it was just good to have him at the start line with me for my first ever race. He didn’t. He stayed with me the whole way and ran the same incredibly slow time that I ran. He encouraged me, provided support and I just loved having that quality time with my baby-brother. I felt connected to him again.

Then the hard work began. I had to start running harder, faster and longer distances. I kept at it and began to realize that I actually could run and feel puffed and that was ok. I learnt that I could ask my husband to sacrifice his gym time in order for me to meet my training plan. I learnt about fuelling, stretching, rest days and all the different leg muscles.

I think the fact that I had a training plan and it was clearly visible on the fridge, really helped me to get the support and motivation I needed to stick to it. I also could stick to my change in behaviour of putting my needs as far forward as everybody else’s.

There were a couple of hiccups on the way. An injury eight weeks out (ankle and knee), but get this, I learnt how to run with pain – a first for me. Of course I had it all checked out and the long and the short is that it was soft tissue damage so therefore I wouldn’t be creating any long term issues for myself. I just had to warm up before I went out and ice it when I got back after stretching. I got tonsillitis the week before the big race and was in tears thinking that I wouldn’t be able to do it.

Of course, the kids were up half the night before the big race – you have to expect that kind of thing. But I DID IT! I RAN a half marathon. Within ten months I had gone from running 12 minutes to running for 2 hours 25 minutes (I told you I was slow). What an achievement. My hubbie was so excited and proud, and it was amazing having the kids at the finish line to watch. And not only that, but I have developed the following attributes:

• The ability to push through pain and discomfort
• The knowledge that with time and effort you can significantly improve your performance – just stick at it
• Mental toughness that has spread across all parts of my life
• The understanding that everything changes. One bad run doesn’t mean the next one won’t be amazing
• Knowing that running isn’t in your legs, it is in your head
• I love the mantra “go hard or go home” – which surprises me still as it is so harsh

And I have discovered the amazing meditative ability of running. Being able to put everything in perspective and to truly believe that we ARE all enlightened beings as espoused by Buddha, and that we just have to stop blocking.

Running gives me time to reflect on the tasks I have to get done, to day dream about the beautiful beach house I would like one day, to consider my relationships and what I can do to improve them. I also take that time to clear out my frustrations and get a better perspective on life so that I am calmer and more relaxed with my children. Just the fact that I am ALONE for half an hour is amazing. I feel so free and unfettered when I run. It is magic.

So what now? Well, I am planning on doing three half marathons this year – yes, you read correctly, three. And my goal is to do one of them under 2 hours. I find having a race goal gives my running a focus that ensures I fit it into my family’s plans. Now if I can muster up the stamina to do three half marathons and achieve my sub-two hours goal, I am looking to treat myself to a trip to the U.S. to run in the Disney Princess Half Marathon in March 2012…. and perhaps meet some of my new Twitter #momsrunning friends. Who’s in?

Oh, and in my dreams, I am a Kenyan.

You’ve got to be kidding!

My children were fortunate enough to have my parents look after them for a day last weekend. They were fortunate because my parents live a couple of hours away and they don’t get quality time with them as regularly as we all would like.

The big lesson that I learnt was that we can sometimes be too serious, and particularly with our children.

My mother (Oma) was reading a book to the children and it was about a little boy who was so very well behaved. Every time she read a line about some fantastic thing he did, for example, tidying up his toys, my mum would turn to the kids and say “where’s my bucket, blah!” They looked at her in amazement the first time and then it dawned on them – she was having fun! She was kidding around. Their little eyes lit up and they were in hysterics. Quickly joining in, there was a lot of vomiting going on at our place all of a sudden.

It was pretty hysterical. And it has continued on for quite a few days bringing much joy and laughter to the house.

So I have decided to add more silliness to my interactions with my children as I have always believed that life is about having fun and I haven’t been doing enough of it lately.

I have been very serious, keeping everything ticking over – the house, my work, meeting the children’s needs. I think someone from the outside might have looked at me and said, “where’s my bucket, blah!”

What is your parenting philosophy?

I had one of those transforming conversations last week. The kind where a gentle light bulb goes off in your head. An ‘aha’ moment. I was chatting to my mum about my parenting and how I had recently felt judged for the way in which I cared for my children.

Let’s take a moment to be candid – I too have been guilty of judging others. I don’t like feeling judged and yet I sometimes find myself making judgments about other parents. Not good. I am a work in progress on rectifying that one.

Anyway, the comment about my parenting was made by a good friend of mine with great intentions and I wasn’t particularly upset by it, but it did cause me some reflection. It gave me pause to assess my beliefs about parenting and what is at the core of my approach. I don’t think we get enough time to actually reflect on our parenting, we are too busy doing it!

My mother and I talked about her theory of “keep pouring the love in and it will come out again somewhere, sometime”. I love this concept. And I have to admit that it did work for my siblings and I. We are all very caring and compassionate individuals (if I do so say myself). My ‘aha’ moment came when I realised that I had to be true to myself. I had to be true to my beliefs about the world and what I am wanting from my relationship with my children. I fundamentally believe in the power of compassion.

I have reframed the parenting approach and call it “kindness”. I am acting with kindness towards my children. When I start to feel frustrated and annoyed, I take a check of my emotions, calm my mind, and put on my kind voice. The kinder I am to my children, the kinder they will be to each other, their friends and hopefully, over time, the wider community (well, that is the plan).

And why not give it a try! I feel so much better for catching myself and thinking “kindness”. This parenting philosophy makes me feel good about the way I treat my children, provides me with many more opportunities for connecting with them on a personal level and building those relationships which will be critical once I hit the chaos of the teenage years.

I still have boundaries – it is not about allowing them to behave badly – it is about addressing those issues with compassion and a quiet voice. I have already seen much improvement in their responses to me. After all, one of the main ways they learn is through modelling behaviour.

I think through why they might be acting the way that they are. It could be that they are tired, over stimulated, haven’t eaten enough. There are always a myriad of reasons why children behave badly and it is rare that it is out of some vindictive need to torment their mother no matter how often it feels that must be the case.

Over the past week I have been considerably more attentive to their needs and finding that they are much more considerate of mine (could be imagining things…).

I’ll keep you posted as to how it goes, but my husband and I have had a great chat about it and we are agreed. Our parenting approach is first and foremost “kindness”. Pour in the love!

Everything changes, I mean, everything changes

During a chat with a dear friend of mine, she reminded of that old chestnut, “everything changes”. You don’t like the way something is right now, don’t worry, just wait and it will change – guaranteed.

This is a really liberating concept for any parent. No, your child is not going to cry forever, they will eventually fall asleep. Your child isn’t always going to be so fussy about food (I have learnt this one the hard way). Your child will stop tormenting their sibling eventually.

Buddhism for Mothers reminds us that it is not the event that upsets us, but our attachment to that event. This doesnt mean being passive, it just means to go with the flow of the moment, and know that it will change, as will your feelings about it.

So, everything changes. Your children’s behaviour and also your responses and feelings to that behaviour.