No lamb, no garden, no immaculate conception but there IS something about me.


The three mile sweet spot

I'm on the verge of accomplishing something that I've been working towards the last couple of years. For most people this would mean excitement and anticipation yet for me it means panic and uncertainty. I've never been afraid of failure (although to be honest, I'm a bulldog and refuse to fail at much). Failure is something I can handle, I've always got a plan B in the wings and just move along towards that. Instead I have a fear of accomplishment. When you work so long and hard at something and all of a sudden it happens there is almost a "now what?" mentality that follows and shortly after that the fear of whether or not I can maintain the goal. Everyone has their weak points in life and there is mine: if you finally get exactly what you want how long will you be happy with it? And how long will it last? So maybe it's less a fear of accomplishment and more of a fear of maintenance. Who knows, I'm not right so it's probably best not to delve too deeply.

That being said I approach every run the exact same way. I'm almost always certain that I won't make the mileage I have set for myself. I'm too cold, my socks are making my feet slip in my shoes, my stomach hurts, I 'm too tired, I exaggerated the mileage I ran the week before, etc etc.

 Every. Run.

I always start off with the idea that I will only go as far as I can and then I will walk if needed. Even when I'm banging out 40 mile weeks and my long runs are 10-15 miles I tell myself this because I'm convinced I can't go more than 2 miles. I always start out cautiously, mentally weighing all of the factors I've built up in my head that will ruin my run for the day. I will whine and moan through the first few miles, thinking about how in 10 steps I will have to give in and walk. And then magically, like clockwork, at mile 3 everything falls into place. My brain finally stops, my muscles start smoothing out, my stride lengthens and it's just me and my feet racing past the world. I have no idea how or why this happens but you can ask anyone who runs with me to confirm that it does. At mile 3 I stop talking to anyone, stop hyping them up to get through the run, stop paying attention to where they are and I go into autopilot. When I talk about why I love running I am talking about what happens to me after this 3 mile sweet spot. I live for those miles, when my overactive brain finally gives me a break and thinks of nothing else but my breathing and my stride and the road.

I'm an overthinker, an overachiever, a textbook Type A only child. I swear I've been pushing myself from the womb to go bigger and farther than I thought I could because once I've accomplished one thing I'm looking for the next. Easygoing isn't a personality trait that I have, sad to say. I need my life planned out every second for the next 5 years or I'm in a panic. Running, to date, has been the one thing that slows my brain down and makes me focus in the moment. Regardless of if you're like me or not I think that society pushes us more and more to think and be and do. A bachelor's degree in college is no longer a terminal degree for a good job as everyone has one. Do you need a master's, a PhD, an MBA? If you start a new job what is your career goal to move up and how long will you give yourself to accomplish it? If you get a new car how long do you plan to keep it before upgrading to the latest and greatest? If you buy a house are you going to build a brand new cookie cutter suburban dream or get a fixer upper and create a beautiful blog about vintage Italian door knobs and antique Italian linens that you've spent 10 years scouring shops and roadside sales for? When does the pressure to do more, be more, accomplish more end? And when do you stop pushing yourself so hard?

These external pressures will always be there. Keeping up with the Joneses will always be there. But in order to combat it you need to find a way to slow down and think about nothing for a while. Exercise is probably the best way to do that whether it's something you can see now or not. I think there's a reason that so many women have latched on to Zumba: it's fun, energetic, you get to dance and more importantly there is NOTHING else to think about for that hour that you're dancing your butt off next to a blue haired older lady who's getting down to Pitbull in a way that you can only pray her mortified grandchildren never see. But who cares? She has stresses too and she's forgetting about them to work on being fit and having FUN.

My best advice is to try one thing you've always wanted to. Running, Zumba, hiking, spinning, swimming, a triathlon, anything physical. Yes, you'll probably look ridiculous doing it for a while. Much like the first three miles of my runs sometimes you just need to suck it up and get out there and do it. But once you find the one activity that you click with not only will you stop caring how you look, you'll stop caring about anything but what's going on in that moment. And it is by far the best thing you can do for yourself mentally and physically.

That being said I am never buying those damn cargo pants all the other crazy ladies wear to Zumba. I am not.

1 comment:

  1. I hear you about getting to a point where you're brain gives you a break Mary. Excercise really can get you to that point; especially cardio workouts. Exercise can really help to lower your stress levels.