I was thinking last night about how I have changed my mind over the last three years while I’ve been working on losing weight and getting healthier. I’ve always been confident in most of my abilities, I’m pretty smart and independent, I’ve taken care of myself and others from a very young age and fortunately, never made any life changing mistakes or been in bad situations.
But when I started out to lose weight I thought I would do it by diet and maybe walk a little to gain muscle tone. I never thought of exercise as something I would fit into my life on a regular basis. I liked hiking, but my physical condition made it difficult and not fun so I didn’t do that much anymore.
I was never a physically active child, I preferred my books to being outside. I loved to ride my bike to a park and then sit and read under at tree until it was time to go home and then ride home. It was just a means of transportation for me, not something I really enjoyed. I sometimes played hopscotch, but I wasn’t very good at it and I hated, hated, FourSquare and Dodge Ball and British Bulldog and Red Rover. I walked to school every day because that’s what everyone did back then.
In Grade 2, we had a teacher who started morning and afterschool yoga practice. Since I was always there early I joined in. I did yoga twice a day, every school day from Grade 2 until I left that school mid-Grade 6. I don’t recall loving the practice, some of the poses were hard and the teacher was relentless that they be “perfect” and since I was the only one who went consistently, she really pushed me. Although I didn’t like the physical aspect so much, I liked the quietness, the solitude, the weird music and how I would be left alone with my own thoughts.
I never tried out for or joined sports teams at school. I was coaxed into the Track and Field team one year as a sprinter but I hated it although I fell into the middle of the pack and if I pushed I could sometimes come in the top 3. But I wasn’t interested. I hated cross country running and would do anything to avoid it.
I’m very much an introvert and solitary soul, I like being alone most of the time so team sports never appealed to me. In fact I sometimes am overwhelmed after too many days in a row of too much “company” and need to retreat to regain my balance. Crowds are anathema to me.
As an adult, I thought I wasn’t athletic. I tried group fitness classes in the 80’s and early 90’s and did not enjoy them. I am uncoordinated and found it really hard to step, swing, jump all at the same time! I did enjoyed Aquafit, I think because I loved the weightlessness of the water, but I preferred to go alone and do water jogging with my weight belt than take classes.
Last summer when I restarted the Couch to 5K program (for the third time) I wasn’t entirely convinced I would finish it. I was almost certain I’d not be able to run 5K straight. The first time I ran 20 min without stopping was huge for me, more so than running 5K the first time two weeks later. My endurance since then has certainly increased and so has my confidence. I know I can run 5-7K pretty much anytime I want. Put on my shoes, warm up walk – go. There’s no “what if I can’t finish” “what if I have to walk?”. I will finish – not first, but I will finish.
I am good at committing to other people, if I say I’m going to meet someone to exercise, barring some uncontrollable circumstance – I will be there even when I don’t want to be and this has what kept my running schedule so consistent from when I started running with Guenther last summer to my Running Clinic girls this year. I am not so committed to myself….but I am getting better.
Yesterday we had 34C temperatures with humidity making it feel like 40C+ and a smog alert. I knew it was probably not smart to run in that heat, but my first thought wasn’t , “I can’t do this”, it was, “I can do this.” Just put one foot in front of the other and run just like you always do and keep breathing. It was hard, by 15 minutes breathing was really hard and we had chosen a trail for it’s shade but it also has huge hills, up and down. By about 19 minutes I could not get my breathing back and I was feeling prickly heat down my back and arms. I walked the rest of the way which was still hard. It took another 15 minutes to get my breathing regulated. Did I fail? Hell no. I did something a year ago I would not even have attempted. A year ago, I would have waited til the sun went down (remember Guenther?) and braved mosquitoes rather than the heat. I’m not saying it was smart to run in that heat. But I did all the right things, I hydrated all day, I dressed in moisture wicking clothes, I carried water and sipped about every 10 minutes and I stopped when I realised it was foolish to risk my health to continue.
When I compare myself to people who run or walk marathons, or go rock climbing or handgliding, my accomplishment is not so huge – but I am not just changing my body, I am changing my mind and the way I see myself. I may not be naturally athletic, but I can learn and train and improve. There is no failure in running 5k in 40+ minutes, the failure is not trying. Success isn’t being the first to cross the finish line, it’s crossing the finish line no matter how hard it is and I am slowly believing that.
Everyone is born with a set of genetic physical, emotional and mental abilities and then our environment mould those abilities in various ways. This does shape our lives but we are not in straitjackets.
Some success comes when we push past our boundaries. Real success comes when we believe there are no boundaries.