INSPIRED! - Days 8 - 14
Upon waking up this morning, my body greeted me with sore shins and calves. Evidently, now that I’ve figured out how to oxygenate while running, I’m gonna have to figure out how to run while my legs feel like someone is beating them with a bat. Luckily, I’ve had 4 kids, three of them with no pain medication so I feel up to the challenge. No way will it hurt even anywhere in the ballpark of labor AND it’s only gonna last 8 minutes. Today’s run is brought to you by the age old adage, “No pain, no gain.” As I neared the 3 minute mark, which brings me to a huge honeysuckle bush alongside the path I run on, the sight of the blossoms reminded me to take a huge deep breath with a sweet smelling reward. At the 4 ½ minute mark, I pass a neighborhood pond with a huge, gushing fountain in the middle. The fountain reminds me of the energy I have teeming in my body, ready to use even when my brain tries to tell me I’m tired and out of shape. Around 5-6 minutes it occurred to me that my calves actually hurt less now, not more which was a nice surprise, especially because by this point I’d also started to feel out of breath. I said a little thank you to God for functioning leg muscles. Any pain I put up with has nothing to do with design and everything to do with user misuse, or more accurately underuse. Every day, I make it my plan to pace myself well, starting slow and then settling into a comfortable speed, but then finishing really strong and fast in the last minute. Every day of course I’m running farther and farther along this path, which I’m not yet familiar with. Today, as I rounded a corner and my stopwatch settled into my last minute, a monster hill appeared in front of me. I couldn’t even see the end of it. Oh, the irony. So today, finishing strong did not mean speed up,but I did run up that hill. Thankfully, the stopwatch went off only about halfway up the hill. Today’s shoe picture is taken with my toes on a steep incline while inside I repeated to myself, “Don’t think about tomorrow, don’t think about tomorrow.”
Day 9-The Path of Least Resistance:
Remember the giant hill from day 8 that I ran only part of the way up? It occurred to me that if I were to simply run the opposite direction on the path, I would trade a massive uphill struggle for a nice long downhill stretch. So, I chose the literal path of least resistance and largely due to that decision completed the 9 minutes with actual enjoyment.
After finishing, I thought about that whole concept of choosing the path of least resistance. Both my inner wiring and a large part of American culture tell us that success is more valuable, more admirable if it’s gained by traveling the most difficult path. In this current goal of running a minute per day of the month, adding a minute a day to my goal is simply time and consistency. Simply run for the whole duration of time allotted for the day. No more, no less. No mileage requirements and certainly no terrain requirements of any kind.
I think I’ve accepted this as an inner truth in other areas in my life and as a result arrived at some goals so exhausted and so bitter that I couldn’t even enjoy it. Conversely, I’ve even failed at some goals, where maybe I could have succeeded, had I chosen an easier strategy. The greatest example of this is that as an 18 year old college student I decided to pursue a 4 year degree in just two years. The hill was way too high and I ended the “race” beat up and most notably without a degree. My perfectionist nature often over-complicates my goals. I am forever working to quiet my inner voice of “More, and better, not good enough.” The most ironic part of choosing to take the path of least resistance is the “choice” aspect. I submit that anytime there is a choice to accept the easier path and still arrive at the same goal we should choose the more enjoyable path with no apologies. The truth is, in life we won’t always have a choice. Inevitably, there will come a point where the only way to reach a goal or to move through a period life is uphill. That’s the time to dig in and accept the hard path-when it’s the only path that rewards and when the paths of least resistance are completely blocked or actually lead you away from your goal.
I ran 10 minutes straight today without stopping. What’s special about this day? I am confident that I have never, in my entire 37 years of life run ten straight minutes without walking or stopping. Not even as a kid. I was that kid that either pretended I was sick on mile run day or just walked most of the way, running for a few seconds only when the gym teacher's eyes were directly on me. So, for today I’m allowing myself to fully celebrate that. This also happens to coincide with mother’s day, which is greatly convenient for celebrating purposes.
My mind and my body don’t always agree. This has never been more apparent than during the last 2 or so minutes of my runs. My rogue mind says things like, “You’re out of breath, you should stop because breath equals life. Therefore if you’re out of breath that must mean you’re about to die”, and “That burning in your calves is really uncomfortable. If you stop running, your calves will stop hurting.”
It occurred to me today that while, “listen to your body” is great advice, I usually am not actually listening to my body. I’m listening to my mind! As it turns out, that’s not the same thing. The biggest issue with this is that my mind doesn’t have a whole lot of faith in my body. It’s like an overprotective helicopter parent striving to shield my body from any struggle or discomfort. My mind doesn’t particularly see the importance of running but my body wants nothing more but to live into it’s true purpose and strength. My body can maintain acceptable oxygen levels even when I’m breathing heavily. I know this because I’m not even dizzy or nauseous. My vision is clear and in focus. The soreness in my calves is necessary to the process of becoming stronger which is entirely welcome.
When my timer went off today, signaling the completion of my 11 minute run, I looked down preparing to snap the day's sneaker picture. Right there at my toes sitting in a puddle were two sticks lined up perfectly, creating the number 11.
I’d be lying if I said every single day of this is a joy. That I dart out of the house excited for the days challenge every time would be untrue. For example-Today: I have 4 kids. My morning began half an hour behind schedule, with my youngest two children ages 8 and 3 determined not to be happy for even one single minute. The townhouse community where I live hired a company to come out and cut down trees. The workers parked their giant wood chipper right in front of my house. Because of this, the dog spent the morning in loud protest of the strange loud machine outside. After being interrupted three separate times I finally escaped my house half hour after I had planned. The one obvious perk of this is the promise of at least 12 minutes of silence and solitude. Nevertheless, switching your mindset from highly annoyed to calm and resolved in a short two minute walk to the running path is easier said than done and I didn’t quite succeed at leaving the stress of today’s parenting situation behind in the house with the kids. I began my run with only a partial supply of energy having already used up much of it on the kids and dog. Despite all of that, 12 minutes were run. They were not particularly enjoyed, or done with enthusiasm and that’s okay. Some days we just check the box. It’s enough to know that despite all outside forces working against us, we still checked that box or in this case, took the shoe picture.
I do a daily prompted journal every morning. Every day it asks, “What’s one thing you could do today that would make you proud of yourself?” When I first started that journal the concept of purposely aiming to create a reason to be proud of myself and then actually allowing myself to lean into that pride of accomplishment was foreign to me. At first, I struggled to engineer a new reason every day to elicit that sense of pride. This running project has given me a simple way to answer that question every single day without the need to overthink it early in the morning. Every day now my answer is “Run one minute more than you could yesterday.” Every day my run is complete by ten a.m. at the very latest. If the rest of the day is a lost cause, at least by 10 am, I’m proud of myself and have most likely accomplished the most difficult task of the day. (This may be a gift specific to living in Corona quarantine, but that feeling of victory so early in the morning has such a joyful impact on the rest of my day).
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the concept of “baseline.” I have two children with a chronic illness-mitochondrial disease. In the chronic illness community, we use the term “baseline” to describe what the person looks like and is capable of when the disease is being well managed and supported. We use the terms “crashing” or “disintegrating” when a person’s disease symptoms are raging and they are not capable of functioning well as a result.
It’s important to note that no matter how long the person is in crash mode we don’t just accept that as their baseline (except in extreme circumstances). We know that this is the time to pour on extra support and possibly make changes in the way we’ve been treating them. While it’s harmful to prematurely push or expect a return to baseline before the person has time to rest and heal, baseline always remains the ultimate goal.
I realized a few days ago that I had made the mistake of redefining my baseline before I had actually fully returned to it. When my son first began struggling with his health about 7 years ago, his physical crash signaled the beginning of a physical/mental crash on my part. I put every last bit of energy and focus into caring for him and my other two children, even the energy I had normally reserved for taking care of myself.
Years later, I’ve begun to think of some things that were commonplace when I was operating at my true baseline as now “extras” and “above and beyonds”. As a result, I approach these things with a perspective that says I’m forcing myself to do something abnormal or unnatural. It makes sense that our mind and bodies are always aiming to maintain or return to baseline. So, if my mind thinks I’m doing something away from my normal baseline, it’s a struggle to maintain. It feels awkward and hard and out of place. However, here’s the amazing part. Unlike in the chronic disease world, I get to determine my baseline. Partly based on history and very much based on personal values it’s up to me to declare my own personal definition of what I look like, who I am when I’m at baseline. For example:
I am a person who wakes up every day with a plan.
I am a person who honors and supports my own well being just as well as
I do for my children.
I am a person who isn’t afraid of a challenge
I am a person who sleeps well every night and therefore has energy during the day.
I am a person who eats food that is whole and life-giving. I am a person who runs.