If you promise to stick around and read through until the end, I'll reveal the source of the life lessons I'm sharing today.
So, do you? Promise?
Okay, here goes: Running.
I know, I know. You hate running. At least, most of my friends and family members do.
This applies to you, too. I promise. So read on.
As you know, I'm preparing for my first triathlon in a couple of weeks (it's the Esprit de She in Tempe: http://bit.ly/1cn8jce - and if you want to do it too, use code EDS61 - they even have a duathlon event).
I got to thinking about how totally freaked out I am that I will drown and leave my children motherless or maybe crash my bike or maybe have to get saved by one of those people in a kayak in the lake or maybe get a flat tire or maybe take 4 years to finish it and miss out on the finish line champagne they give you. But then I thought - no, I can do this. How do I know? Well, I know because of what I've learned from running.
1. The first 10 minutes is always the hardest. If you are making a change or starting a new habit, or going for a run, the first stretch is always difficult. Yes, your heart is beating fast and you're short of breath and you feel like you might hyperventilate or maybe die. But you won't. Keep going, and it will get easier. It takes a bit of time for your body and mind to adjust to this new idea - to ANY new idea. It will get easier.
2. You can't practice the second half of the race without first practicing the first half of the race. You've got to put in the time. I can't tell you how many times I've headed out for a long run and thought, I wish I could start at mile 5 and practice running miles 5-10. Ha. Mile 5 is only mile 5 because 4 miles have come before it. It doesn't matter whether you're running or scrapbooking or biking or sewing. Or doing macrame or ballet. There are no shortcuts. You've got to put in the time.
3. You can do it. You can do anything. But only if you ditch the excuses, make it a priority, and DO it. Before my first race (which was a 10k - about 6 miles), I had only ever run 3 or 4 miles at a time. I honestly wasn't sure if I could run 6 miles. On race day, I ran 6 miles. Since then I've learned that with practice, I can run more than I'd ever imagined possible. How? I run. And run and run and run!
4. There is something really special about getting up with the sun to do something that makes you feel good. Getting up during that silent time between darkness and sunrise is almost like getting let in on a secret. Especially when you're going to do something you feel good about. There truly is nothing better than starting your day with something that makes you better (and often, that's something that makes you happy!).
5. Know your weaknesses and prepare for them. I'm terrible at math. Terrible. I wanted to run my first half-marathon in 2 hours or less. Remember - it's 13 miles. So I thought, I'll run 10-minute miles and hit that 2-hour mark. HAHA oops! I got to mile 6 in an hour and then realized I had 7 more miles to go. A couple years later, I wanted to run a half marathon faster than 1 hour and 45 minutes. I figured if I ran faster than 8-minute miles, I'd hit my goal. I got to mile 8 in 1 hour. So I was running 8 MILES PER HOUR which is actually FASTER than my goal pace ... but I messed up the math and thought I was running 8-minute miles. I was so discouraged I slowed down - thinking "I'm not going to make it anyway." I know, bad attitude. My friend writes her goal times for each mile on her arm - so she doesn't have to do the math while running. Anyway, know your weaknesses. We all have them. Plan for them!
6. Take SCHEDULED breaks, but never take a breaks just because you're wimping out. You're trudging up a hill, getting so tired, but the crest is in sight. Your muscles are burning, your lungs are burning, your heart is burning, you think you might die. Or maybe just keel over. DON'T QUIT NOW! Get to the top of that hill and THEN take a break. Quitting when you're super discouraged is defeating. Of course we all need breaks - and if you really need a break mid-way up that hill, just slow down and take it easy - but whatever you do, keep moving. You'll make it, and you'll be so glad you did.
7. Take it bit by bit, little by little. Nobody runs a marathon the first time they hit the trail. Take your journey - whatever it is - a mile at a time.
8. If you know you're going to run a marathon, conserve your energy. Come off the starting line at a reasonable pace so you don't peter out at the end. It's tempting, when you feel amped up and ready to roll, to blast off and go full steam. Be careful!
9. The road is rarely flat. Sometimes the change is so gradual you don't even notice you're going downhill until you're going uphill again. Relax on the downhills, power through the uphills. Remember, if you go down, you're probably going to have to go up, too.
10. Do what other awesome people do. Chances are someone has walked this path before you. How did he do it? Follow a plan. Get advice. When an old guy at the pool says "Hey, want a tip?" Take it. You might find out he's completed more than 100 triathlons and knows what he's talking about. People want to help you.
11. Talk nice to yourself. I know you're tempted to say things to yourself like "You're never going to finish this" or "I can't believe you even tried this" or "what the heck were you thinking?" Don't say that stuff. Say, "You can do this" or "There's wine at the end of this" or "You're having so much fun! This is AWESOME!"
12. Mindset is everything. Yes, sometimes you have to lie to yourself. My mom reminded me of this the other day when I complained about biking in the wind. It was SO windy, and it was gusting and slowing me down, pushing me off my straight path. She said, "Imagine it's a nice ocean breeze." So the next time I went on a windy ride, I lied to myself. I like the wind, I said. In fact, I love the wind. I sang little wind songs. I admired the way the wind blew the tumbleweeds across the road. I smiled when the wind blew a bug into my mouth. I was HAPPY it took me twice as long to ride back as it did to ride out. And I had so much fun! Okay, I'm lying to you, too, now. I didn't have SO much fun but it was better. Slightly.
13. Exercise releases stress. Feel like you want to lock yourself in your bedroom with a cocktail and turn the music up? Feel like you want to leave your kids a bowl of cereal and take off for the rest of the day? Want to kick something? Go for a run! No, really. Do it. That one small window of alone time, where you're sweating it out, taking the time to notice the world around you, is refreshing! Go forth. Commune with nature.
14. Fuel yourself. And reward yourself. For me this means wine. Lots of it. Just kidding. Give yourself what you need for the job. It might be carbs like pizza or pasta. Or it might be a tiny slice of time each day. Or an area in the house where you can meditate or do yoga or craft or whatever it is you're doing here. You can't succeed if you don't give yourself what you need. And when you DO complete a hard workout or a certain part of your project, reward yourself. You deserve it!
15. The friendships you make and develop when you're doing something to better yourself are unique and truly special. My mom has been helping me with swimming, my friend A has been helping me with biking, and I've talked a few people into running races with me. Hanging out with people who are encouraging you and rooting for you, and vice versa, is a powerful thing. We learn so much about ourselves and each other through these kinds of processes - and it really is more fun when the joy is shared.
16. You deserve to make time for something you enjoy. It's hard to find time when you have kids who have sports practices, school and school events, and the need to actually eat meals every single day. BUT give yourself some you time. Not only will they survive, but they'll also see you setting a great example of taking care of yourself as an adult.
Do you feel empowered now? Go forth and do something great!