On feeling good

Well, I am certainly LONG overdue on an update. I vowed to get back to regular blogging and yet I somehow blinked and a whole month went by without a single post- whoops!

It’s no secret that I’ve had a bit of a challenging time since I ran the Chicago Marathon last October. I was sidelined due to an injury for quite some time, I was stressed beyond belief, I fell sick numerous times, I had to deal with some ongoing health problems and all of this led to me falling into a pretty long stretch of depression.

I’m not here to talk about everything that went wrong though, because for everything that hasn’t gone according to plan, there have been multiple positives and lessons along the way that have led me to where I am today, feeling good, strong and ready to tackle life (and marathon training!) again.

Last November I signed up for an eight week mindfulness based cognitive therapy program for people who live with anxiety and depression. While I can’t say that the course automatically made me a master in mindfulness or meditation (disclaimer: I still suck at both of these things!) there has definitely been a pretty positive long term impact for me. The biggest thing I learned from this course and everything that life has thrown my way recently is that there are many things that are out of my control, but how I deal with them is in my control. For me, I have learned that my reaction (getting worked up and overwhelmed) to everything that has happened is something I can control- and I can chose to disengage from this feeling by living in the moment.

So what has living in the moment meant for me these last few months? Well, a few things, but mainly, letting go of all of the things that I think I HAVE to do. (I think most people can relate to this constant battle of being pulled in many directions, trying to feel like we can fit it all in). For a large chunk of the last eight months, I had to let go of the idea that I had to be running and working out six days a week like I was used to. I gave up the idea that tapping in to my inner grit and continuing on as is was the secret to resilience. This was a challenge for me but it allowed for a few things: 1. proper healing of my injury (probably exacerbated by stress), 2. time to slow down and rekindle my passion for other things that I had let slip to the side (reading! writing! cooking! seeing friends!) and 3. the time to actually tackle some of my health problems that were impeding my life.

Living in the moment has also meant; not freaking out when my to-do list is not completed every day, going to bed with dirty dishes in the sink, catching up on TV shows with no guilt, getting actual, proper sleep, doing my physio moves (you know the ones you are told to do but never actually do? I actually do those now!) and spending more time just living life instead of planning it all the time. The only thing that was consistent in my life for the first half of 2018 was inconsistency- not having a set routine and the (self-imposed) pressure to do it all really felt good.

While I can’t say I have it all figured it out, one thing that I have learned is that at the end of the day, feeling GOOD is what this is all really about. No one will feel good 100% of the time but for so long I convinced myself that if I could just make time for this one more self-care activity or get in one more workout I would feel good. Sometimes self-care is learning to NOT do some of the things we think we should be doing.

Getting back in to running after such an extended time off was HARD. I felt like I was starting from scratch on so many occasions. If I had any pain, I stopped. This was frustrating beyond measure, but guess what? It paid off! Over time, my runs have become more easy. I am finally feeling like myself again and stronger than ever. I ran two 10k races this spring and while neither were PBs by any shot- my only goal was to get to the finish feeling like I gave it my best, pushed hard without killing myself but most importantly, feeling GOOD. I can happily say that I accomplished that in both races.

I think that this is the single most important tool I am bringing in to my current training cycle. With 109 days until the New York City marathon my only goal is to make it through this block feeling good and strong. Good doesn’t always mean easy. Sometimes it means pushing through a tough run but then not beating myself up for how much it sucked afterwards. Sometimes good means listening to my body and taking it down a notch even if that’s not what I want to do. Good also means learning to smile (it’s been shown scientifically that smiling while running actually can make running easier) and using positive self-talk when a run feels impossible. It means finishing each and every run, no matter how “successful” feeling glad that I got out there and put in the work. So much of what I want to change this time around is my mindset, and so far, I feel like I am on track.

I’m currently just over two weeks in to my training and here is how things are going: I am not daunted by the work I have to put in. While July is still all about building my base, I am approaching every day and every workout moment by moment. I try not to think about it too much and just get it done.

I think where I really “failed” last year was not focusing enough on recovery. Everything was about just pushing through and trying to succeed in literally every area of my life. This time around, I am reminding myself that running also means proper stretching, proper sleep and proper nutrition. This definitely makes it more of a time commitment but I’ve also noticed already that it makes a huge difference (duh?). This also goes along with some of the other stuff I mentioned above- if getting proper sleep means going to bed before emptying the dishwasher or putting my laundry away, so be it. I’m learning to let these things go in order to become a better athlete because we really justĀ can’t do it all, and that’s okay.

Oh, and I’m working with a coach! For so long, I was afraid to even ask anyone to coach me. I had the irrational thought of “why would someone ever agree to coach anyone so slow?” But through some of my reflections I have learned that I can’t expect anyone else to take me seriously if I don’t take myself seriously first and worked on reframing my irrational thoughts to “I am determined and ready to work hard and I want to find someone who can help me get there”. It’s amazing to have a personalized plan and I’ve also noticed already how much the accountability is helping me stay motivated and get out there when I really don’t want to.

More than anything, the shift in my mindset is what has changed the most since last year. My setbacks have been reframed as time to refocus, reprioritize and learn from my body and mind. While in the thick of it I was miserable, I now can see that it was one of the best things to have happened to me. I used to try so hard to just push through and do it all, but what I really needed was the exact opposite.

TL;DR:

To sum it all up, I’m feeling better than ever about training for a marathon. I’m motivated, excited, will try my best to get through it all with a smile on my face and not get overwhelmed. Stay tuned for more updates over the coming months as I embark on this journey towards the NYC marathon, I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds!

 

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