“To make gains means to be willing to hurt. ‘Hurting’ is different from being hurt or getting hurt. Hurting means to sacrifice. It requires commitment, and most importantly, passion. To hurt without passion is foolhardy. To claim a passion but refuse to hurt in its pursuit is not passion but wistful, magical thinking.”~Charles R. Nixon, Ph.D.
I keep coming back to this quote since first reading it several days ago. It stands out to me because I have been guilty of both. I have been the foolhardy soul who has been determined to go after something, put in a lot of time and effort, sacrifice and commitment, only to find I was not truly passionate about that something. I have also engaged in the wistful, magical thinking of believing I was passionate about something without putting my all into that something, unwilling to hurt in that pursuit.
What does this have to do with now, you might ask? Why has it been on my mind this week? I would venture to guess that it has been so prominent because of where I am in my journey with running. I know my tendency is to jump into some things with grandiose ideas of what might be accomplished with little thought to the effort needed to realize those would-be accomplishments. I know that sometimes trial and error are necessary when searching for something worthy of a high level of dedication and sacrifice. But, I have had my fill of trial and error. At this stage in my life, it is time to find that something(s) about which I am truly passionate.
I have been questioning whether or not I am repeating the same patterns of my past with my current interest in running. I have been wondering if I am really willing to invest in myself, long-term, to continue running and experiencing the fruits of my labor. Or, will I decide in a couple months time that this just isn’t for me and go searching for something else? Will I, again, be struck with wanderlust and seek out a different exercise venue in which to throw myself? I cannot answer these questions from a years-down-the-road, long-term perspective, because none of us can really know how life will change and what curveballs might come zipping our way. I can, however, answer them short-term, in that I have experienced a change in mindset. I don’t know if it is because of my age, my education, my experience to date, etc., or a combination of factors, but it is there. I still go through the ebb and flow, as any runner does, within my runs, within any given week or month, of feeling good and feeling not so good. But, the feeling good, the results I am experiencing, are so much more prominent in my mind than the days I don’t feel as good. It is this mindset that is different for me.
Sometimes my body hurts and sometimes it feels great…even in a short 4-mile run. I go through the ups and downs of feeling the weight of my legs and the effort it takes to carry me, at times. I feel the burning in my lungs and know when my heart and lungs are not working together, but I also feel when they are working together. I feel the stress in my feet but I also feel as though I am running on air, at times. I feel the sweat pour down my body…sometimes I beg for a cool breeze or rain, other times I am content to feel the heat radiating from me, knowing the effort I am putting forth. My mind is sometimes my worst enemy, as I focus on the negative, the difficulty, the hardship, the utter difficulty with which I place one foot in front of the other. My mind is also my greatest ally, as I focus on the positive, the benefits, the commitment I am honoring, the sheer grit and determination I demonstrate to myself, each and every time I make a decision consistent with my body’s needs. Sometimes a good decision is one in which I choose not to run, or to shorten my run, to allow my body time to adapt and become more fit. Other times a good decision is to push myself beyond my comfort zone to find new boundaries that are less confining than previously perceived limitations. Sometimes I make good decisions; sometimes I don’t. I am still learning to know when my body is truly in need of something and when my mind just wants me to stop. As my husband said to me the other day, it concerns him that I may push myself too hard at times because I may not allow myself to walk when necessary, that I may go out too fast on a longer run, that I may push myself to always better my time instead of just enjoying the experience of the run. His concerns are valid. I am highly competitive, by nature, and I don’t back down when I have set my mind to something. I have had to rethink this strategy over the past several months and I am beginning to see the wisdom in being fluid and flexible, willing to change things up, whether mid-run or otherwise.
Learning to be fluid and flexible in my runs has definitely played a role in the change I am experiencing in my attitude towards running and towards myself. I am enjoying the runs themselves and I am reveling in the changes I see occurring as a result of my commitment and dedication to running. The “hurt” I feel when I am out on the road or trail is so worth it. I find myself almost obsessing about where I will run my next run, almost immediately after completing a run. I wake up thinking about running. My comment when I got home the other day, from an 8 mile run went something like, “Wow, that felt great today! In the next few weeks or so, I can see going for a 9 or 10 mile run!” This was all in one breath. No longer do I look for excuses to miss a workout. No longer do I cry and whine about a particularly difficult run (well, at least for the most part, anyways). No longer do I feel the need to tell everyone about how sore or bad my body feels. No longer, no longer, no longer. Instead, I talk and think about how good I feel, how strong I feel, how I am tired from a satisfactory perspective, how my mental strength is increasing.
There is a freedom that comes with dedication, commitment, and sacrifice. A freedom that I am experiencing at an ever increasing level. I like this. I like this, a lot.