Progress is Slow

This photo is of me, sweating profusely after finishing 9 miles of running in my local “9 Mile Gut Check.” If you would have told me a year ago that I would run 9 miles straight and even kind of enjoy it, I would have thought you had the wrong girl.

I have found that this seems to be the way most big goals work. If you’re doing something challenging, it was probably way outside of anything you thought was possible at one point.

When I started training for the 9 mile race on May 29, I could barely run a mile. I wondered who I was kidding, thinking I could run 9 miles. I kept training.

As the training intensified and I began running 3 miles or so, I again wondered who I was kidding. I had run a few 5k races, but that was the farthest I had run in my adult life. After finishing a 5k, it felt like there was no way I could possibly run any further. I kept training.

Then I hit the 5 mile mark. This was probably the longest run I had ever done in my life. By the time I was in the 5-6 mile range, I began to realize something kind of magical. I decided it might be possible. I might actually be able to run 9 miles. I began feeling (strangely) kind of good during my runs. I dare say I even enjoyed it a little.

The miles kept creeping up. The weekend I did an 8 mile run, I felt phenomenal. My time was great, I felt good, and I knew I could conquer the 9 mile run.

Then I ran 9 miles the week before the race and tragedy struck. My right hip began hurting at about mile 5. It was a dull pain, so I didn’t think anything had popped or was broken, but it got slightly worse as I got up to mile 9. I finished the 9 miles, but once I quit running I could hardly stand up. I wasn’t sure I could walk the few blocks back to my house. I hobbled home, soaked in an epsom salt bath, and fearfully googled my symptoms.

Hip bursitis.

What I was reading gave mixed messages. My biggest concern was if I’d be able to run the 9 miles again the next Saturday at the race. With the pain I was feeling, it didn’t seem possible.

Thankfully internet information saved me. I took ibuprofen daily, did a rehabilitation stretching and exercise program three times a day (this one), and went easy on my runs during that week, even walking the short distance on Tuesday instead of running.

Race day came and I ran the entire race with little to no pain. I finished 13th and beat my desired time by a long shot.

Now I’m training for a half marathon. I never thought I’d type those words but I’m so excited about it.

The point of all of this is this:

As you work toward a goal, you get better, and it becomes less impossible.

We often see people at the completion of their goal. We see professional athletes hitting home runs, public speakers giving amazing presentations, researchers presenting on their new theories, and artists producing unbelievable masterpieces. What we don’t often realize is that these people were beginners at some point. Without all the practice and slow progress that got them to where they are, they wouldn’t be able to do the things they do.

Each week of running was simply building upon the training I had done the week before. There is no magical formula besides consistency.

I think I learned a lot more from all this running than just about how to run (let’s be honest, I’m still not a very good runner!). Mainly, I learned that with enough perseverance, you can go pretty far. 

 

 

What is a big goal you’ve achieved? Did you have to make slow progress toward it?

Also, would you like to see more about my training? It’s been a big part of my life these last few months, so I’d be happy to share what gear I use, what training plan I followed, or whatever else you’d like to know! Let me know if you have any questions about it!

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Identity = Habits

Have you ever encountered a habit that you’d like to make (or break) that seems to go against your nature? Maybe that means waking up early when you consider yourself a night owl or sticking to a budget when you consider yourself spontaneous.

For me, as long as I continue believing that I am not the type of person who does this or that, I won’t. Gretchen Rubin put this idea into words in her book Better than Before when she talked about the “Strategy of Identity” for behavior change.

Basically, one way to change a habit is to re-imagine yourself as the type of person who does that habit.

I used to run, but would proudly say “I hate running” when anyone asked. After signing up for and training for my 9 mile run (it’s two weeks away!), I have begun to see things differently. It’s not just running that I view differently, it is how I view myself. I find me referring to myself as a runner. I began to actually think of myself as a person who runs. This is helpful in getting out of bed and logging those long miles on Saturdays. It’s no longer a question of whether or not I can muster the willpower to put one foot in front of the other. I am a runner, and runners run.

I’ve been trying to use this approach to punctuality, and it seems to be working. I consider myself a fairly responsible grownup (most days) but have always had a problem being on time. I’ve started telling myself that responsible people arrive early to things, and since I am a responsible person (or so I tell myself), I must arrive early.

The use of this strategy seems limitless, as you can shift your identity focus for anything. I’m a big believer in the idea that changing your thoughts can change your world. For me, using this to my advantage means thinking about my identity and how it relates to what I do each day.

It also begs the question, “Who do I want to be?” Reminding myself of this question can really influence my thoughts. I want to be patient and kind and hardworking and growth-oriented. To start thinking of myself as striving for certain qualities leads me to naturally improve my habits.

What habit could improve in your life if you changed the way you viewed yourself?

Nassau, Charleston, and my First Cruise

I call it our “5 years late honeymoon.” My husband and I just got back from our anniversary cruise from Charleston, South Carolina, to Nassau, Bahamas. I have so much to say, so I’ll try to add pictures to keep things interesting.


First we drove from our home in the Midwest to Charleston. We managed to hit major cities during rush hour because that’s just what we do.

We boarded our new ride, the Carnival Ecstasy, and set sail for the Carribean.

The swaying and rocking of the ship didn’t make me nauseous, thankfully, but it did make my head feel fuzzy and disoriented. I slowly got used to it.

The first day we explored the ship and discovered that it was absolutely huge and that it was essentially an entire city floating in the water. Whatever your vice, you could entertain it on this ship. Food, drink, gambling, shopping, pampering, or exercise, it was all available. There were 14 decks to explore and we navigated all of them. The luxury was strange to us at first.

All the food and drink we tried were fantastic. There was a taco bar, a burger joint, 24-hour pizza and soft serve, and a fine dining room that was probably the nicest place I’ve ever eaten (we ate there every day!). All of that food was both free and seemingly unlimited. We had to pace ourselves to ensure we could still move the next day.

My husband and I have never gambled, so we thought this would be a nice opportunity to walk through the casino and watch the excitement (we’re both wayyyy to cheap to actually spend any money on gambling). We spent a few minutes watching some of the table games, and it was fun to see the clapping and excitement when someone did well, but we walked away with no more knowledge of gambling than when we entered.

On the formal dining evening, we got all dressed up and excited for our nice dining experience. I convinced my husband that we should take some photos while we were looking so fancy, and he decided the front of the ship would be a good place to start. Allow this photo to explain how windy it is there:

So I didn’t get any nice formal pictures of us, but I do think that one is a keeper. It’s a bit more realistic and a whole lot more fun. I was laughing so hard the whole time.

 

Nassau was not what I had expected. Getting off the cruise ship was like running through a gauntlet. There were all sorts of people hollering for my attention and my money. Within the first mile of the city, I was offered hair braiding, tee shirts, cuban cigars (I later discovered that the man with the fake cuban cigars was also the man to get other… ahem… smokes… from), coconut drinks, painted canvases, key chains, jewelry, liquor, and any other touristy thing you can think of. It was an experience, but not exactly the experience I was looking for. We walked far enough to find a nice beach and set up camp to float in the crystal clear water for a few hours. It was absolutely beautiful. We applied sunscreen 3 times that day and still managed to return with some nasty sunburns. I’m beginning to believe that the sun in the Carribean is not the same sun as the one that shines on the Midwest.

Back on the boat we went and back to the days of indulgence. We attended some amazing singing and dancing shows and some very funny (although raunchy) comedians who made you do that thing where you kind of look around before laughing to make sure you’re not the only one. There was also an extremely talented pianist who played at a fun singalong piano bar which I really enjoyed.

I even tried escargot. Hide your snails, or I might just come after them.

Then, we arrived back at Charleston and discovered what I think was the strangest part about the cruise- getting re-acquainted with solid ground. I felt perpetually dizzy and somewhat confused for THREE DAYS after arriving on land. It felt like the ground was moving. The brain is a powerful thing.

In Charleston, we spent a day exploring and took a tour of Fort Sumter. I joke that it wouldn’t really be a vacation for the two of us if it didn’t involve a museum of some sort.

Fort Sumter was jam-packed with history and amazing information about the Civil War. I learned a lot and am always fascinated with the idea of standing in locations that were monumental in history, like this fort which was the location of the first shots of the Civil War and changed hands throughout the war between the Union and Confederate troops.

We then stopped on a scenic street in Charleston and walked around a bit.

We found a delicious lunch spot and some really neat architecture. History seemed to be everywhere.

 

I’m thankful that we were able to save up the means to take this amazing trip. It was a wonderful celebration of our 5 year anniversary, and I had a really great time enjoying some wonderful places and fun relaxation.

Saying “No” to Something Good

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It’s been said that we sometimes have to say “no” to something good in order to say “yes” to something even better.

Anytime that we say yes to something, we are essentially saying no to something else. We can’t be two places at once, so for everything we do, there are an infinite amount of things we can’t do.

I can’t go see a friend and clean my house at the same time. I can’t go on a vacation and save that vacation money for a vehicle at the same time. I can’t spend every waking hour busy and be in tip-top physical and mental health at the same time.

For every “yes,” you are also having to say “no,” even if you don’t realize it.

The problem arises when choosing between two good things. There are many times I don’t really want to say no to anything. I wish I was career Barbie, who was simultaneously an astronaut and a teacher and a veterinarian and a flight attendant and a million other things. But this isn’t Barbie’s reality, and in my reality, I have to say no to a lot of things I really enjoy.

Today the thing I said “no” to was my job. I would like to point out that this is a job I absolutely love. But, I said “no” to something good in order to say “yes” to something better. Although I would have been happy to stay in that position for the rest of my life, furthering my education was a high priority for me and would also afford me the opportunity to have more choice in how exactly I served clients. I knew that staying where I was would be good, but furthering my education would be better.

So that’s what I did. Today was my last day of work and I will be starting classes soon. I think it’s helpful for me to frame this transition in this way, because the quitting part just isn’t much fun at all. Going after something better, though? That’s something I can say “yes” to.

Decisions

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Why do we make the decisions that we do?

I’ve been thinking of this lately. It’s interesting what motivates change, and soon I will be experiencing a lot of it.

For starters, I quit my job. Yes, the job that I love so dearly. As it turns out, it’s easy to quit a job that sucks the life out of you (been there) but quite a bit more difficult to quit a job that you look forward to each day. I’ve been working as a therapist at a community mental health agency for nearly two years. I would be entirely content to stay in this position for the rest of my life. And, you see, that’s the problem.

Although I would love to stay in this job forever, I would not have any opportunity for advancement. I also wouldn’t have a lot of options if something changed and I needed to look elsewhere for work. The only way to advance in this career is with more education.

I’ll be attending graduate school beginning this fall. The program that I chose will allow me to go in a few different directions after graduation: back into the counseling field, into a college teaching role, or into a PhD program. I would be thrilled with any of these options.

It was a big decision for me to make, but I feel it was the right one.

Another decision I made recently is to be open to the idea of blogging again. This may seem strange since I’ll be entering into a very intensive educational program in less than a month. What I’m considering, though, is blogging with a bit of a different end goal. Before, I was hoping to improve the lives of those in my audience. Now, I’d like to use this blog to improve my own life, and maybe it’ll improve yours in the process. I enjoy blogging, but trying to crank out content on a regular schedule to appease the masses is exhausting. Blogging is an outlet for me because I love writing and thinking about ideas. If I’m no longer doing that, it’s not helpful for anyone. Plus, I want this to be true to me and not some sort of manufactured clickbait.

So, yes, I hope to begin blogging more again. It’s probably going to look a little different than it did before. It may not be consistently posted on the same time on the same day. With my schooling starting up, there may be gaps with nothing posted because my nose is in a book. It may not even interest you, and that’s fine. I’m shifting my mindset to think of it as self-expression. You’re welcome to come along for the ride!