I ran yesterday. For the first time in at least five months. And I ran 5 km. Well, actually, I ran 5.7 km thankyouverymuch. Actually, it’s more accurate to say I ran 6-7 minutes at a time sprinkled with some walking breaks because apparently you’re not supposed to go from not running at all to running 5 km, especially when you’re injury prone, which I think we can all agree that I am. But I am starting to digress.
I came out of that run feeling the most positive about a run that I’ve felt in a long time, which I assure you is not my usual state. I’m usually one to be highly self-critical, to beat myself up about how far I have to go, how much slower and less fit I am now than I used to be. To be sure, those thoughts crossed my mind throughout my run. In fact, a running tally of my thoughts would have looked something like this:
Okay, here we go. We are doing this. Yes we are. Oh my god, have I really only run two blocks? This is not a good sign. Okay, wait, this downhill stretch is kind of nice. I got this. No wait, I was wrong, this ever-so-slight incline sucks. I don’t got this. Just slow your roll. This is your first run in months. There’s no hurry. You’re not going to win any races. Ah crap, other runners, I better pick up my pace so I don’t look completely incapable. How did I used to run these hills like they were nothing? This is the shortest hill ever and I am dying. I think that man is walking faster than I am running. I think I could walk faster than I am running. Thank god that hill is over. Back to a reasonable incline and pace. Yeah, yeah I really do got this. Another hill. WTF. Okay, okay, this is starting to feel okay. This is so much harder than it used to be. I am so slow now. You haven’t run in 5 months. What do you expect? It should feel hard. You know what, it’s not bad that it feels hard. This feels great. I am running again, people. Running. This is awesome. I wanted to do this today and I am doing it. Breathe in. Breathe out. Keep moving. I forgot what this feels like. I did it. I am awesome.
See? There’s a whole lotta negative in there. But if you’ll notice, and you will because I’m about to point out, I ended with positive thoughts. This is the part that’s atypical for me. I’m proud to say that I’ve been working with my coach on letting go. What I mean by letting go is noticing all the pesky little unhelpful thoughts that go flitting through my head constantly, and proverbially letting them go in one ear and out the other. I’m still a major (major) work in progress in this area, but I noticed on my run that once I let go of the thoughts about how much faster, fitter, and better I should be at running, suddenly the run was great. I finished feeling accomplished rather than discouraged. I want to try to run again (after suitable recovery days and making sure my SI doesn’t act up). I felt good.
It’s hard to get into something, or get back into something, after time away, whether it’s running, working out in some other way, eating better, writing more, the list really does go on and on. What I learned from this run is that I am capable of letting go of all the negative chatter that makes me feel worse about a situation rather than better. I can run 5.7 km in 40 minutes and feel good about it even though I know that I used to run 8 km in the same amount of time, even though every other runner out there was going faster than me, even though I had to work in walking breaks. Instead, I can focus on the fact that I did it. I kept going.
If you’re trying to tackle new challenges in your life or recommit to old behaviors that you’ve let slide, I challenge you to pay attention to the critical, negative chatter inside your own head and see when and where it may be causing you to feel badly about your progress instead of celebrating your efforts. If you’re putting one foot in front of the other, literally or metaphorically, you don’t have time for that chatter. Let it go.