Running and participating in various endurance races has become part of my identity. If we have met, it’s probably been at a race, on a run, or I mentioned running or something that involves a lot of sweating in a conversation.
The fact that I enjoy competing in races that have distances people would prefer to drive isn’t a secret. While out with friends, Starkey mentioned that I had run through the area they were hanging out and someone said, “Where hasn’t your wife been running?”
It’s become such a huge part of my identity that getting injured last year and being unable to participate in very little physical activity caused me to question my entire existence. Is that a bit dramatic? Probably.
I'm not dramatic... I am just a bit theatrical.
I was cleared to return to physical activity a few weeks ago and I’m starting from ground ZERO. Building strength, flexibility, endurance, and mental grit from the bottom has been challenging for me. But, it’s also something very familiar to me. It wasn’t THAT long ago that I experienced starting from nothing. Buckle up kids… story time.
As a kid and young adult, I was athletically inclined. I was in every sport my parents would allow me to participate and my summers were filled with swimming and volleyball summer camps, my autumns were for volleyball and cross country, winters dedicated to basketball and soccer, and I rounded out the spring with a solid track season. I lived the sweat life from the age of 7 until college.
Once college began, I traded in my sneakers for party shoes and that sweat life turned in to fast food and keg life. Let me just say, being able to lift a burger to your mouth three or more times a day is NOT the same as lifting free weights. And, I hate to say it, but doing a keg stand isn’t equivalent to push-ups. During these years, I lost the motivation and desire to exercise and compete. That part of me went into hibernation.
After college, I invested in a few cook books, saved fast food for cravings, and kissed keg parties goodbye. I picked up a little swimming here and there but that desire to become active was still asleep.
When I made the move to San Diego, I was impressed with how many people were out being active ALL THE TIME. I started to miss the feeling of being tired from a good workout. For the first time in my life, I acquired a gym membership. It had been YEARS since I had touched any kind of gym equipment and all these new fancy machines were WAY over my head. I was absolutely lost, did not know where to start, and my pride kept me from asking for help. I stuck to what was easy for me: elliptical.
I would watch the group classes with more and more curiosity every day and finally, I decided to pop into a “killer core” class. I mean, it was only 30 minutes… I used to be a stellar athlete… it’s got to be like riding a bike… how hard could it be?
[INSERT DAYS OF LAUGHTER]
After being unable to laugh, eat, or move my midsection for a week, something inside of me rumbled awake. I. Was. MAD. How could this weenie 30-minute class get the best of me! How is this possible?? I used to be solid, strong, and unstoppable! I used to be fast!
I went back to that core class again. And I was down for the count again. I went to a 60-minute circuit boot-camp class after that. And, it was during this class where I discovered just how out-of-shape I had become. Towards the end of the class, the trainer had us do push-ups for a minute. I got into a nice plank position with my feet pointed on the floor and went down…. And couldn’t get back up.
I couldn’t do it. I could not do one push up.
I dropped down to my knees and did as many knee-push-ups as I could (which wasn’t many). I left the gym that night defeated but determined.
I went back into the gym after this humbling boot-camp class and consulted with the same trainer that led the classes I had been attending. I started working with him on a regular basis. In the beginning, I couldn’t lift much, and my endurance was horrendous. Trainer was patient and encouraging. He wrote every exercise down for me to take home and do on my own that week in the gym. I kept going to group classes. I invested in more cookbooks. And I would leave the gym every day tired, aching, but satisfied knowing I was doing my best. I wasn’t personally seeing any progress yet, but I was refusing to let the puny no-push-up girl win. I was rebuilding her.
One day during a training session with trainer, I told him how I couldn’t do push-ups in that first boot camp class and how that had sparked this desire to get back in shape. During that same session, I did five burpee pull-ups… WITH THE PUSH UP.
This was the first time I had witnessed real progress and I left the gym feeling overwhelmed with a different kind of pride. I had accomplished those burpee pull-ups because I worked HARD. It validated my time, money, and effort. I didn’t start going to the gym to look better or feel better. I went back searching for the competitive part of me, and I found something better. Something I like to call the “finish line feeling”.
Soon after this training sesh, I signed up for a Tough Mudder. I signed up for a marathon. I kept signing up for this race and that race. I kept on chasing that Finish Line Feeling of getting faster and seeing myself continuing to progress.
The Finish Line Feeling is not something you can get from anyone else. It’s something you grow and create for yourself. It doesn’t have to be running or anything related to physical activity! It comes from facing a challenge head on, falling down, and choosing to keep going. Des Linden, the first American woman to win the Boston Marathon (and an amazing human that loves coffee and whiskey and we were basically twins separated at birth but she got all the fast genes which is fine BUT ANYWAY), has some great advice: KEEP SHOWING UP.
CAN I GET AN AMEN!
The end of the year, for a lot of people, is a time for reflection and we go into the New Year with new goals and a little bit of that new year momentum. My holiday wish for you is to find something that you have always wanted to do or try and keep showing up. Progress is often undetectable when we are trudging along. But, when you finally get to your “finish line”, and you are filled with this indescribable feeling, know that I am sending you a high five.
And here is Starkey with the legend Des Linden (lucky)