I realized today that now is the perfect time for me to start this blog. I went out for a run today and I fell apart. I fell apart because not so long ago, my average miles per minute were three minutes faster than my current. I fell apart because I am still only just regaining the strength it takes to do push ups… well, more than 10 or so. Burpees? Getting back into those too. I’d like to say that life just knocked me on my ass and it took me a while to get up again, but what actually happened was far more slow, subtle, and deadly. Like a disease that grows stronger over time, depression had set in after several somewhat significant life changes and, being the bubbly, optimistic, athletic person that I was, I didn’t see it for what it was until I was so deep into the thick of it I was locking myself in the bathroom to cry.
This blog post isn’t about depression, but it is important you know where I am now, at the precipice of a new beginning. A year ago I would have approached this blog as an expert, even though I wasn’t. I would have approached it as a fitness guru, even though I was (and am) still studying for my personal trainer certification. I would have approached it as a health nut, even though I often ate whatever I wanted. I would have done so because at the time I felt like I was on top of the world. The fact of the matter is, I wasn’t. I was at the bottom of a mountain, and I was about to go for a climb.
I follow fitness blogs and personalities with great respect and admiration. I read about those who have been there and conquered. Sometimes I have taken their “here’s how to get to where I am” advice to heart and sometimes I have allowed it to fuel the depression, seeing their success as somehow a failure on my part. I have great respect for the guru’s- for those that have been there, done that, and written the book (or blog as it may be). I follow people like Amber Klein on Instagram (@amberklein7) and I am amazed at her strength, grace, fortitude and attitude, to say the least. To be where she is one day would be a great triumph… but at this very moment, as I write this blog, that is not who I am. I have not conquered. Not fully anyway and that is what is so perfect about the timing of starting this blog. I am not writing from the position of someone who has been there and made it to the other side. I am writing from the position of someone who is there, right in the middle of it. I have more good days than bad now, but every now and again that horrible beast rears up its head and I find myself right back in the thick of it, tears and all.
As you recall, I mentioned above I fell apart in my run today. Here’s a glimpse of what it looked like. I got so pissed off at myself that I growled at the top of my lungs and threw my cell phone and wrestled with my now tangled up ear buds.
I at least had enough sense left in me to throw my phone into a bush so I was able to retrieve it unharmed, unlike the unfortunate cell I serendipitously came across toward the end of my run. Still, I must have been such a sight to see: a 35 year old woman acting like a toddler. I then proceeded to run as fast as I could for two miles, pushing myself so hard, I cut my average minutes per mile pace by two minutes. That’s right, for the first time in nearly a year, I ran. Hard.
While I was running I had to clear out a lot of garbage thoughts, the kind that keep you where you are and prevent you from moving forward. As my lungs were burning and my heart was beating and I was feeling more and more alive and determined than ever I realized something about myself. I realized I had forgotten a few things.
I had forgotten running hurts. Real endurance running hurts, the kind that improves your speed and makes you an actual runner verses someone who happens to jog or run. It is the discomfort that counts. Lately I had been jogging at a pace where you and I could hold quite a lively conversation.
I had forgotten that it is not the reps you do up until you think you’re done that count, it is the 3-5 reps past that. Lately, when the burn started starting, I started stopping (thank you Dr. Seuss for your wordplay).
I had forgotten that real progress happens outside of the comfort zone and that no amount of work, no matter how relentless will ever bring progress while you remain in your little bubble of comfort.
I had forgotten that what I put into my body was just as important as the effort coming out of my body. I had been eating whatever I want without regard because I had come to think of myself as a “generally healthy eater” yet when the depression set in, the cravings changed to some pretty unhealthy stuff: fried, sugary, processed. In other words, garbage.
I had forgotten that to be who I want to be in the future, I have to be her today.
That’s why now is such a perfect time for Ready, Set, Spartan. Because as our family embarks on this journey, I well and truly am at the beginning again. I have to acknowledge who I am right now, and I have to love her, but I also have to start being who I want to be.
This morning I needed to feel the anger; it fueled my determination. Maybe you need to feel it too. It’s ok to get pissed off or even just be dissatisfied with where you are in your journey. What matters is what you do with that information. You can choose to bottle your feelings. You can eat them away. You can disappear into Netflix and live vicariously someone else’s adventure. Or you can take that anger and run. Hard.
I didn’t mention this earlier, but I had gone on this run with my husband. The man who could have run circles around me followed patiently behind me every step of the way. When I was pushing as hard as I could he never spoke a word, of encouragement or judgement. He was just there, with me, a silent ally, not trying to fix me, not trying to help me feel better about myself, not trying to help me push harder. He was there for me.
Half way through the run, I took off my shirt and ran in my sports bra. This is something I haven’t done since I was a teen. It should have been unbelievably, terrifyingly difficult for me but it wasn’t. It was liberating.
I got to the end of what turned out to be two additional miles of zone running (holding pace at 85% of my max heart rate) feeling absolutely wiped. I handed my husband my phone and said simply “take my picture.” He understood, no explanation needed. It wasn’t because I was glowing or triumphant, or beautiful. It was because I needed to acknowledge who I am, right here, right now and stop lamenting the loss of year-ago me.
After he took the picture I couldn’t look at it right away. I was afraid of who I would see there. I had come to loathe who I was and it has come to affect how I feel about my physical appearance. It wasn’t until I went to add the pictures to this blog post that I even looked at them. I was shocked. The woman I saw was not what I had imagined. She was strong, beautiful, triumphant. She had gained some weight lately, but she had also pushed herself harder that day than she had in months. She had recognized herself going down a path that wasn’t for her and she had taken the first steps (literally) to turn herself around. So here I am, no ripped abs, no gleaming muscles, just the will power and determination to get there.
As I ran I realized where my platform is. It is among the crowd, the mass of people gathering on the backside of a wall as a man holds a microphone up and shouts “what’s your profession??” (AROO AROO AROO) I am the one struggling next to you to get over the ten foot wall or burpeeing out of the rope climb. I don’t even run the competitive Spartan races (yet) but every open race I run I am competing, against the most important foe I can: myself.