We were at the park the other night for Day 9 training of the Spartan Beast Training Plan from life.spartan.com. Three of the bigs (two are with bio-mom) were doing weights and strength training, while the littles were climbing on the equipment. They brought a friend with them and the three of them were climbing up a pole, holding it for as long as they could, and counting for each other to see their individual times. While there was an edge of competition to it, they really weren’t as concerned with comparing times as they were with celebrating them. I would hear one of them exclaim “wow! you got two minutes and twenty seconds! That’s really good!” The competition was turned more inward with remarks like, “you held it a lot longer than me!” What’s interesting is there didn’t seem to be any resentment or hurt feelings in the tone of voice, only excitement and encouragement. I got to thinking we are really doing something amazing here.
Most of us don’t run competitively yet. We are still training to build strength and endurance. Mark has competed in Spartan races but stopped to help his wifey (me) and kids through the open races. He competes in local races, often placing, but is very humble with the kids about it. Michael and Asher run at their school in cross country and track respectively, but again, their triumphs are overshadowed by their love of the sport. What the twins, at eight years old, get to witness is not so much a love of winning, but a love of pushing ourselves, encouraging each other, and celebrating other people’s successes.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we’re perfect at it. Get us around a table playing Taboo or Scatagories and it is ON! Even then, however, we don’t always keep score. Sometimes we do. There needs to be situations when there is a winner and a loser. Everyone needs to learn defeat, triumph, and how to handle themselves with both. Sometimes, however, we just play to laugh, spend time together, and hone our skills for the next time it is competitive.
The kids do have their moments when winning is absolutely the only thing they are focused on and that’s good! Competitive spirits fuel people to push themselves, not just to be better than the competition, but to be better than their previous selves. It motivates people to be in a state of constant self-improvement, which often brings with it a form of enlightenment. Sure, there are those out there that compete simply for the win and who don’t care about the journey. They are selfish and outcome focused… but I’d also say they are rare. I was so proud to see that, at least at the park in that moment, my kids were not among that group. They were confident, they were strong, and they were encouraging each other!
I realized that in walking (or running or climbing) this journey together, we are modeling for our children a sense of communal growth and development that goes beyond the individual. When we run, they are often on their bikes. They don’t see us trying to out run each other, even though half of us can run circles around the other half. They see the “fasts” slowing down for the “slows.” They see the slows encouraging the fasts to speed up and go at their own pace- to push themselves. They see one of us stop to walk with a teen who has a cramp while the other stays ahead with the runners and bike riders, all working together for mutual self improvement. We’ve got a rhythm down, a system.
But we haven’t always. It wasn’t so long ago that I would get irritated at Mark any time he would pull ahead of me when we were running. I was (and still am) considerably slower than him and when he would speed up, I would be suddenly struck with anger and frustration. I had usually been good at pushing myself, no matter my current fitness level, or at least I thought I was. When he would push ahead it would make me feel discouraged because I knew I couldn’t go that fast. What’s worse, when he would say he was trying to push me, I would get so much more angry that I had to walk until my breathing was under control. Trying to explain to him that I was already nearly maxed, was already pushing myself as hard as I could, while also trying to maintain my pace, would send my heart rate skyrocketing (all the while, his was just fine). I thought he just didn’t understand. I thought he was just showing off. It was all his fault! Wasn’t it?
Um, no, it wasn’t. It was mine. I was in a place where I was so sensitive, I couldn’t have someone step in and outdo me. I wouldn’t even try to compete because I knew I couldn’t win. I couldn’t workout with someone who was at such a higher level than me that they could obviously out-perform me. Let me tell you, this is not a healthy place to be, not just physically, but emotionally. I was wrong. I was not allowing myself to be pushed outside of my comfort zone and I was not allowing my husband the freedom to actually get in a decent workout. I needed to grow up.
Luckily this was during a time when the kids were not usually with us when we ran. They didn’t get to see me at my worst, at least not often. There may have been a time or two when they were riding along with us, but usually, at that time, we separated our jogs from when we would take them on a bike ride. This too was largely due to our immaturity at the time as we would get easily frustrated that we had to constantly stop because one had to get off their bike to go climb a rock or grab a stick or simply because s/he was tired.
What I am trying to say is we had to do quite a bit of growing up ourselves to get to where we are now. Seeing the kids at the park, both how hard they pushed themselves and how much they encouraged each other, I realized how far we really had come. We are not professional athletes. In fact, my average run pace is around the 10-11 minute mark and I can probably pull off one really good pull-up and a few shoulder shrugs. But we are active and determined. They see that. We also love each other. They see that too and it is rubbing off on them!
Now if only I could learn not to cuss… because that is rubbing off on them too.