The brevity of life is part of what makes it so special. When I think about death, I am not really afraid. No, I don’t want to die, but eventually I will. Instead, I want to make my life here on earth as full of meaningfulness as possible. Over the past couple of years, I’ve changed my perspective of time an priority. I heard on Running on Om, a great podcast by Julia Hanlon about life and running and great people, an analogy that the time left you have left in life is like a savings account, and its up to you how to spend your time. I love this analogy. Reflecting on death puts a limit to the time you have saved and really forces you to live to the fullest. I am intentionally focusing on trying to make my relationships more meaningful, not that I valued them less before, but that this is really a priority for me and I want to put my energy into meaningful relationships.
Death or injury can come from anywhere. Do what you love, with the people you love. Life is too short not to. And don’t forget to #WomanUp2016
In her blog, Ask Lauren Fleshman, Lauren gives the writing prompt, to put pen to paper and write for 2 minutes. “What I really remember about that meal was…
…trying to eat with chopsticks, but anxiety making my hand shake so uncontrollably I could barely get food into my mouth. I know this is where I belong, but this is not what I should be doing. Discounting my intuition makes me so unhappy.”
I’ve been searching for inspiration, and am being drawn to the topic of anxiety, something I’ve suffered from without even noticing for years, even decades perhaps. I hope to use this medium to investigate the anxiety I feel and how to perform (in sport career, and life) despite fear and feelings of uncertainty.
Two thousand fifteen. Three hundred and sixty five revolutions to orbit around the sun one more time. I started this post as a reflection of everything that happend this past year. What I had gone through, how hard it was. 2015 was full of trials, growth, and accomplishments. That alone deserves a moment of reflection. It was a year of regrowth for us after 2014 left us lonely, broken and missing some pieces. After all of that, we knew that we wanted to leave the East Coast, not sure how or where but this wasn’t the place for us. The year turned out to be a journey full of self-discovery, physically, personally, and professionally.
Throughout the year I had interviews with 5 different places. The first was a phone interview. I prepared based on what the recruiter had informed me. After a few out of my control events, I had extremely high anxiety. The discussion went horribly! I was completely caught off guard by the nature of the call and knew instantaneously that I wouldn’t be on the short list for an onsite interview. The whole time I just wanted the call to end. This was a pretty bad blow to my confidence and took some time to emotionally recover from.
Throughout the year I investigated different opportunities from industry to academia. Nothing quite as bad as my first experience, but definitely a bumpy road. The thing is, if you are trying to move across the country, an interview can be a big investment: money up front, time off of work, and red-eye flights to get home for work or to have time with my family. Throughout all of this, I already had a job that I was good at. Putting yourself through this sort of abuse (anxiety up to the event, being able to professionally handle malevolent interviewers, and learning that rejection isn’t a reflection of personal worth) when you are comfortable- not happy, comfortable- is a very tiring process. I ended the journey with the best interview experience one could hope for. I dug out my defense slides and cleaned them up for a diverse crowd. After a couple of practice rounds, I fell right back into the groove, comfortably discussing my work and energetically presenting. The rest of the day I saw labs full of interesting work and having good conversations with my future supervisors. I knew that I wanted to be there and that I would have the support to develop my career. I am happy to be there now and looking forward to using my skills and background on various projects in the coming months.
Physically I didn’t have any tangible goals. I wanted to regain strength and feel like myself again. I fought against shin splints throughout the year, which got the best of me after over extending myself running the Ragnar Relay. I ended up even going to the doctor, who allowed me to run my goal race (Nike Women’s 1/2) but informed me that the new pain was shin splints and recommended physical therapy. I ran my goal race after taking a couple weeks off, other than 1 or 2 shake out runs, and missed my goal by a couple minutes (my chip time was 1:48, goal was <1:45). Despite not having an A race, I had a great weekend with two of my favorite sisters in sport. After the race we toured San Francsico by food and drink. It was fantastic!
After the race I started PT, which felt nice but wasn’t the best. We did discover that my right, medial gastroecnimeus wasn’t firing properly and I have a huge knot so I got bi-weekly lower leg massage and a plan to test my bone strength by running once or twice a week and increasing my mileage each run. I am up to 4 miles and don’t yet have any bone pain, so I’m hopeful I can make it to 5 miles before the end of the year and be cleared to begin a normal base training regimen.
The biggest, but unexpected event of the year was when we adopted our fur baby, Badger. He is pretty great. I had no idea what was missing from my life, or that having someone that you care for would be so rewarding. Within a few months Badger no longer had skin issues or soft stool. Over the months following, he kept gaining weight, he’s my little tank! Honestly, I was worried about the cost and the time that a dog requires, but it is the best investment anyone can make. The return in love, motivation, confidence, and happiness is more than I could have imagined. He is the best thing that we have ever had. I love my doggy Badger!
It is good practice to take time to reflect what you have accomplished. I am proud of my growth and performance in 2015. It was a hard road, but I have emerged a stronger and wiser than I entered. I am grateful to the friends and support I have had along the way. I am proud of my family, my new home, and the direction my career is going. I stand here, a strong woman, ready to see what the future has in store for me.
Adopting Badger has been one of the most rewarding decisions I have ever made. In addition to his low maintenance and endless love, I have learned quite a bit about life from this young man. Below is a short list of my observations.
1. Take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. Badger typically demonstrates this when we are on a run this hot summer and come across a puddle. No matter how often we stop for drinks out of my camel back, if he finds a puddle, he’s going swimming! Applied to human life, this behavior may be as simple as using the restroom I walk past before going into a meeting, but may also be as big as speaking up when a life-changing opportunity arises, such as at a networking event. If you want to cool down, go for a swim. People will mostly be supportive, if not merely entertained by your unconventional behavior.
2. It’s okay to say, “No.” I don’t have a good image for this one, but Badger constantly reminds me that its okay to say, “no,” or, “no, thank you.” Here are some examples.
We are on a run, and come to a stop light. He sits like a good boy, so I try to give him a treat. He sniffs, but is not interested, so moves his head. Its okay, you don’t have to eat treats, especially in the middle of a workout.
I’m cooking dinner, and he is patiently laying down next to the kitchen. I think it is awesome that he will eat (raw) veggies, so I often experiment to see what he will eat. He won’t eat raw spinach. He’ll sniff, lick, and drop it on the floor. Which I take to mean, “No thank you, Mommy.”
Another running example. I’ll ask, “Are you thirsty?” He responds by turning his head and getting ready for, “Okay. Let’s Go!” meaning, “No thank you. I just drank out of that puddle that presented itself to me. Now I can’t drink anymore until I do my business.”
This is a major lesson that I (and many others) need to learn. Badger exhibits confidence in knowing himself and knowing what he wants or needs. To that end, he is confident enough to refuse my offerings. This is an extremely important lesson. One should knowing yourself, your ability, and your bandwidth to successfully complete something before accepting more work, setting training goals, or more extracurricular responsibility. Not knowing how to say no will throw life off balance. At work, we call it, “exercising your ‘no’ muscle.” Just like your body needs physical exercise, your mind needs mental and behavior exercises to operate the way you want it to. Remember to say, “no” when you don’t want to do something. If you really don’t like something, speak up! Its even okay to vehemently say no.
3. Be patient, but persistent. Patience and persistence will pay off. If things aren’t going your way don’t try to force them. Make your presence and desires known, but don’t be pushy about it. Stay calm. Eventually things will turn your way. I know, I cave every day and eventually give Badger a piece of food from the kitchen or my plate. He will wait an hour (eternity to doggies) patiently watching and waiting. As long as he listens and responds appropriately, he will get what he wants.
4. Be grateful, everyday. Like most Americans, I tend to spend my mornings worrying about all the tasks I have to complete that day. What needs to be done at work? How am I going to fit my training into this week’s schedule? You know the drill. Badger, on the other hand, wakes up every morning, get this, happy. He is so excited to see me & Ian, that he has a soft bed, that he has the chance to go outside to run, that he has a tasty meal waiting for him when he returns. He loves us and shows us his gratitude with excitement and affection, every day! This might be the most important lesson Badger has taught me. To love life, because I have everything I need. I love my family and the life we have together. This is all you need to be grateful. Everyday is an opportunity to love life again.
5. Enjoy the journey, the destination is not so important. Every morning Badger & I go out for an adventure. Sometimes we just go around in our neighborhood, sometimes we hop in the car and go a little farther. No matter what, he is stoked to go. It doesn’t matter if we repeat a normal loop, go to the park to sniff around, go off into the trails. Every day is an adventure, we always eventually end up at home; he’s excited for the experience and the time we spend together. Love what you do, live your life. You won’t end up anywhere unless you take a journey, so make the best of the excursion you’re on.
I have a few philosophies that I apply across my life. I’ve listed them below, with a brief explanation as to how they apply to running.
Work smarter, not harder. There’s no use expending more energy than you need to to accomplish a task; when running, faster is better right? I’m a busy woman and I don’t want to spend more time necessary. This doesn’t mean slack off or half ass. I have allotted time to run, I’m going to make the most of it. For my running, I want to find the most efficient way to move. I’ve explored different ideas here: long, heel-stoking strides, pose, chi, yeah. I’ve come to the conclusion that a mid/forefoot strike, with my feet beneath me works best for me. My form is a mix between Budd Coates’ description fromRunning on Air, and The Science of Running by Steve Magness. I use the queues to ‘put my foot down now,’ to keep from overstriding. I use my GPS watch for recording my runs, but don’t have the heart rate monitor so I can tune into how I feel and associate that with a pace. Running by breath helps me prevent/overcome side stitches and know how hard I should be pushing in my workouts. Conclusion: work hard when its time to work, tune into your body, move efficiently to get there faster.
Remember to breath. When I forget about breathing, I typically forget about form. Recipe for disaster. Your breath is the key to how fast and hard you should be going for your workout. Although I have decided the training plans aren’t for me, I highly recommend Running on Air. Running in odd breaths will help asymmetry from forming or injury. For most of my runs, I run 5 strides per breath- 3 strides for inhale, 2 for exhale. Fast intervals, I break it down to a two stride inhale, 1 stride exhale. In addition to helping prevent injury, this links your breath to your movement. If you’ve ever taken a yoga class, you know that there is a benefit to this. It turns your run into a moving meditation. Studies have shown that brining mindfulness to exercise result in more positive hormones, and better satisfaction performing exercise. Remember to breath. You can’t run without your breath, and you might actually like running a little bit more.
See things from a different perspective. I used to hate out and back runs. I would do anything to create a loop so that I wouldn’t have to see the same scenery. When I travel for work, I often run. It is the only time that I have to myself, and the only time that I can explore whatever city I am staying in. My hatred of out and back runs changed on my recent trip to Alaska. I ran out and back on a coastal pedestrian trail. IT WAS GORGEOUS! Looking at the city backlit instead of front, city vs trees. Since then, I have appreciated the differences between the out and the back. A great way to remember that every path has its own perspective. What you see, is not what someone else may see. Either way, enjoy the view.
Find your balance. Literally. Engage your core, be able to balance on your forefoot, be able to balance on one foot. The strength and stability from your lower leg muscles will save you from injury! Your balance is not possible without engaging your core. WORK YOUR CORE! You’ll feel and look stronger and better.