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Taking Time to Breathe

It is easy to get caught up in the race-both literally and figuratively, always training, pushing, comparing, competing, with your old self and with others. Every now and then it is good to stop.

This week I wrote about focusing more on the process, not the prize, and part of that process has to be stopping to catch your breath. It is especially hard to remember to breathe when you are focusing on the prize-a goal, a deadline, a due date, that appears to be just out of reach. Instinctively we want to give it everything we’ve got to get to the finish line. I do this when I run track repeats. By the last 200 meters I have cranked up the pace as fast as I can possibly go to get to the finish. The problem with that is by pushing yourself to the limit, the process and the longer term goal sometimes goes out the window. Sometimes, it makes more sense to breathe so that you can finish out the race.

Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the day to day ups and downs and struggles of life. If you think you are not making progress, think again. This post by Tony Bonvechio  this week made me stop and think about where I was a year ago and where I am now. What does progress look like? Well that depends on your personal goals.

Last year at this time I was training for my 7th half marathon and my goal was to achieve a personal record. (PR). I consistently followed my running plan, and obsessed about my distances, my times and my routine. I spent a lot of time trying to prove myself, and I spent a lot of time feeling frustrated because I had no way to measure whether my training would indeed pay off. I spent a lot of time questioning what I was doing in the gym and in my running. I never got any answers. In March of last year I had just started amping up my running and I was doing a lot of traveling as well, so I got to do some exploring on my runs as well.

This year I am happy I am still running, but I am trying to stay focused and motivated. My goal 10 months ago was to become more independent and knowledgeable about my strength and conditioning, including running. It has not been a straight uphill climb, but when I look back at what I knew about strength training and conditioning a year ago, I knew about very running specific strength training, but it all seemed pretty random to me. Once I completed my half marathon I joined a new gym and started over again. Not from the beginning, but some days it feels that way.

Now I feel as if I have been on a steep learning curve, and I am in the process of trying to apply what I have learned in the last 10 months, while continuing to learn every day. My brain is pretty full, and sometimes I have to remind myself that I have learned a lot in 10 months, more so than I ever would have thought possible.

I have taken what I have learned and applied it to my everyday life; simple things like wearing no heels, getting a standup station at work, and focusing on proper joint position and body movement mean no more pelvic alignment issues that would send me to the chiropractor monthly, no more lower back pain, and no more ice or ibuprofen when a body part feels sore.

There are other things I have learned like how to properly do a pushup, a squat, a deadlift, a benchpress, and a pushpress; things that challenge me physically and mentally. I have learned how to be persistent and resilient. I have learned that time in the gym IS practice time. Practice makes progress. I have learned it’s ok to have good days and bad days, and to take advantage of the good days. I have learned the uber importance of sleep and nutrition. I have learned that you cannot push yourself hard 5 ays in a row without paying a price. I have learned it is super important to have someone have more confidence in you than you have in yourself.

I am feeling more comfortable and confident in the gym, which translates somewhat to life. I am feeling slightly less comfortable with my running, but mostly because I do not feel as accountable when it comes to pace and distance, and I am trying to figure out how to handle that. A year ago I was talking about running every day, and had someone checking in with me every day. This year I have to remind myself that I am accountable to myself. If I want to succeed, I need to have faith, trust in the plan, do the work, and listen to my coach and my body. It makes me feel better to write everything down, but I have stopped using Runkeeper to record every mile because that makes me want to compare myself to my old self. I am trying to adopt a new mentality when it comes to running, but it is kind of like teaching someone to completely change their golf swing and start over. Sometimes you want to go back to the old ways because it is more comfortable. But then I hear the voice of my coach telling me:

“If you keep doing things the same way, you will keep getting the same results.”

I have to keep telling myself it will be worth it.

Last year I didn’t ever focus on positive thoughts, mantras, positive mental imagery, meditation, breathing, and rest. I was a stress case and safe to say pretty miserable. I felt like my time in the gym was a waste of time and a negative drain on my energy. After 10 months at Gain Strength and Conditioning I feel grounded, relaxed and happy with the way things are going, in spite of stressfulness all around me. There are ups and downs and progress is definitely not a straight line. But when I look back to where I was a year ago, I have learned so much  and more importantly I am open to continued learning.

You can focus on the little things or the big things in life; but if you can look back over a year and reflect on what you have learned that make you a better human and remember to share it with others, with gratitude,  then you should be able to say it has been a good year.



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