As humans, we operate best when we are “fed” at all levels – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. My physical well being is the foundation of everything else in my life. If I’m not adequately investing there, everything else is out of whack mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
In December 2017, I decided to take on a major physical challenge – one that I assured myself over the course of my life that I’d never do because I’m not a runner. In March 2018, I ran a half marathon when just six months before I’d never run further than 3 miles. How did this happen?!
Somewhere along the way, I decided I don’t like rules. I don’t like being told no. I’m not a person who lives in the binary – I like and versus or. So, it hit me that I’d put a rule on myself: You are not a runner, you don’t run, there’s no way you could. That struck a nerve in me and I decided to say no to that limiting story to build a new one. I said yes to my physical well being.
Training came with a few ups and downs. One major down was being set back by two weeks due to a nasty cold turned asthma flare-up, though I was lucky to have no significant physical injuries. Hitting double-digit miles for the first time was terrific. My Saturdays became consumed with prepping to run, running, then recovering from the run. (Holy sore knees, Batman). This required me to say no to a lot (we’ll get to this below) so that I could say yes to my goal. To my surprise, it was easier than I thought. I’d decided this race was important, so it was easy to prioritize.
Here are some of the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual lessons I learned while going from 0.0 to 13.1 in 6 months:
Plans work: While I’m generally a fan of plans and goals, this was a proof point for me that baby steps lead to big wins with consistent, focused actions that slowly and incrementally build on each other. There is no way that I could have run 13.1 miles without a strategically crafted plan (shout out to Hal Higdon) that I committed to. If you work the plan, it will work for you.
Motivation: Along those lines, I had to want this goal. I had to have the skill (mentors) and will (motivation) to achieve this goal. I talk about these concepts a lot in hiring and coaching, but it’s true regardless. If either skill or will is missing, the outcome isn’t going to be what you want. Once I was clear that I wanted to attempt the half, I decided that I’d do it and took every step needed to make that a reality. We rise to our own expectations of ourselves.
Mentors and champions go along way: To build my skills, I got great advice from coaches and friends along the way. I took lessons in Alexander Technique to learn how to align my body properly. I got great advice from two coworkers who are marathoners. In short, I became a student and soaked in wisdom from the best. I was open. I encourage you to be to hearing others’ lessons, trying their advice, and keeping what works for you – throw out the rest, but at least try it. This is an excellent time to say yes.
Say no: While it was important to say yes to trying training tips, I had to learn to say no to a lot of things to say yes to training at my highest level. For example, I said no to a late night out drinking wine during my recent NYC trip when I needed to run 8 miles the next morning. Was I a bummed to miss out on a fun night? Sure, but that epic run around Central Park was sooo worth it. It was my favorite run of the entire training process. I said no to many happy hours, an hour of sleep here and there, and to things that are a waste of time (Instagram for example). I don’t have any residual FOMO either!
Invest: I invested in gear to help maximize peak performance, such as running socks and properly fitting running sneakers. I also invested time and money in more yoga, Alexander
Technique lessons, books, etc. And, of course, I invested my time. Training for a half is doable, but it also requires you to commit time to it. Be prepared and willing to invest it.
Mental toughness: Something unexpected happened to me on race day. At mile three, my right knee started hurting. This was frustrating because this had never happened during training and because I had 10.1 miles to go. I was frustrated for a moment, tried to adjust my knee tape a few times, etc. It became clear that none of this would work and that I’d need to lean into the challenge or bow out. I leaned in. I decided I was strong enough to get through it (without injury) and I did. I ended up taking longer than I wanted to finish, but that didn’t matter. I finished and it was because my mind carried me through. The experience gave new meaning to it’s a marathon not a sprint and it showed, me how much stronger I am than I thought mentally and physically.
Every single thing I learned in running this race can be applied to work and to life. I learned that when I invest in my physical health, I was better in other aspects of my life, including my work life. To complete the half marathon, I was forced to run but also to eat well, adapt my diet, drink less wine, etc. This had a ripple of positive effects in from a work perspective, a relationship perspective, and an overall life perspective.
I’ll leave you with a question – how will you commit to your physical well being starting today? I’m already cooking up what’s next!
Cheers to you and your big dreams!