Posts Tagged ‘expectation’

This morning, in a rather hard to explain maneuver, I dropped a grappling dummy on my nose. Yes, on my nose. Not on my face, but smack dab on my nose. Not my finest or least embarrassing moment. Especially with the amount of time I spend at the boxing studio. You would think I would be past such things by this point. Even my trainer, who was present, had to ask me afterward how the hell did I do that?! (Okay, he probably said heck, but whatev…)

Um…when I raised my hips up, it shifted forward, and I ended up going over, and then the back end slipped, and I didn’t control it. The butt of it hit me in the nose…

Um…yeah. Even if I had it on tape, I’m still not sure I could explain it well.

Luckily for me, it was the 30-35lb version and not the 60 lb version. Had it been 60lbs, my nose surely would have broken. Instead, I trotted off to the restroom and had the bleeding stopped pretty quickly. I wiggled the bridge – nothing broken. Probably just bruised – glamorous as that will be at work tomorrow.

Also luckily, we were at the end of our practice. When I returned 2-3 minutes later, my trainer had called the session over. Not that it mattered. I’d already decided that the injury wasn’t serious, and when I came back on the floor, I expected to return to sweating. These things happen once in awhile.

I’ve had sore hamstrings, shin splints, ass tendinitis. I’ve cut open a toe throwing a crescent kick. Numerous rolled ankles – the last one occurring when I was out on a run by myself and had to limp half a mile back to my car. I’ve got two pinched nerves in my back that blow up at their whim. I’ve tripped over a dog while running and ended up with bandages wrapped around both hands that made me look like the stigmata happened.

Most of these injuries a bit embarrassing to explain at the office.

Seriously, just try and explain ASS TENDINITIS to your co-workers. I dare you!

And I’m sure there’s plenty more I’ve forgotten. I’ve fallen down and gone boom my fair share of times. As an athlete, sometimes I get hurt. As athletes, sometimes WE get hurt. It’s part of the risk we take on for the reward. We push our bodies, our limits, even the way we think. Sometimes we push a little far, get a little clumsy or distracted, or rely on equipment only to have it fail. An injury happens.

This past week at group, a girl fell down on the run. Embarrassing. A little traumatizing. A slower runner at the back of the pack – a position I am all too familiar with – the feeling of being slower and alone compounds when something like that happens. The trauma deeper. Even worse, it was her first run with the group. I can only imagine her feelings, but none of what I imagine is good. Coaches talked her through it, but mostly they worried that she wouldn’t come back. Wouldn’t try again.

And that’s really the athlete’s choice, isn’t it? Do we get up or do we stay down?

If you’re going to push your limits on a regular basis, you have to accept that once in awhile, you’re going to find them. At least, if you’re working hard, you will. And that goes for an experienced athlete as much as it does for a beginner. Out of the hundreds of thousands of steps we take running, occasionally one of them is bound to go wonky. When you choose to spend time in a boxing studio, odds are that, at some point, you’ll get a bad hit by accident. Either one you throw, or one you receive. Statistically, it’s inevitable. We fall down. We go boom. We find limits.Then what do we do? Respect them and keep a comfortable distance? Recover and work to strengthen ourselves, so we can push against them again? An individual choice for each of us. Do you want to box your experiences in or keep opening them up? When we decide whether to stay down or get back up, that’s the choice we make. Do we stay within safe boundaries or are we still willing to explore?

It made me sad to think that the girl won’t come back to group. The coaches seemed pretty convinced she wouldn’t. I hope she surprises them and gives it a shot again. But that’s her choice, not mine. I already know what my choice would be, because I’ve been there, done that. More often than not, things go well. Once in awhile, you end up punching yourself in the face with a grappling dummy to start off a Monday morning. How it affects the rest of the week… well – for me – it won’t. Not really. I’ve learned something about my limits, even if it bruised the bridge of my nose. But more importantly for me, I learned something about exploring a new move with the grappling dummy and now I know what to do next time when I go too far over, and the weight shifts, and I don’t have control over it…

Namely, protect my nose.

Intention. Expectation.

Since last week’s post, I’ve been mulling some more about how I’ve been treating this whole running thing I do. What goes on in my thought process. How I feel about it and how I need to feel about it. Intention and expectation, running laps around the track in my head.

Another good run with the group last night – 3.5 miles in 87-degree heat and lots of sun, again on a less-than-favorite route. Conditions under which I would normally tank. Dislike of the route would put me into a negative frame of mind before I even got there, and then the heat would do me in. I would talk to myself about how hard the run was and that I just couldn’t handle it any longer because of heat and fatigue and sun and global warming because we should blame everything on global warming. It’s okay to crash because running is hard! Making excuses for myself, I’d end up walking as much as running and using the extra time it took to finish to alternately beat myself up and then coddle my sad outer inner almost-last-place-finisher. In fact, this is part of how I started intervalling 3:1’s in the first place – to enforce some modicum of discipline over how much negative thought I would entertain and how long I would walk. Oh, and to recover from an injury, there was that too. But the thing is, I don’t think I really knew that my self-talk BEFORE the run was having the HUGE impact that it seems to have. Armed with a boat-load of mantras, I thought my inner running monologue was REALLY GOOD. Intervalling was going very well, though I still wasn’t getting results I wanted. I could finish a run with my dignity intact – that was a plus – but for a long time, something has still felt ‘off’ about my thinking and I didn’t know what it was.

If my running monologue is REALLY THAT GOOD, why am I still crashing on runs? Shouldn’t all those peppy mantras be able to get me to keep running come-what-may? Often times, my will would crash before my body did. Yes, I’d be out of breath – but my legs would feel fine and yet, for some reason, I just couldn’t keep going.

I didn’t realize that while I’d armed myself with mantras, I’d also armed myself with excuses to fail. It’s hot. It’s hard. I don’t like the route. My favorite running peeps didn’t show up. I haven’t worked out in a day or so. I’m not fueled well today. I’m just not feeling it. I’m not built for this. Some reasonable (like the fueling thing), but for the most part just a lot of wussing out before my feet even hit pavement.  All runners know running is more a mental game than physical. Once my brain quit the run, my body followed in short order. I’d think these thoughts before I got started, give them more power as I went into a crash, and then cite them as the reason for failure at the end.

Then I started thinking about intention-setting. I’d had a ‘make a plan, stick the plan’ approach and mantra for running, but that didn’t really work for bootcamp/boxing since I didn’t know what we were going to be doing each morning. I couldn’t make a plan. I had to walk in open to trying anything and sweating for everything. Hitting a breaking point one day, I asked myself ‘WTF did you come here for? If you aren’t going to work hard, you might as well have stayed in bed!‘.

What did I come here for? To be better. stronger. faster. This is, literally, the ridiculous but dead serious answer I gave myself. Apparently I went there to become Lee Majors. I WILL REBUILD ME!

However ridiculous, that response got me moving again in the moment. I started making it a habit to ask myself that as I was getting started before every bootcamp. And it was making a difference. Through the workout, I could revisit that intention statement – check in with myself – am I meeting that intention?  Though not nearly perfect, doing that was making a positive difference in how I felt about my workouts at the very least. I felt better at the end of the session. So a few weeks ago, I started transferring that same intention-setting frame to running. Taking a quiet moment (when I remembered) to ask myself – what’s your point with this? what are you here to do? – before I got out of my car.

Except with running, that statement of intent wasn’t working nearly as well. Why?

Having had that epiphany about my thought process on expectations last week has brought some of the failings of my intention-setting approach to running into a more crystalline view. With boxing, not knowing what the workout was to be in advance, I really couldn’t set much of an expectation for myself. Just state an intent and then do my best to meet it. This lack of expectation is what I think made the difference. With running, even if I didn’t know the exact route planned, I knew where to meet and so could make an educated guess about it. I had plenty of time to think about weather and fuel and how do I feel? Boxing is at 5:30 in the morning – I always feel tired and it is always dark out. And frankly, I’m just not awake long enough to give excuses much thought before we get moving. With running, I have a pace history and a race history, and a mental roadmap of hills I have excelled on and routes that have whomped on me. I have a good expectation as to how a run would go in both a best and worst case scenario before I start running.

With running, I have the ability to overlay expectation onto intention. Hmmm. Now to suck that out of my brain like a rabid zombie…(can zombies get rabies since they’re already dead?)

I went into yesterday’s run with a focus on retaining the FEELING of the past two weeks – to not spend too much time on considering obstacles – yes, there is a hill, I will run the hill –  and instead prepare for success. I made sure I was fueled well for the heat, had time to stretch, and then said once again to not put an expectation on the run. Do the route. Adjust the pace as needed. Don’t worry about the history on that particular route (not good). Keep the intention to respect what my body is saying – but call myself out on the bullshit of expectation/excuses. Don’t give in to it. Get it done.

I am not sure if they were running slower with the heat (probably), or if my restated focus just let up enough pressure to speed me up a bit, but I ended up pacing with a group a little faster than my usual pack. A little faster. I toughed-out some hard parts I’ve failed on previously. Somewhere in there, “soak up the goodness” made it into my run mantras along with my standard 90-counts, 3-counts, thatpinkgirl cheering HARD! and NUTRIA! into my brain and steena telling me to HTFU!!. (No, I don’t know why I adopted the Nutria! mantra, except that it makes me giggle.) In the heat, I reminded myself that this running thing is supposed to feel hard – that means I’m pushing myself. And I pushed myself straight through that whole route, noticing the bitching and moaning of other runners a little more than usual, as well as standing as an observer outside of my own bitching and moaning for a moment.

It’s hot! BULLSHIT – you knew that and you dressed for it. It’s hard! BULLSHIT! If it weren’t hard, everyone would do it! It’s SUPPOSED TO BE HARD! This sun is beating down on me! Oh Good Grief! Just shut-up about it and think about snowcones.

(Sidebar: I’m sorry, but in 87-degree heat, if all you’re doing on a run is complaining about how hot it is, you’re an asshole. We all know it’s hot. Making me think even more about how hot it is is just not nice. I started shouting out ‘cold’ words randomly into the crowd – SNOWFLAKES! GELLATO! LEMON CHILL! MEAT LOCKER! OOOOOOOOOHHH – MEEEAT LOCKKKER!! I’m just saying – when you’re running in the heat, a meat locker is a good mental image to hold onto. Yes, I’m weird. Like you didn’t know. I digress…)

I called myself out on the bullshit that would normally make me drop to a walk and then I pushed myself to run past it. I kept my water stop speedy and ran away from it. I made myself get up the hills. I ran all the way through the stoplights and crosswalks because ‘you don’t walk to the finish line’. And most essentially, I kept my ass moving in a way that I could be proud of.


I could probably spend more than a few nights analyzing why I didn’t expect that ending from myself to begin with, but for now – I think I’ll just let this process sink in and enjoy the outcome. With a beer.

So the running doldrums have been passing slowly. I stubborned-through some more treadmill time to keep the legs moving and work on focus, then last Tuesday (the 5th) I headed off to running group as usual, talking to myself in the car about what my intention was for the run and half-expecting it to be hard. Another run to stubborn-through. And then it hit me…

What if I didn’t put that on myself before I started running?

*That* thought – that the run would be hard. What if I just didn’t go there? What if I just went to group, and started out slow, and decided to have a good run in whatever form that took? Not worry about what my pack is doing, or what my Garmin is saying, or if I feel tired before I even start. What if I just relax and go? Slow down if I need to. Walk if I really need to. But basically just enjoy the run and see what happens.

I set my Garmin to 3:1 intervals as a safety net in case I started to crash in the heat, but put it on backwards so I couldn’t read the times or worry about pace. I decided to run continuously until I felt the need to do otherwise, then I put myself in the back of the pack and set out slow. And honestly – it was FABULOUS! I just let the run go before I even started so I wasn’t putting any pressure on myself. When I got frustrated at the pace of the people in front of me, I knew it was time to pass & speed up. This made for a nice progressive warm-up. My Garmin beeping off the intervals was comforting somehow – even though I was ignoring it and running continuously. (It was a really nice cue as to when people in front of me were going to drop to a walk, so I could move left when they moved right and not run straight up their asses.) A co-worker of mine was keeping pace with me just over my left shoulder, so when she caught up with me for the third time, I let it be a challenge to keep her behind me, which pushed me into some unplanned fartleks. I ended up passing a lot of people, running continuously on a route I would normally interval, and finishing before TWO of my coaches. IT WAS A REALLY GOOD RUN and one I hadn’t unexpected to have when I laced up my running shoes.

Hmmm. What if I didn’t put on the expectations? What if I just set an intention to have a good run and listen to my body respectfully? That’s some new thinking. I have been really focused on setting intentions lately – to a successful end when I do it – but I hadn’t taken the time to examine how I had tied expectation and intention together…

So, fast forward to yesterday, and I hadn’t run since that last one. D’OH!! I had workouts scheduled, but everything got thrown out the window after Wednesday’s bootcamp when we got offered some EXCELLENT Reds tickets for Thursday and Friday night. In our house – you don’t turn down these kind of seats to baseball. Hot dogs and cheap beer cost me my Thursday night & Saturday morning runs, as well as Friday’s bootcamp. Life and choices. Oh well, I had a good time at the games and I can’t ever be sad about a date with my husband. That’s worth a missed run or two.

Monday’s boot camp was all about shaking off the long slugfest and bad food choices of the weekend. Which took me into Tuesday’s group run having not run for a week and being a bit behind on the fitness routine. The group was doing the first pass of the route for the Hyde Park Blast, which is 3 weeks away. It was 80+ degrees and sunny, and this is a route that challenges me on a few levels. Once again, less than ideal conditions for me. And I started to talk to myself about it on the way there, telling myself again that it would probably be a hard run with the heat and the sun, that I should interval it so I didn’t crash in the heat, that I didn’t make it all the way up Erie hill the last time I did that part of the route, that that hill really sucks…and then I thought, well – I had a really good run last Tuesday, it’s kind of tragic that I let go of that momentum when I could’ve used it for a good run tonight…

And then I stopped again. Could’ve used it? So I can’t use it because I haven’t run since? WHY AM I THINKING THAT?

I haven’t run since, but the last run I had was good. And I didn’t expect it to be. So, why not just soak that up? Soak up a little of that unexpected goodness. What if I don’t put on the expectation that this is hard and instead I just go do it? And I start at the back, and I just let myself be happy with it however it comes to pass? What if I don’t have to expect a damn thing from this run other than that I do it?

Can I set the intention to just do it and not expect anything from it? Kinda label it “lessons to be learned later”? And damned if it didn’t happen again!

After a whole week of not running, I had a pretty damn good run last night! Not particularly fast (though I really don’t know since I had the Garmin on backwards again and haven’t looked at the data from either run) – smart decisions on water stops – talked myself up the ginormous hill that is a trouble spot on that route – couple of fartleks at the end when I didn’t want to get passed – and I felt good about the entire run. It was sooo nice! I ran continuously except for one little spot after a water stop where I gave myself time to burp before I started running again – sometimes you need to let the burp happen, meh.

Interesting. Not the burp. The run thinking is interesting. The burp, most certainly uninteresting.

I still haven’t had that nuclear run yet. The one where the doldrums are finally over and it feels like someone shoved a rocket up your bum. But I am enjoying what’s happening with setting the expectations aside. I need to think on that for a bit and I wonder, do other runners feel that push and pull – of intention v. expectation? Do they run better when they set one over the other? Which is more important? Curious things to consider.