Posts Tagged ‘Mantras’

The clock turned 12, or 24, depending  on how you count your hours, and 2012 was gone.

It was a good year for me, but SEE YA!

I am not much for dwelling on nostalgic moments, or setting resolutions.  Once upon a time, I used to be more retrospective & resolution oriented on January 1st, but now I’m not. That’s that. On to the next one. Or in other words, Tuesday. All of the same things I had to do Monday are still there to be done, and any woes I had didn’t magically disappear at midnight. They need to be dealt with. After the champagne is empty.

But it doesn’t stop me from reading the various New Year’s resolutions friends have made and trying to figure ways to be supportive, encouraging.  So in my post-workout shower this morning ( again with the shower!), I asked myself how I make good things stick for me, and why do some of the things I’ve tried fail miserably…and I boiled it down to one thing.

One 3-letter – heck it can even be 1 letter – reason you can blame it all on:


WhywhywhywhyWHYWHYWHYwhywhy…WHY. Y.

If your ‘why’ isn’t good enough, success is going to be a hard row to hoe.

Not that it won’t be hard anyway, but having a good solid reason why you’re doing something – a reason you can pull out and remind yourself, use to re-energize yourself, whack yourself on the head with – does make it a little easier to hold on in the attempt at whatever the goal is. 

It doesn’t particularly matter what the why is – whether it’s love or fear or big dreams or not stepping on legos – but it has to be clear to you, HONEST, and important enough to you to change something – it has to be one bulging bicep of a knockout punch kind of WHY.

And you can’t write someone else’s why for them. And they can’t write yours for you. You have to want it for yourself.  Do your own homework. Pull your own weeds. Quitting smoking or losing weight because someone else wants you too isn’t a very strong why (in my opinion).  Quitting smoking because your wife has a baby on the way and you’re scared to death it’s going to wheeze like you do & smell like tobacco instead of baby shampoo is a strong why. Losing weight because just once you want to know what its like to play soccer with your kid in the yard instead of sitting on the step watching them play alone is a pretty strong why. 

The why has to be strong enough to overshadow any sunlight from the comfort zone you were lazing around in. It has to make you want to move, change, progress. It has to shake you up.  Lift you up. Push you off your contentment cliff.

I am not the Judge of All Whys, but I think we all know when we hear a good one and when we don’t. You know what your why looks like – and you can feel it in your bones when you set a thing like a resolution, whether it’s strong or not. You know yourself, and you know your why’s – and you know whether you’re full of crap when you say you’re going to drive right on by Starbucks without that latte you gave up two days ago.  A latte is good, but how much does that cottage cheese you noticed on your ass two weeks ago bother you?

So as a friend, full of your own powerful why’s, what do you do to encourage a friend’s New Year’s resolution that has a so-so-meh why-strength factor?

Understanding their why, remind them of the why, and find little bits of why to show them what success feels like along the way. Help their why be as strong as possible – whether that’s calling a friend on their usual smoke break so that they’re too busy talking to smoke, or telling someone you’ll try out a few new fitness classes with them while they work on finding one they like even though it’s not what you usually do. Or in my very honest way of thinking, calling them out on the bullshit in their why occasionally.  Tell them when you see them wavering and ask them directly what you can do to get that why back in their focus.

WHY? You know why.

Here is the part where I admit that on yesterday’s 5.5 mile run, I started randomly singing the only line of “I feel pretty” that I know – over and over to myself. Took my own suggestion.

And damned if it didn’t make me feel stupid happy about being out for a run.

Totally serious – you have got to try singing that when you hit a dead spot in your next run! Instant ridiculous mood lifter.

And thankfully, it partially dislodged “The Gambler” as the running song that has been stuck in my head for several weeks now. (Except for when I get a side-stitch and “When a Man Loves a Woman” sneaks in there.)

With the Race for the Cure 10k coming up this Saturday, “I feel pretty” seems like a fitting banner to wave at the moment.

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.


Green Bench

Later on Saturday, after coffee and breakfast, I was perusing Facebook to find a friend of mine lamenting his lack of spark on his P90X2 workout – basically admitting that he wasn’t feeling compelled to do it and had been half-assing some of the workouts. It was his second time through the series. He sounded bored. I commented that it’s really difficult to maintain the level of intensity that P90X requires on a continuous basis and that so long as he was remaining active through “the doldrums”, that was the most important thing. Eventually he’d cycle through and get re-energized or find something inspiring again. I think this is something that everyone who works out goes through – we cycle through intense periods and we cycle through doldrums.

Sleeping through that two mile Blast run was tugging at me and I thought to myself, Self – you’re in a doldrum. That Pig beat you up & you need to beat it back. Take your own advice and get moving. I was also arguing with a wild hair idea that I wanted to go run Lunken that afternoon. Arguing with myself because Lunken is NEVER a satisfying run for me. Why I even thought I wanted to do it, I don’t know. A lot of runners around here like running Lunken – it’s a FLAT 5-mile loop around an airport with options available to extend mileage using out & back offshoots. It’s uninterrupted by roads, lights or stop signs and fabulous for speedwork.

I hate it.

I don’t like flat runs – my booty was made for hills. It’s boring. There is no water anywhere on the loop, so you have to carry water. About 95% of the route is in the sun, unless you go really early or really late. Once in awhile you see a deer or a bunny. That’s the only redeeming factor – I like bunnies. Usually, I get an inclination to run this loop about twice a year, then I run the first mile – get incredibly bored – interval the rest and vow never to do that again. It’s a great walk spot with a friend, but I don’t like running it.

Except for that tugging wild hair saying – go get your run in! go to Lunken! Don’t let the doldrums win!

5 mile loop. In the sun. 75-degrees. Hmmm – that sounds familiar, particularly if you make that 5 miles into 6.84.  And no water. It almost sounded like my brain was setting me up for a rematch of the Pig run. Not having run all week, I knew I didn’t want to do 6.84. In fact, I really wanted to stick with the Blast plan and do the 2 miles, but that didn’t feel right either. Tugging. Get dressed. Tugging. Lace up. Guzzle some water. Tugging. Some sips of Gatorade. Then somehow, I’m in the car and on my way to go run this route that I absolutely can’t stand and not because anyone is making me do it. It’s just tugging at me and I don’t quite know why. All the way there I’m thinking about what I’m going to do with this run. No water on the route in all that sun and heat gives me a good chance of crashing on the far end of the loop if I don’t run smart. No music. I’m still mad at my Garmin for freaking me out but I have it on and have turned it backwards so I can’t really use it. I’ll get the data later because the data isn’t the point of this run.

The point of this run is that I need to do right everything that I did wrong at the Pig. I need to formulate a plan and set a quiet intention. I need to challenge a route that I don’t like and stick to that plan even if the conditions suck & I’m not fueled proper. I need to run smart and LISTEN to myself – act as my own best coach all the way through. I need to get my legs moving and I need to stubborn my way through the doldrums.

I decide that the sheer mind-numbing boredom of this route is challenge enough without trying to work speed or pushing the envelope on the heat. I don’t want to crash on the far end. I decide to run the first 2 miles, walk a mile on the worst part of the run (where the sun is particularly unforgiving), then run the last 2 miles back. That essentially doubles my Blast assignment and reduces the crash risk. It’s also going to give me a workout on my focus – which is the main focus.

From where I am parked, I see a green park bench that will mark the start and end of this task. I use it to stretch out and do some push-ups. Get my mind on. Get moving. I have my mind set on the 1 mile landmark – I am bored before I get there. This is the only route I can name that is worse than a treadmill. I see the 1 mile marker and am sorely tempted to turn back or go straight – options that would give me the 2 mile or 3 mile totals – anything but the turn to the right that will mark heading fully into the loop. I remind myself that this is The Resistance just trying to charm me out of my June PR. I make the turn and focus on one of the two hills on the route – it’s a steep, but very short, incline shortly before the 2 mile point. Once I’m up that incline, there isn’t any point in turning back. Also, I’ll be past the ugly streetside portion and the golfers – a section next to the golf course where I feel like a zoo attraction to the golfers teeing off right next to the path. Only forward. I own that hill. Once upon a time I would’ve been huffing and puffing at the top of that thing fit to die – now I just keeping right on going. My Garmin beeps 2 miles at me and I set a point about a tenth of a mile down the path as my marker. When I get there, I’ll start the walking part. This is the only part of the course where you can really watch the planes take off and land. Two girls who have been behind me since the 1 mile flower urns pass me. I do not like being passed by them, but I have a plan. I need to stick to it. Also, this route is not flat – at least not as flat as everyone thinks. Going clockwise, there is a slight incline almost all the way around. From my vantage, I am reminded of this – I am going up this entire time. On this longest, most boring walk ever. The fact that this portion is a straight shot makes the route feel like one of those hallways that just keeps on going, you think you’re getting to the end but then realize the end is moving farther away from you while you try to reach it. Why am I not at 3 miles yet? Beep 3. Oh – okay. Running now. I want this over with – but again – speed is not the plan. I have realized that I keep picking up speed to reach those two girls, then I remind myself to slow down. It’s still 75-degrees. I’m still in the blazing sun. I still don’t have any water. PACE CONTROL for the win is the name of the game. I play the push and pull game with speed & pace, working mantras, and passing those two girls – who actually glare at me when I do. Oh well – you don’t like it – then catch me! They never caught me. There is a father and son on bikes in the oncoming lane. The father is in front. I watch the kid topple over off the edge of the path into the grass and congratulate him on falling well because that takes skill. Um, dad – your kid fell down went boom! Call me heartless, but I kept on running while I paid the props and alerted the dad. What? He had on a helmet & he fell soft! There was a parent there! If the kid had looked damaged at all, I totally would have stopped. Really! I would! Oh Thank you – the final stretch is the only shady part when you go clockwise! A break from the sun! For 1 minute! 1 minute of shade! Then sun again. And then there’s the park bench – the end point – and I will go strong towards it. I will be stubborn and run every last step towards it and just past it because you don’t stop dead at a finish line.

The plan has been stuck and I’ve met my goal of staying engaged and coaching myself on this dreadful piece of pavement. As a victory celebration, I treat myself to a walk down to the airport super-cold drinking fountain instead of grabbing my hot water from the car. This girl knows how to party!

I haven’t kicked the doldrums, but I have challenged them. They know their days are numbered. Bootcamp yesterday morning. 30 minutes on the dreadmill as a Blast assignment yesterday evening. The dreadmill wasn’t assigned, but it was convenient. While not my running preference, it is a useful tool to control pace when doldrums strike and I need to complete a timed run. Tonight will be another running meet-up with the Blast group and I’ll go do that. 30 minutes. Gotta get it done. Still not feeling excited about it, but if I want that PR in 6 weeks, excited has to take a back seat to stubborn until the doldrums pass. Re-energizing will happen and I intend to be prepared for a really good run when it hits.