Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Ten things I've learned

Perhaps you're tired of hearing about it already, but please bear with me. Running - and my quest for health in general - has taught me a lot in the short time I've been truly dedicated to it. I've learned a lot. Such as ...

  1. I'm stronger than I think I am. There are things I can't do - like a pull-up - but most things, I can. I just need to try. I can do push-ups from my toes. (I can't get get my upper arms parallel to the floor while I do them, but I will. Fo sho.) I can run. (Intervals, but it counts.) I can take a few hours on a Tuesday night and torch 1,000 calories. I can hold Boat Pose in yoga. And one day, I'll be doing pull-ups. Guaranteed.
  2. I found myself running. It sounds stupid, I know, to "find" oneself. I mean, I was never on the side of a milk carton, right? But I was lost for a long, long time. I had lots of friends and people who care about me, pointing me toward me, but it's hard, sometimes, having gone through the tough stuff to know who you are, where you fit in the world. But when you're out for a run, you are alone; yet, you're surrounded by people. Whether you're on a treadmill or on the road, there's a whole world reaching out to push you forward. You can have complete solitude as you compete with yourself to get you to your destination. It's kind of incredible. I found myself out there, this strong, independent woman who looks at a challenge and says, "Okay, let's go!"
  3. It's difficult, but not impossible, to completely change your life. And grand, sweeping changes begin with one small step.
  4. People make it worthwhile. I first entered my gym with a similar attitude with which I went off to college. Both times, my intent was to take a solitary journey, to accomplish a goal and be done with it. And both times, people have crossed my path of whom I have no intention of letting go. My life is more joyful not only because of my physical health, but because I am not alone on the journey.
  5. Making others proud feels great. Making yourself proud is the shit.
  6. You never know what you can do until you try. Scale a wall? Run a mile? Weigh less than I have in 13 years? Yeah, I can do that.
  7. Setting goals is easy. Reaching them takes work. Every day. But after awhile, it really does become a habit. Most days these days, I reach effortlessly for my gym bag. It's expected; it's just what I do.
  8. You can have the really good premium ice cream. You just have to measure out portions instead of eating out of the container. Like right now, there's a quart of Whole Foods' Salted Caramel Gelato in my freezer. For each half-cup serving, I log 160 calories. (No, I don't eat more than half a cup at at time.) I can do that a few times a week, and I feel indulgent and awesome. And it doesn't blow my calorie budget!
  9. The rest really is as important as the work. I don't obsess. I work my plan, and it's all good. Part of my plan is rest - every Wednesday, I do yoga; nothing strenuous, no major calorie burn. Every Friday, I take a day off from working out. On Sundays, if I feel like it, I'll head outside for a run, but it's not required. The plan helps me strike a balance. And isn't that really what it's all about?
  10. Small improvements feel incredible. The first time you're able to do something well - whether it's take a lunge deeper or do a perfect crunch or hold your plank - makes you realize that the work is paying off. It's not (only) about the way you look and feel; it's about the way the human body responds to the work. Your body will pay you back for every bit of effort you put into it.

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