Monday, August 5, 2013

Life Lessons I've Learned from Running

I was completely prepared to post today about the totally fun and sparkly painted sparkle that I've been adding to an invitation suite to be completed this week. I'm giving you a sneak preview of that anyway...
But, as I was running this morning, I had an epiphany that inspired me to scrap my plan and go off topic for today. Today's post is sparkly in it's own way, hopefully inspirational, or sanity saving (at least a little maybe?).  So, hand painted sparkle, maybe tomorrow for you, for today...

Life Lessons I've learned from Running

I actually used to hate running, when made to do it in gym class I cringed, when made to do it for sport teams I'd hide on the backside of the track and skip as many laps as possible (cheater, I know). I didn't learn to appreciate running until after my daughter was born, and left with very little sleep and time, much less time to myself, I took the jogging stroller that was gifted to me, strapped my little 6 month old bundle in, and off I went. Fast forward 10 years, I've continued to run on and off, more in the summer than in the winter, and have even entered a race or 2 here and there and ran a Spartan race last year. I've come to appreciate that running makes me feel better, healthier, stronger, and more in shape, but everyone knows that. I've recently realized though, that many of the disciplines that I use as a runner, also benefit me in my everyday life. And many of the lessons that I've learned through training to run farther and faster, and better, are also metaphors for tricks that I've learned to make myself more productive, less stressed, and to enjoy my life more. So, I decided to share them, in hopes that those who read my blog, may find a little bit of inspiration here.

Lesson #1 - Set big goals... but then only look a few feet ahead.
As a runner, each time you go out to run, you have goals that are somewhat "down the road". Some days it's how far to run, some days how fast to run, some days to run hills, or sprints. Some days maybe the goal is just to run. Here's what I've noticed - if I set out to run 5 miles, and all through the run, I am thinking of that 5 mile mark, waiting to be close to it, and thinking about how far away it is, I often fall short of my goal. And I certainly don't enjoy the journey, thinking all the way ahead, and thinking how far I am from completion. But on the days where I set my goal, and then just run, get lost in my music, and only look a few feet ahead, I find myself reaching the goal quicker, easier, and with a lot less pain!

In life: Big goals are important. Don't for a minute take what I'm about to say, and think that it means not to have long term goals. But staring down the "road" at a long term goal doesn't help you get there. And sometimes staring down that long road can be daunting, overwhelming, or stressful. Focus on looking a few feet ahead, or in real terms... breaking the goal down into smaller manageable pieces. You'll see, by doing this, you'll start to achieve your goals, finish your projects, and be less stressed, less overwhelmed, and more productive. Who doesn't want that?

Lesson #2 - Now that you're looking just a few steps ahead, you can watch for uneven pavement, rocks, tree branches, and dog poo. 
All kidding aside, if you're a runner, you know that the path in front of you can be paved (or not paved) with all kids of hazards. By watching what's coming next you can easily, jump, maneuver, or avoid completely the upcoming obstacles. This can be an ankle saver!

In life: Uh, I think you can probably extrapolate this on your own, but yes, by taking on smaller chunks of a task, project, or goal at a time, you can more easily see and plan for pitfalls. You can then devise and quickly implement a plan to protect against those "road blocks" and carry on more effectively. Think about it, when you have the idea of a huge project looming over you, doesn't each and every little issue seem insurmountable? But when you've broken it down, and you have a plan, even dog poo is avoidable. Make sense? Hope so!

Lesson #3 - Never stop in the middle of a hill
Clearly, you can't meet every goal (I can't anyway, maybe you're super man/woman, but that's on you). Realizing this is an important first step to mental heath and sanity. Some days you might set out to run 10 miles, and after 6, you feel like vomiting. That's ok, you're human, and you do what you can. But one thing I've learned is to never quit in the middle of a hill. Fight that battle! You can slow down if it helps, but DO NOT QUIT! Here's why... When you're fighting your way up a hill, you're working your absolute hardest, this is the time when your body most wants to quit, but if you just push a little farther and a little harder, getting to the top will feel amazing. The amazing feeling that reaching the top gives, far outweighs any pain suffered while getting there. Plus, you never know, the adrenaline rush from that success might give you the power to go further, especially after coasting downhill for a bit. As you know, all hills up, must eventually come down. 

In Life: Any time that you're in the middle of a big project, a tough time at work, or a rough patch in a relationship, the temptation to quit is always there. Growth can be painful, change can hurt, conflict is scary, but almost all of these lead to a better end. So if you want to give up, leave, or quit in any way, don't do it in the middle of the uphill. Wait until you've reached the top, or are coasting back down, then by all means, jump ship if you still want to. This way you'll know that you achieved what you needed to, and that quitting was your choice, not an avoidance of the hard stuff. 

Pain is weakness leaving the body
Once while running with my youngest brother, I was begging to quit, and he looked back at me (from slightly ahead) and said "pain is weakness leaving the body". That stuck with me. Both with running, and through tough times in life. Things that are difficult, and even those that hurt, usually make us stronger. Whether it's the fight that gets you through the pain that toughens you up, or the lessons learned from pain, it's almost always a path to a stronger mind/body.

I LOVE the old pearls of wisdom that you can usually learn from the older generations. I hear less and less of them recently, but It's funny how sometimes you glean lessons in the strangest places. Ever pick up a life lesson from an everyday activity? Share in the comments...

Sparkle On!

 - Kathy

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