Monday, May 11, 2009

Mind Over Matter. And Feet.

I've done it! Ladies and gentlemen, I have emerged from my funky, negative, and otherwise cranky mood of the past, oh I don't know, FOREVER. I don't know what did it, I don't know why, and I don't really care. It just feels great to be back among the living again.

I'm back to feeling invincible, back to feeling optimistic, and back to feeling like I've got the wind at my back. Which, incidentally, would be a great advantage these days with all of the time I've been spending on the treadmill.

Now that I think about it, I do know the cause of my funk - getting up every day to do something at which I consistently fail (re: hurdles) was starting to wear on me. So, while I didn't want to stop my drills and training, I decided to also train on something I am relatively good at: running. Running is my fall-back plan. It's pretty easy, just one foot in front of the other over and over and over. It doesn't require any fancy equipment, just some carbs to get me going. And then there are the endorphins. Oh, those sweet, sweet endorphins. Let's just all have a moment of appreciation for endorphins, shall we?

Anyway, as I was saying - I decided to start back running to distract myself from my miserable hurdle work. But I wasn't happy with just plain old running. I felt challenged to increase my speed, inspired by a gym buddy who was working on an 8-minute mile. I was in awe. I am not a fast runner, but steady at a little over 9 minutes per mile. But as Jenny wiped sweat from her brow and told me it was just mind over matter, I decided to give it a shot.

To be honest, I didn't think I could do it. I mean, I knew I could, but I didn't think I would. But that day at lunchtime I started out running at my usual speed, and increased it every minute until I was at an 8 min/mile pace. Then, I tried to think about anything other than my feet pounding on the treadmill, my chest burning, my legs begging for mercy, and my mouth suddenly parched for water. I focused intently on the latest college basketball report on SportsCenter as if my life depended on it, glancing down at the treadmill periodically to see how much longer I had to go. And, eight minutes later, I was done. I slowed to my normal pace and tried not to throw up.

I had done it. I felt pretty darn pleased with myself.

The next week, I decided to go for 1.25 miles. "Mind over matter," I kept telling myself when my feet threatened to quit. And I did it. I felt pretty darn pleased with myself.

The third week, I added on another quarter mile. 1.5 miles at 8 min/mile was tough, but also easy. Once I got over the mental block, it was just like regular running. Just one foot in front of the other, over and over and over. I wondered if I could do 1.75 miles.

I could. The following week, I climbed on my trusty treadmill and cranked it up. This time, instead of thinking about my feet pounding on the treadmill, my chest burning, my legs begging for mercy, and my mouth suddenly parched for water, I imagined my feet crumbling the pavement behind me, my chest taking in oxygen and delivering it to my muscles, and my legs flexing and contracting to propel my body forward. My mouth was still parched for water, but that was okay. I was too exhausted to care.

That Saturday I was meeting some friends to run in a 5k. As we stretched and discussed our personal goals for finishing times, I aimed for a time of 28 minutes, an average of about 9 minutes per mile. I knew I had increased my speed but also knew that the course was hilly, part of it was a trail, and I was used to running on a flat treadmill in the air conditioning. Regardless, when I reached the finish line and saw the clock, I thought there must have been a mistake. Not only had I beaten my goal, I had taken 1:17 off of my best time.

I finally felt alive again.

I'm still not a fast runner; there are plenty of people who run faster than I do every single day, people for whom an 8 minute mile is a rest day. But I'm faster than I used to be, thanks to Jenny and her reminder that fitness is often a simple equation of mind over matter.

This morning I got back to work on the hurdles. I enjoyed the workout a lot more after seeing the almost instantaneous results of my endurance training. Hard work and perseverance pays off, and eventually my hurdle training will, too. But until then, I always have my 8 minute mile.

And yeah, this week I'm going for 2.


JennyB said...

I'm way proud of you, Heather, for PRing on the 5K this weekend, that's great! You've challenged me to get back into that "8 min mile" mindset, I haven't done it again after that one week, gotta step it up. :)

P.S. That's my soccer friend Sara Davis running beside you; you both look great.

The (not so) Reluctant Athlete said...

Thanks Jenny! You were my inspiration! Your friend Sara looks like she is running a lot faster than me; that was right before the last 100 yard dash to the finish. :)

EDP said...

Way to go, Heather!

Apollo said...

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