Friday, August 5, 2011

The Only Thing You Need to Run

I have plenty of co-workers who are interested in my running and periodically ask how my training for this or that is going. (Side note: I realized today that I'm currently training for a marathon, a half-marathon and a triathlon. I'm insane.)

I'm happy to chat about running with anyone, but I notice many times that the person I'm talking with will say something like, "I'd love to be a runner, but I can't because..."

It doesn't really matter what they say; I just smile and nod and say, "Yeah, I once thought that, too."

I'm not a born athlete. I never played sports growing up. I dreaded running the mile in P.E. class. I "ran" track in junior high, but I did sprints (poorly) and the high jump (semi-adequately). I eventually quit because there was — get this — too much running involved.

In college, I once attempted to run from my freshman dorm to Gas Works Park. I burned out halfway there and had to turn around.

"Halfway there" was about half a mile. I was so discouraged by this incident that I never made a second attempt.

So why am I, of all people, now able to run while others think they can't?

My friend Ben Davis recently posted this statement on his blog:

Not everyone has to run. If you don't want to run, don't run!

But if you want to run and think you can't, I can tell you right now that you only need one thing to run... or bike... or swim... or do whatever it is that you think you can't do — and it's this:

The only thing you need is the will to walk out of your front door and do it.

OK, so you technically need a pair of sneakers, but hey, some people run barefoot! The point is that there are a million excuses for why someone can't do something. The one thing that sets those who can apart from those who can't is that they do it.

To be a runner, you don't have to be fast. You don't have to race. You don't have to run a marathon. A lot of people let these all-or-nothing excuses get in the way of simply starting.

It's called paralyzed perfectionism, and it's my middle name (disguised for paperwork as "Alexandra"). I almost didn't graduate high school because of it.

Paralyzed perfectionism goes really well with those "can't" excuses. Here's a great example:

"Obviously I can never do a triathlon. My swimming form is terrible."

Hey — I'm signed up for a triathlon that's about a month away. I haven't been swimming since this photo was taken! My "form" is exactly the same (underwater robot?). I also don't have access to a pool, don't have a one-piece swimsuit to train in, don't have goggles, don't have a swim cap, and don't really know where to get started on this swimming thing. I won't be able to do it perfectly.

But I can do it, and I will, because I care enough to try.

There's so much equipment that goes hand-in-hand with sports, and people get so caught up with it as being integral to their success. I don't really need all that swimming stuff I just mentioned; I could just fling myself into the nearest body of water and get to work.

A suit, goggles and swim cap won't help me learn how to swim. Flinging myself into the water will.

I have all the stuff that every serious runner has: great shoes, a GPS watch, a fuel belt, special running clothes and more. But none of that stuff actually gets me out of my front door. Only I can do that.

There are still lots of things I subconsciously tell myself I "can't" do, but really just haven't cared enough to try:

  • I "can't" wake up earlier so I can be less rushed each morning.
  • I "can't" find the time to cook complete, healthy meals instead of just grabbing whatever is easiest.
  • I "can't" keep my room clean and my clothes put away.
  • I "can't" start regularly posting on this blog three times per week.

These are all things that frustrate me, and it's great to realize that I can change each of them if I really try. I won't be able to start magically doing all these things perfectly, but, as much as I can, I just have to jump out of bed... plan out those meals... put away crap as I go... and write, dammit!

I remember that day in college when I struggled to run a half-mile and I see how far I've come... literally. I've run more than 300 miles so far this year, and I'll add another 400+ before the year is out.

The reason 24-year-old me can do what 18-year-old me couldn't even fathom is simply because I now care enough to do it, and I don't worry about "failing" as a runner. And if this running thing is any indication, I can do a whole lot better at a whole lot of other things.

Time to fling myself into the water.


What have you avoided doing because you've feared you would fail? What do you want to start caring more about today?


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  1. Awesome post! I think "underwater robot" should be the newest swimming discipline.

  2. i'm curious...what do you think about personal trainers? do you think that getting one is an excuse for not having enough motivation on your own? do you think it's wasted money?

  3. I just started running! I have been reading your blog, and some others, for inspiration. I also picked up "The Courage to Start" by John "The Penguin" Bingham. I used to say "I can't run" because of some bursitis in my knee, but now I am saying "I can run a little and make friends with the ice pack."
    Anyway, thanks for the reminder/kick in the pants. It's a little humbling to start small and feel so out of shape, but I love the feeling I have when I get back to my house and know that I got it done one more time. A journey of 1000 miles begins with one step.

  4. @Christina: I think personal trainers are great for helping you learn how to work out and navigate gym equipment. Lots of gyms offer one or a few free sessions with one, and that's a great way to get started. But you can also find a TON of info online about how to work out; I've never had a trainer and I'm currently using online tutorials and workouts to get into lifting (successfully, so far!). As far as motivation goes, a personal trainer can't work out for you -- you still have to do all the tough stuff. And if, deep down, you don't want to do it, the trainer won't be able to help you. I think research (books, the Web) + a motivational gym buddy can be just as effective and a lot more affordable!

  5. @Anonymous: Trademark pending. :D

    @Melissa: It's tough when you have an injury! As long as you take care of yourself and enjoy what you do, that's awesome. Happy running!

  6. Devon.... Why did I not know you had this beautiful blog??? Hmmm.... You are the best! You just said everything that I feel... I shall fling myself out the door today and run more than walk, because I care enough to try!

    Have a beautiful Day Devon!

  7. I used to hate running, but forced myself to do it for years just to stay in shape. After a couple miles I'd drag myself home with sore legs and tender shins. I read Born To Run a few years ago and it totally changed the way I looked at running. From something to do to "stay in shape" to something that we are "born to do". I started running barefoot and in Vibrams, and now I love running and have a goal to do a half within a few months (in my Vibrams). I agree that changing your mindset is the place to start. Maybe it's just mental changes, maybe physical changes, maybe both, but in the end, if you want to do something you can do it! Good luck on all your upcoming races!

  8. @Kimberlee: That's awesome! Your comment will make me smile all day. Have a great run!

    @Russ: Isn't it so nice to enjoy running after you used to dread it? I haven't read Born to Run, but I've heard so many people say that it completely changed their outlook. I'll need to add it to my reading list. Good luck with that half and rocking the Vibrams!

  9. Amen! I guess I am like you, I was the most un-athletic gal growing up and am now training for my 1st tri and marathon. It's just about going out there and doing it, maybe with a little guidance. I LOVE Jeff Galloway, especially for beginning runners. Same thing with the swim, I DO NOT swim well, but I get out there and chug along a few days a week. I avoiding doing endurance events for several years because I was afraid I'd look stupid or be in last place. Now I don't is too short to worry about stuff like that. Good luck on your training and upcoming races :)

  10. Hi Devon!
    I've been reading your blogs tonight and just wanted to send some good vibes your way. I just started running myself and I'm currently training for my first 5k in September. I'm also apart of a Financial Peace class right now and it looks like you may have took some advice from Dave Ramsey in the past too ;) Take care and I'll be sure to keep up with your posts from now on :)

  11. @1lifeabundant: I love your attitude! Good luck with your tri and marathon!

    @Brittany: Nice to "meet" you! I'm sending good vibes back atcha. Good luck with your first 5K — I hope you love it. The first one I did got me completely addicted to running. And I love Dave Ramsey — can't say enough good things about him. Great that you're taking a class!


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