Something to be Proud Of

My aunt called me yesterday to say that this blog has inspired her.  As she was telling me about her new gym membership and asking for advice on which women’s health magazine she should subscribe to, we began to talk about what had initially inspired me.

Runner’s often say that they were “bitten by the racing bug”.  This may be true, as we all know races to be an addictive adrenaline rush, but the more important thing to identify here is why

I used to live off a diet of ramen noodles, macaroni and cheese (the whole Blue Box in a single sitting, please), McDonald’s Double Cheeseburgers, and cereal.  Lots of cereal.  Vegetables were not something my refrigerator ever made the acquaintance of, and my crisper drawer may have only met an apple or two.  When my husband and I first met, we would order pizza two and three times a week.  He misses those days terribly (but never misses a chance to let me know it), as our “pizza” dinners now consist of veggies piled high on a crispy tortilla crust.   Just as delicious in my opinion… but why?

Exercising for me used to mean a  flurried week or two of intermittent activity at the gym.  The scale never reflected my efforts and the motivation would disappear as quickly as it had come.  But something changed when I began running.  What was it?

I told the true reason for my lifestyle change out loud to my aunt yesterday before I even realized what it was myself.  I told her, “I do it because it’s hard. It’s hard, and I’ve never done anything hard before.”  All of my life, I stuck to the things that came easily to me:  academia, writing, organization, leadership.  I steadfastly avoided activities that were a mental or physical challenge: athletics, cooking, Trivial Pursuit, bowling.  Why engage in activities that I could potentially fail at?  And for everyone to see?  Why would I set myself up for disappointment and embarrassment when I could simply stick to what I was good at and succeed with minimal effort?  

The answer is pride.

We all need a reason to feel good about ourselves.  Maybe I was good at bargaining or at reading maps, but how good could I feel about myself if it came instinctively and didn’t require any effort?  One thing I excelled at was maintaining a schedule.  Once a training plan was thumbtacked to my bedroom wall, the Type A personality kicked in.  In my mind, a plan was meant to be completed and that’s what I would do.  The Couch to 5k Plan that I used to train for my first race was an 8 week program.  And it was HARD.  I will never forget my husband standing next to the treadmill literally screaming at me in the last three minutes of a 20 minute run that I could DO THIS.  He would not let me give up, and more importantly, I was not about to fail so publicly. 

And I did it. I finished the program.  I finished the race.  And I immediately signed up for another four times as long.  Up on the wall went a second training program – this one was 12 weeks long.  I repeated that program two more times before finding my current 19 week marathon training program.  It’s now posted on my wall (and in my office, and in my gym bag). 

I was never athletic.  Looking back, I think this stemmed more from my lack of competitiveness than any physical limitations.   I had no interest in sports when I was a kid, not because I was uncoordinated (though this is undeniably true) but because I had no desire to win.  Card games, board games, baseball games … they bore me.   Regardless of the reason, when a child grows up without a background  in sports it can make physical activity a four letter word.  Running to me was inconceivable.  I was shocked when I managed to maintain it for 20 minutes on the treadmill that day and three years later, now training for a marathon, I’m still shocked I can make it around the block. 

Succeeding at something so drastically outside of my comfort zone, completely changed my life.  For the first time in 25 years I had done something that I could truly feel good about.  I was proud of myself.  Proud of myself for taking it on.  Proud of myself for succeeding.  Proud of myself for continuing and actually making it count for something.  After every run, I come in the door positively beaming to report my triumphs (and failures) to Kirk.  The changes in me are obvious and all-encompassing.  Feeling good about yourself for one thing can, if you let it, extend to so many other areas of your life.  

Now, if only I could overcome my anxiety of bowling and Trivial Pursuit.

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22 Responses to Something to be Proud Of

  1. Deanna says:

    I absolutely loved reading this post! You are a rock star!

  2. Great post!! I laugh when I think of my former, overweight self and the way I ate. I really had no idea I was eating so unhealthy!

  3. sophia says:

    I went from extremes to extremes: from a fast food junkie, to a health nut obsessed with every calorie. It was horrible. In both instances, I felt crap about myself. You’re right. Pride is so important in staying motivated, esp motivated in the right direction. It’s always been hard for me to strike a balance…and when I start to do it, and actually FEEL truly healthy, it makes me proud of myself, and become more confident in my own abilities.

    Awesome post! 😀

  4. Molly says:

    Great story! I enjoyed reading it : )

    Wanted to stop by…I’m part of Abbi’s Marathon Group too, and thought I would say hi!

  5. What a fantastic and well-written post! I think you inspired me to pick a plan today. I won’t be able to print it out for a few more days, but it will be saved on my computer for me to look at and start to tick off.

  6. BostonRunner says:

    Great post! So well written and powerful. I can relate to so much that you say here, especially embracing running because it’s hard. So many things have come easy to me in the past too, this is definitely not the case with running

  7. The Linz says:

    Wow, that was beautifully said. My story is very similar to yours. I was never a real athlete and didn’t know much about eating the right foods or working out but once I began running it was a challenge. And a challenge I didn’t want to quit so easily. I love that you were able to inspire your aunt with your blog – I get feedback from family and friends too that just by me going out there and doing this marathon I am inspiring them (because they know how hard it truly is too). I appreciate your words as it’s so true to my heart.

  8. Tina says:

    Great post! Taking care of our health is something we should be proud of because it does take work. But it is also so worth it.

  9. Monique says:

    WOW! Amazingly motivational! Loved it. Thank you for sharing! Your husband is awesome for yelling by the way. 😉 I think it’s pretty sweet to be supportive! Good luck on your journey!

  10. Liz says:

    I loved this post. Part of the reason I’ve made the lifestyle changes I’ve made recently have also been because it was difficult. I’ve always stuck to what came easily to me and I’m starting to learn (very slowly) what it really feels like to try 🙂 It sounds like you’ve made so much progress and I really admire that!

  11. worleebird says:

    saw your link on HTP. Great post! You’re so right about simply doing something that challenges us. 🙂

  12. Astrid says:

    I have always had the same attitude about not doing things I “wasn’t good at”. I hate this attitude!! I need to be proud of everything I try. Love this post!

  13. gavrielski says:

    Thanks for sharing your journey! Being proud of ourselves is incredibly powerful and can lead us to make big changes in our lives and accomplish extraordinary things. Congratulations to you on both accounts! 🙂

  14. lindsay says:

    oh man. i totally remember when i would go home from school and eat a pack of ramen noodles as a snack… and then eat dinner! 600 calorie snack… yeah ok, totally necessary. 🙂 mmm they were good though

  15. You should be so proud girl! I adore this post. It made me smile big. 😀

  16. Carolyn says:

    I totally agree with everything here! You’ve expressed so many of the things I’ve been trying to piece together – my sister is constantly asking me why I’m running, why I keep trying to do my C25K program (I’m on my second try through, the first I gave up on last winter when it got cold) and you’re exactly right – I keep trying for my pride. Because this is hard and I CAN beat it. Or, I WILL.

    It may take some time and many tries though 😉

  17. Meleah says:

    Wow! I am training for my first-ever race, a 5K this Saturday, and your post was so inspiring! It’s great to know that someone else started with a couch-to-5K program and has been able to accomplish so much! Best of luck with your marathon training! Thank you again for the inspiration to keep lacing up my running shoes!

  18. Katie A. says:

    Trying to get caught up with ya!
    LOVED reading this – so glad you have found running. I swear, just like you, it makes me a better “me.”
    Keep it up girlie – you are going places 🙂

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