Last week’s cold snap aside, I think we can agree that spring is here to stay. That means that I have laced up the running shoes for another, new training season. The beginning is never good. It doesn’t matter how long into the winter I persevere, lumbering through snow drifts, my wool socks stuffed into trail shoes. Inevitably, I succumb to the snow or the cold or the relentless grayness of February and settle into the couch for a well-deserved hiatus. Come April I am as weak as a day old kitten, floundering in my bed, my eyes sealed shut against the sun. Somehow, every year I manage to stuff my protesting self into running pants and, propelled by the adrenaline from that terrifying sight, shuffle off to run.
It’s been a solid month now, and the running is getting better. There are days when I remember that I actually enjoy this. Enough so that I start perusing races and planning for fall. Time to get a training plan together and you know I love a plan. And not to sound too Oprah about it, but I also love setting intentions.
I always set an intention for each new running season. Sometimes, when younger and blissfully unaware of my genetic shortcomings, my running intention has been to “Go Faster.” Sometimes it has been, to borrow a phrase, “Run Happy.” Sometimes it is simply to remain uninjured. This year it is to ignore that little voice in my head. The “inner child” some might call it. But, whereas your inner child might be a delightful little imp, encouraging you to play and laugh and dance like nobody’s watching, mine is, well, kind of a brat. A wheedling, cranky, lazy brat. And she doesn’t particularly like physical exertion, either.
“I’m going to run around the lake,” I tell myself and instantly, she begins to whine, “Nooooooo! It’s cold, it’s drizzling. The lake is so far…Lets watch Hulu and eat a cookie. NO! All the cookies!” I’ve spent a lot of time arguing with her in the past, but this year the plan is to go all zen on the problem and simply disengage from the chatter.
When I tell myself that I’m going to run around the lake, by God, I’m going to run around the lake and no slovenly version of myself gets to tell me no. I may not be the boss of much, but I am the boss of me, right? As such, I’m a big fan of the Under Armour “Rule Yourself” campaign. I’ve watched that ad no less than 18 times and only mostly because -hello!- Michael Phelps in a speedo. (And strangely enough, that beard! It makes him look like a French Musketeer which I was unaware I found quite so devastatingly attractive. See? You learn something new every day. Sigh…)
…Wait. What was I talking about?
So this year, I run, silently repeating the inspirational mantra, “Shaddap, You!” every time my inner child starts to have a tantrum. I’d likely be surprised at how often it comes up, if I weren’t already acclimated to my sound council falling on deaf ears. I have five kids, and not one of them listens to a thing I say; why should my inner child be any different?
The best thing about the entire plan is that it gives me the opportunity to practice commitment. That, my friends, is what we call a transferable skill. Easily half of the trauma in my life is caused by my inability to stop wringing my hands over decisions I’ve already made. I hesitantly shuffle forward, peering over my shoulder concerned that the direction I’ve chosen is the wrong one. (Ironically, I rarely do this while driving, even though past experience shows that my sense of direction is comically non-existent. If I get lost -and I WILL get lost- I just try to figure out where St. Paul is and go west of there.) How much more peaceful life will be when I learn to stop hopscotching between options and get on with a single course of action. “This is what I’m doing now,” is what I need to tell myself with unwavering certainty, “This is the way things are.” The alternative, “Should I or shouldn’t I?” dramatically reduces any chance of success, because I haven’t fully committed to anything. Which is why I need to practice every chance I get.
I’m starting with running. I already do it, so it’s more a matter of fine-tuning my attitude, which is a good baby step. Besides, I’m completely out of cookies, so what else am I going to do?