We share with you what we are working on to keep our bodies and minds well. We also run into quite a few obstacles along the way and we offer those for your amusement!
All About Practice … and Recovery
February is all about honing in on the value of both wishes and goals. In our effort to take this new year at a healthy pace, we’ve given ourselves (and you) permission to slow down to work toward meaningful outcomes, not just seemingly expected ones.
This month we are considering equally what we think in our minds with what we feel in our hearts. Finding that equilibrium can be challenging.
I have been holding one hand full of goals and the other fistful of wishes since the year began.
Both feel inspiring, a bit audacious at times, and heavy. They weigh on my mind and heart, and in the last few days, I have been getting various signals that they weigh on my body too.
About a week ago, my recovery numbers, my sleep, how I felt in my body, and my heart rate all started to give me hints that I was pushing a little too hard or not recovering fast enough. The well was beginning to be drained instead of getting equal use and replenishment.
But my mind and heart didn’t want to hear it because they held these wishes and goals. I wasn’t denying I felt tired or that I wasn’t recovering as fast as I would like. I was denying that it need my attention or adjustment in training.
I simply wasn’t listening because the wishes and goals are loud and currently in the driver’s and front passenger’s seats.
Then around Saturday afternoon, following a training run that I knew felt harder than it should have, I realized that if I didn’t start listening to my body, it wouldn’t matter much about balancing my wishes and goals.
Sunday, I rested. I even took an unexpected nap. Anything that would require too much physical activity I put on pause. I can either rest a few days now or completely derail everything else.
Sometimes the hardest part of training is NOT training. The hardest part is resting. Recovery is giving your body the time it needs to rebuild from a hard training session or string of sessions.
It is tempting to tell yourself the story resting means losing momentum. Our goals in our mind tell us we are losing fitness, but it’s a myth.
Muscle is built during the recovery from a hard-strength workout
Plants grow more in the dark after a day of photosynthesis.
Sleep after a study session allows it to be more fully assimilated into the brain.
The work matters. The work is required, but without rest and time to integrate, all that runs down the drain as we begin to break down instead of build-up.
This all fits in with a new perspective I have been bringing to my training this year. I have started referring to it as practice.
I am practicing this distance, terrain, and intensity. I am practicing lifting this weight. I am practicing stability with this drill.
I practice to teach my whole self how to become better at this skill muscularly, cardiovascularly, respiratorily, neurologically, mentally, and wholistically.
Right now, my biggest hurdle is to practice resting. Practice trusting that I am just like the plants that grow at night, like brains that retain information better while sleeping. Practicing internalizing that time off is producing more than I imagine.
Practicing reminding my big goals and wishes that I am just like everyone else.
It’s not only what I am holding in each of my hands. It’s also what has a hold on me.
Wishes in my heart
Goals in my head
And rest holds it all together.
Rest holds me together. It’s part of the practice, not time away from practice.
I know I said slow…
We said we were getting a slow start to 2023, I just didn’t know how slow. About 12 days in, I picked up my husband’s cold. I did what many of us do even though we’ve had countless colds in our lifetimes; I threw every remedy possible at it hoping to shorten its stay.
And while I am sure some of it helped, colds have a way of taking as long as they take.
And all that talk about starting slow began to feel like my nemesis. I didn’t want to be slow. I wanted to be purposeful and methodical.
About nine days later, I returned to training; while lighter than I’d prefer, sometimes you are required to go slow to go fast.
I spent a great deal of time with a cold being mad about it, worrying about my training, and obsessing about how it put me behind.
Did it help? No. Did it make me feel worse? Yes. Did I continue with that path anyway? Oh, yes, I did! I may not love slow starts, but I am, for sure, a slow learner.
And then Sunday arrived, and I felt like I was back. I felt relief. I came upon a quote:
“Relief is a great feeling.
It’s the emotional and physical reward we receive from our bodies upon alleviation of pain, pressure and struggle. A time to bask in the lack of the negative.
And yet, think about it—relief is really the status quo, a negation of the suffering, a nothing in itself. It is the way things were before the pressure and struggle began.
So, is it a step back? A regression?
Or is it an opportunity to regroup, start over, and move in a different direction?
Use your moment of relief well.”
~ Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration
This was at once exhilarating and jarring. I was feeling the sweet sensation of relief. But relief is a step back; it’s status quo? What? And yet, I couldn’t refute its truth.
It left me with a bit of melancholy and puzzled as to whether I was using my relief to its fullest.
I wasn’t an existential crisis but it has been on my mind ever since.
What am I doing with my time? With my life? I mean, really?
Then I received Cheryl Richardson’s (https://cherylrichardson.com/newsletters/why-i-love-cold-water/) weekly newsletter. It arrives every Sunday and always has a nice thought to start the week. In this particular missive, she is attempting to quantify the personal value of a cold plunge for her life.
She referenced how Joseph Campbell told Bill Moyers years before that people say they want more meaning in their lives, but Campbell believed they meant more “aliveness.”
This brings me back to relief and the deeper feeling under my anxiety about not training. I don’t want to waste this life. I also long for aliveness. I think it’s what propels me to attempt ultramarathons. When you are trying to do something that tests limits, everything is magnified. Your senses are heightened, and it gives me a distinct sense of aliveness.
I am making peace with my nine-day layoff and my slowish return to training as I coerce myself into remembering the race I have in March – no matter how much I care about it (and I care a lot) – isn’t my biggest goal.
I have to accept, cope with, and deal with the reality that I have the time I have. How can I make the best of it?
What I have decided with my head, that my heart is slowly coming around to, is that being as physically strong as I possibly can is the next best thing.
It doesn’t mean I am not still putting in the miles. It doesn’t mean that strength wasn’t on my radar before. It simply requires that I slide strength into the number one spot because it’s a more realistic reach.
I said last year I was playing the long game. I still am, and what I was looking ahead to last year is still months in the future. I have been on an 18-month plan for a while now. And not shockingly, things have NOT gone according to my plan.
Instead, it has involved tantrums, tears, reluctant acceptance, compromise, adjustment, disappointment, pleasant surprise, mental anguish, resilience, and… relief.
And I am going to venture that all of that goes under one bigger umbrella – aliveness.
This is what it means to be alive! What it means to live a human life.
I can battle with it, fight it, curse it and trust me, I will. But I could also find relief in that too. I am not missing it; this IS IT. This is a human life. What a relief.
“use your moment of relief well.”
It’s that time of year, folks. Did you work out and eat healthy through the holidays? Are you feeling proud of yourself?
Did you find yourself in that familiar black hole between Thanksgiving and the New Year where family, celebrations, life, turmoil, obligations, etc…left you on the sofa eating your feelings in the form of popcorn and Milk Duds?
Be honest. Do your jeans fit or are they a little snug? Have you found yourself wearing leggings or unbuttoning your jeans after dinner?
If you answered yes to any or all of these questions except the first few, then hello! Happy New Year, I see you.
You might have started back to the gym last week, in which case you are likely so sore you can barely sit on the toilet. You are also likely grumpy because you are detoxing from above-mentioned concoctions of the sweet and salty and now everyone wants you to be back at work, and all caught up, and it feels like the world started the new year without you.
Again….I see you.
There are some things that are out of our control, and we just need to plow through with relentless forward motion this January. This doesn’t mean we can’t take time to breathe and appreciate the slow burn of the New Year. We don’t have to start a workout routine, detox, drink more water, do yoga, and start a meditation practice by mid-January.
Let’s assume you are still treading water or just trying to get a routine off the ground. What would happen if you just started drinking more water the first week? Maybe in the second week you started having less sugar and the third week, you started just moving your body for 30 minutes. Doesn’t that sound much kinder than trying to shame yourself into submission because you enjoyed yourself over the last few months? Not only is it a kinder, gentler way to treat your body, but it also gives you a much higher chance of succeeding. A year is a long time, and if we try to do it all in a matter of days, not only will we fail, but we will likely be back to eating our feelings.
I will admit that I have had years where I was back on the wagon January 1st and years where it’s taken me until February 1st to get it together. This year definitely took me an extra week of deliberation and I’m not walking around shaming myself at every corner. I am focusing on small, doable steps and living by the mantra-better than yesterday.
So, if you are still nibbling on holiday snacks that your neighbors brought delivered and you haven’t made it to the gym, now is the time. Have a glass of water, put down the cookie and go move your body for 30 minutes.
Tomorrow, rinse and repeat.