Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It only takes a spark...

"Forget the crash diets, the fad eating trends and endless hours on a treadmill. We're skipping the resolution to lose weight. We're going to improve our game, crush our opponents and still have time for a fun weekend. We want to gain power this year." That is the mantra for a company called, 4all by jofit this year. Ironically, after months of following training plans for the Chickamauga Marathon and the Goofy Challenge, that mantra is EXACTLY what I had in mind for 2011.

Before I stepped across the finish line at the Goofy Challenge earlier this month, I had already set my thoughts in motion for the next challenge. Doing the Goofy proved to me once again that I am capable of so much more than I am willing to admit. Part of me thrives on the structure of a training plan and a goal that is etched on the calendar in the not too distant future. More recently, the side of me that seems to have been suppressed is crying out for a life with no real plans. Time to get back to things I enjoy without the pressure of a training schedule that demands I bike 40 miles Saturday or run 17 miles on Sunday. In 2011, I not only want to gain power for myself by taking the freedom to step away from the structure of a training regimen but also give power to others by volunteering more and encouraging new runners as they strive to reach their goals.

For those of you who might not have followed me from the beginning, I started running three years ago. In fact, the anniversary of the first of what would become many races is in a couple of weeks. I dabbled in running prior to 2008 by entering a handful of races but don’t really count that as a legitimate attempt at running. Back then, my running consisted of signing up for a race, running it with no training or preparation whatsoever and then feeling miserable the entire time (and usually for days afterward). In 2008, I was part of a Team Fitness group at Lifetime Fitness. The trainer talked all of us into running a 5k. The winner of the 5k out of our group would receive a $100 gift certificate to the spa at Lifetime. I was determined to do well in this race. I knew I had a good chance to win but had some stiff competition. I started to actually train for the race (*gasp*). Like a lot of new runners, I started out a tenth of a mile at a time. I would run to a light pole, walk a bit and run again. Before I knew it I was up to 3 miles. The day before the race, I remember having a group discussion with the trainer about what to eat the night before the race, how much water to drink and whether or not we needed GU gels immediately before or during the race. All of the nerves and questions we had leading up to the race seem funny now as it all seems second nature.

The gun went off that day at the start and I passed quite a few people in my Team Fitness group as we headed down the road on the 5k. It was an out and back on a highway so I did my best to scan the passing runners for my competition. To my surprise, everyone in my group was behind me. I just kept the pace and trucked my way to the finish, winning that gift certificate and placing 3rd in my age group. Just a month later, I pushed myself a bit further and found myself finishing my first half marathon. If it weren’t for that trainer at Lifetime, I would never have thought I would be here three years later having completed 10 half marathons, 4 marathons and 3 triathlons. Back then, I remember seeing the ladies in my masters swim group and thinking how fit they were and feeling inadequate in comparision. We are all capable of so much more. Sometimes you just need someone to light the torch within by encouraging you to try.

This year, my power is going to be gained by doing things I enjoy. In all my running over the past years, my love for tennis was pushed to the side. One of the casualties of trying to fit it all in. Like the motto, I want to improve my game and crush my opponents but at the same time still have time for a fun weekend. Less running because the schedule says I have to and more running just because it makes me feel good. More tennis. It is time to ramp my game back up and play for fun (and maybe a division win or two...). I have signed up for a couple of leagues that start in February and can't wait to get back on the court! Oh, I still have have races on my schedule. I can think of at least 4 half marathons, a 10k and 2 marathons with my name on them. The power is in running to finish, to prove to myself that I can do it and to have fun in the process.

I have gained so much by that one act of encouragement, how can I not try to give that same power to others? For now, I plan to do more volunteering this year at local races. Ideally at least one a month. Volunteering is such a great way to give back. If you have not done it, you should do it at least once. I also want to be more involved in helping new runners get started whether that be through my run club or other opportunities. Many of my friends are working towards their first half marathon. It is truly exciting to see their progress. So much can be gained by a little encouragement. It only takes a spark and before you know it you are leaping over flames.

So, how are you going to gain power this year?


Jim ... 50after40 said...

Awesome! Very inspirational. Congrats on your success and best wishes this year ... that fire picture is amazing!

Amanda said...

That's awesome - I do the races I do because I love them and I am training harder this year because I want to and like you to have fun.

I want to continue to encourage others as well. Like you finishing the Goofy Challenge proved to me that I really can do more than I ever thought possible, even under difficult circumstances. It's always great to help pay that forward!

Thanks for the encouragement and I know you're going to make great things happen for yourself and others this year.

Jennifer said...

Great post, you are very encouraging, that, I have found is what makes endurance athletes so special. Keep up the great work!

Karen said...

Wow...incredible and inspiring! Great job over the past few years with making goals and reaching them!! :0)

Darlene said...

It is a challenge to fit it all in. I have played USTA tennis for several years & then started to run. Now that I run I play tennis less but I enjoy them both in different ways.

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