I’ve been on both ends of the “from struggling to proudly flying in my shoes” continuum. There is the gradual process of running a further distance without having to stop and stagger with relief. It becomes easier as muscles get conditioned and learn to expect a certain kind of movement and exertion when I initiate certain actions. Just the forward step at the starting line seems to summon the level of energy required for the run. Over the course of two weeks, my body brought itself into tune and I was running long past the markers used to go ahead and slow down for a short walk. It’s all about habit and learning.
Much of my writing has to do with the initial step out of the comfort zone. Just one simple step and one simple action is all it takes to redirect my thinking and change my mind. In social situations it is the act of saying hello to someone when feeling awkward. In running, it is the act of putting on my shorts and shoes at 5:30 in the morning. Neither type of behavior is easy for me most of the time to start with. Both are very simple and small in terms of commitment. Saying hello doesn’t mean I have to stay in a conversation or even begin one. Putting my running gear on doesn’t necessarily mean I have to step out the door. Even if I do step out there is always the possibility to just stand on the porch and then go back in. These small actions can be my ace-in-the-hole or my safety net, but they can also be the catalyst for the next step; a bridge from one level of action to another. Learning to glide takes time.
My experience as a renewed beginner in running almost 6 years ago has taught me some things about what learning has to do with the ever-living presence of ego. I have to be the boss and sort of counter those self-doubting beliefs by swinging one foot forward and then the next no matter what. Each foot step is a valiant win in the face of the thoughts that scream “This is crazy!” The first jog, walk and wheeze felt like trying to bring to a wooden puppet to life. Every part of my body was shocked. It took some doing to go 2 miles and almost run the last 2 blocks.
Self-doubt can be considered an attempt for the mind and body to stay safe and not go outside the usual. But time and time again, I have witnessed both myself and others express hesitation towards a new activity. Most of the time there follows the same pattern of events. The person whines and makes excuses regarding the reason not to try it or just go ahead and do the thing. Finally a step is made in action and soon the formerly uncertain person is a natural at it. This is much of what happens when parents take their little ones to swimming lessons. My son kept getting into the water on a daily basis and was soon doing cannon balls from a little cliff.
Putting my ass out on the street morning after morning was how I stomped the fear thoughts into a mud puddle. Another thing I did was make everything a routine which supported the running. Without even knowing it, my ritual of eating raw oatmeal and milk after a run was a method used to encourage other actions such as purchasing a stopwatch. This really moved me into getting past the initial hurts, aches and blisters. It became a game for me to see how much faster I could go from start to finish. The oatmeal breakfast helped me and continues to help me stay in the league of runners. When my morning is started with a few automatic simple steps, my mind goes towards the process of pushing beyond limits and saying “Hello and eat my dust” to fear and ego.