From the Archives- No Shame in the Struggle

After one of the hardest runs EVER. There were real moments of doubt. Never been so happy to see this sign. Heat, hills, extra miles, we persevered and made it.
Some days are dry, some days are leaky
Some days come clean, other days are sneaky
Some days take less, but most days take more
Some slip through your fingers and onto the floor
Some days you’re quick, but most days you’re speedy
Some days you use more force than is necessary
Some days just drop in on us
Some days are better than others
Some days it all adds up
And what you got is not enough
Some days are better than others
“Some Days Are Better Than Others” U2
True words, those are.  Some days are just hard.  As my kids say, “The struggle is real.”  That’s not necessarily bad.  Strength comes from struggle, at least that’s what I tell my group X members.  How can you get stronger if the weights we pick up are light and easy?  It’s when we allow ourselves to go to that dark place, slog through the mud, and come out the other end that we gain strength.  There’s no other way.  Trust me, if I could get stronger by sitting on the couch watching “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” I’d be Superwoman by now.  I never, ever wake up raring to go.  It takes me a minute to get my engine warmed up.  Some days it ends in a sputter.  Other days my engine purrs with power.  But I never quit.  This article from a 2015 Des News column is about that.  Taking breaks is fine.  But letting our doubts and fears and excuses break us is not.  Just keep on keeping on.
Read more here.

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For the longest time, I opted for the orange light handweights. The itty-bitty weights that offered little in the way of resistance, and almost nothing in the way of a challenge. It wasn’t because I couldn’t lift anything heavier- I just didn’t want anyone to see me struggle.

Back then, struggle was synonymous with weakness. The strained look on my face was an indication of how unfit I was. I my mind, my arms screamed Olive Oil while I longed to be Popeye, but I was scared to tackle the weights that would get me there. I didn’t want other gym goers to worry, or worse, judge me by the pained look in my face. So I opted for what was easy.

I can hear Dr. Phil in my head right now. “How’s that been workin’ for ya?” Um, not very well, thank you. Sick of letting my concern over what others thought of me dictate my own choices and progress, one day I picked up the heavy yellow weights. Then the green.  Sometimes the big, bad blue ones.  And I kept picking them up. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month. You get the idea. And wouldn’t you know it, those Olive Oil arms didn’t quite turn all Popeye on me, but they sure did look good. Strong. Defined. Muscular.

 

Taking on a challenge can be daunting, especially when others are watching. Whether we’re taking a new job, position, hobby, or sport so many of us are afraid to look weak. That’s why it’s so hard to get out of that comfort zone. It’s comfortable. Like rainy Saturday afternoon movie-fest comfortable. Like home-from-a-long-vacation-first-day-in-my-own-bed comfortable. It’s a good place to be- until it’s not.

Every year I have a mantra. A creed I try to live by for at least 365 days. I phrase that helps shape my daily decisions, big or small. This year’s mantra is “Go Get It.” I doubt there will be t-shirts made with my mantra or people rushing tattoo parlors to have this emblazoned on their biceps, but as simple as it is, it really has changed the choices I make.

Rather than stewing over how hard a task is or the potential embarrassment I may suffer if I struggle, or worse, fail, I take a deep breath, a big step forward and just “Go Get It.” It’s tough to push out concern over what others think. It’s hard not to stress over the massiveness of a project, but I can honestly say that I’ve succeeded more often than I’ve failed this year. I’ve put myself out in the ring for people to throw tomatoes or roses. But I’m tired of sitting on the sidelines gripped with the fear of failure. I don’t want to be held hostage by my perception of what others think of me. Getting hit with tomatoes hurts, but it’s sure better than regretting never having stepped into the ring at all and wondering what could have been.

Paula Radcliffe, one of the greatest female distance runners of all time, has achieved tremendous success. Winning multiple NYC Marathons and holding the world record marathon time of 2:17:18, she is the best of the best. The one goal she never achieved, however, is winning an Olympic medal. In 2004, not only did she not win, she didn’t even finish. Sidelined with stomach issues, she quit at mile 18. Determined not to end her Olympic career on a low note, she came back in 2008 only to finish 23rd. Devastated, angry and embarrassed, sure. But a fear of failing never held her back from trying. Even after the Olympics she continued running and winning multiple marathons.

“Fail” is a 4-letter word. But so is “quit”. “Struggle” is not. When I see someone struggle in a weight class or in spin class, I don’t think, “weak”. I think that person is pushing their bodies as hard and far as they can, and that earns my respect.

We’re all good at something, but none of us is good at everything. And we’ll never get good at that one thing until we tackle it. Just like muscle need resistance to work against to build strength, we need to stretch ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally to grow. Whether we’ve dreamed of running a half-marathon, wanted to go back to college to finish up that degree, open a new business, or write a book, we have to aim high to climb high. We have to drop those little orange weights and grab the big yellow weights if we want to see a change.

 

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