My own worst enemy

Aside from the song by Lit, which I love, I detest this phrase. There have been a lot of blog entries lately that discuss feelings of disappointment about race times and whether or not people should be offended by the expression of that frustration. To the best of my knowledge, it began with an entry at MegaNerdRuns and spiraled out virally from there. I must admit that the whole discourse has left me more confused about my opinion than ever.

Each time I complete a workout, enter the gym, or go for a run, I feel a pang of something: fear, intimidation, exhilaration. It’s difficult for me to put a finger on exactly what it is or why I feel this way, but I’ve started to formulate explanatory theories. The obvious link is one I’ve mentioned before, regarding my participation in high school soccer. This was a highly competitive environment on several different levels, but the physical fitness component was one I struggled with frequently. In speaking with Kristyn the other day, I told her that when I run, I’m afraid of having to stop. She couldn’t believe it, or really understand why that would cause me so much consternation. I see her point, especially now, but in team training runs, stopping was NOT an option. Creating a pace for yourself was NOT an option. You had one choice: keep up or die. I constantly felt like a conditioning failure when comparing myself to some of my teammates.

One other (more half-cooked) idea that has been rolling around in my brain is not related to sports at all, but rather my need to challenge myself throughout my life. I’ve always felt and been conditioned to push my limits and refuse to settle for mediocrity. Academically, this is how I was able to thrive at a competitive high school and even more intellectually stimulating university. It was frustrating at times, but I always reflected on this character trait with pride, knowing that it had allowed me to see and do things I might have otherwise missed. Now that I’ve graduated from an academic environment, that drive must find some outlet, and I would venture a guess that it has found a home in my workouts.

In sourcing my struggles, I find myself with a new one – are these feelings positive or negative in the grand scheme of things? Is it a good thing that many times I leave the gym feeling like I didn’t push hard enough, that I could have done more? Does that lead me to try new things and constantly strive for improvement? OR does it take away from the healthy living lifestyle I am trying to create for myself in the form of mental anguish? Does it mean I’m not appreciating the things my body can do and accomplish? This battle applies to healthy eating as well. Is it helpful to ensure that every morsel that enters my mouth is healthy and wholesome? Am I missing out on living life to the fullest because I didn’t enjoy the cake at someone’s wedding?

After all this mental meandering, I’ve boiled down to a few key points (for now):

– Day to day, I feel a little differently. My overall goal in blogging, running, working out, etc, is to maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout all the aspects of my life, so while thinking about these concepts can be productive, I have to remember that it’s less about individual events and more about leading a robust existence.

-Competition is good. Darwin was right about that. The strong survive, so whether you’re competing against yourself or someone else (that’s with you or on a blog), you’re striving to be better, and that’s what progress is about.

-The balance is what’s important. It’s not good to feel like “it’s never enough,” but it’s fine to be happy with what’s happened, even if you know that next time, you could do a little more. Where would we be without something to work toward?

These are all very appropriate thoughts for me as I head into my very first 5k tomorrow morning. While I am terrified in the back of my mind, I am outwardly welcoming any challenges thrown my way and I can’t wait to see how it goes! We did our final run before the run last night – 2 miles at my fastest time ever, and while I’m not timing myself for this race, it’s something I would consider in the future. Every little bit of improvement means something to me, and in this instance, I will be proud of myself just for finishing the race, because I know how hard it was for me to sign up for this race, to “train” for it, and how hard it will be for me to complete it with a smile on my face.

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