I am in the process of training for a marathon. I am less than seven weeks out from race day and have been training since April. I hadn’t run in months before that because I had a baby and then it was our first winter in a really small town, where it turns out they don’t really plow our unpaved, gravel town roads so they turn to ice. Not great for running post partum.
Finally, spring weather came and it was nice enough to start running. And yet, I didn’t run. Even though I had already decided on my fall marathon, I wasn’t emotionally ready to run. I didn’t have the energy. I didn’t have the desire. I was tired from taking care of a newborn and two toddlers, figuring out life with two kids plus another toddler for daycare. I was too tired to get up in the morning and too unmotivated to run in the afternoon.
The day, came, though. One not very special day, I felt my head burst above the water and I could breathe again. I made up a training plan and I started training. I started running. I started doing yoga. I vowed to start strength training, because if I was going to train for a marathon again, I wanted to do it right. I knew from my prior marathon that I couldn’t just run and be ready. I needed to do more. I wanted to finish this one well, not just finish.
And then I had an injury. And kids were sick and I didn’t sleep through the night for days at a time. My motivation dwindled. I started missing runs regularly. I did the bare minimum to fulfill my strength training parameters. I whined. I complained. I searched for creative workouts to try to push past the really, really hard beginning stages of strength training. The ones where I realize how weak I am. Where everything is hard. Where I want to do 20 but can only do 14. Where instead of pushing myself to get stronger, I wimp out on everything just to get through. Sure, I did my squats, but they were half-hearted at best. And so on.
It has been really hard to continue being motivated to run, to work out, to finish up my training plan strong so I can race strong.
I continue to realize though, through various training plans, that I am building the practice of discipline. Sure, some days I’m REALLY tired and I need to sleep instead of waking up early for a run (hello yesterday!). Some days, my body is tired and needs an extra rest day. Some days, my body is tired and I need to push through and do it anyway.
Because that’s discipline, right? It’s doing what you know you should do even when you don’t want to. Even when you don’t feel like it. Even when it’s hard. Even when it’s boring. It’s important to persevere, to keep pushing, to find other places for motivation, ways to help yourself get out of bed early in the morning when you’d just rather sleep.
Some of mine have been the amazing sunrises I get to see when I’m out at 5:30 in the morning. I am also seeing and feeling myself get stronger. I can run 16 miles now. I can do almost 20 push ups. My core is really rockin’ tight (underneath a nice layer of baby fat). I can almost wear some pants a friend gave me. I can’t button them yet, but I used to not even be able to pull them over my thighs. It’s the little things. I WANT to push myself a little now in my strength workouts. I want to see what I can do. I want to keep going until I hit the limit of what my body can do. I want to find new ways to be strong, not new ways to do exercises so I don’t have to build discipline, so I don’t have to push myself to do things I don’t want to do, to do the boring base exercises.
The really cool thing for me is that it spills over into other areas of my life. I read my Bible more consistently. I finished my novel, well, the first draft anyway. I get down and play with the kids more. I am pushing myself out of my comfort zone of sitting on the sidelines and getting myself onto the floor and into the game of playing with the kids. I am trying to be more creative in finding ways to help them grow and develop and gain skills.
Running for me isn’t just a means to get out of the house and be alone, away from kids for a bit. It isn’t a way for me to lose weight. It isn’t the source of my sanity. It isn’t another thing to check of my to-do list.
While those things are certainly true, they aren’t my motivation. They aren’t my why. I run because I LOVE to run. I LOVE to be out there, listening to my breathing, my shoes on the ground, the cadence of my steps. I love to be out there alone with my thoughts, processing whatever might be going on in my mind. I love having the opportunity to pray, if I can focus my mind enough to pray. Sometimes, I love just emptying my mind and not thinking about anything at all. Sometimes I plan out my next chapter of my novel or think up entirely new novels to write. Sometimes I just tell myself a story or sing a song over and over and over in my head to help me through whatever emotions I might be feeling.
Whatever it is, whatever my why, it helps me to still be me. It helps me to not get entirely lost in this title of ‘Mom’. It reminds me that I am still me, I am still a separate person with hobbies and interests outside of my kids and their needs. I still need to take care of me. Building a little discipline through perseverance is a pretty awesome thing too. I like more and more who I am becoming by staying focused on my training and pushing through those hard days, those low motivation days, those long runs where I feel mentally defeated. It makes me stronger physically and mentally. It helps me to recenter on my faith.
What about you? What do you do just for you? What’s your why?
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. –Philippians 3:12-14