Fairy Dust

Fairy Dust

I recently stumbled upon a quote by actress Gwenyth Paltrow, in which she talks about how she stays fit.   She says, “The reason that I can be 38 and have two kids and wear a bikini is because I work my ass off. It’s not an accident.  It’s not luck, it’s not fairy dust, it’s not good genes.  It’s killing myself for an hour and a half five days a week, but what I get out of it is relative to what I put into it.  That’s what I try to do in all areas of my life.”

I love this quote because it speaks to the fact that even superstars have to work to get results… in fitness and in life. Simply put, there’s no substitute for good, honest effort.  The problem is, working hard over the course of many weeks or months is sometimes a lost concept in today’s fast-paced society.  When we’re used to the speed of technology making so many things in our lives instantly accessible, it can be a struggle to work towards something that takes awhile to achieve.  It’s not easy to convince our brains to “trust the process” and wait for the results that happen only over time.

Never was this concept so evident than when I trained for my first marathon.  In the beginning weeks, I couldn’t understand how my Saturday long runs would go from 6 to 8, 10, 12, 14 miles and eventually peak at 20, preparing me for the ultimate 26.2 on race day. How could one person cover that much ground in just a few months? Sure, I’d been to marathons; I’d seen runners of all shapes and sizes run across the finish line.  Yet, when I was the one going through the process, I didn’t see how I could be one of those people who actually put all of the steps together to do 26.2 miles. (In one day!)

Yet, slowly, and quite literally step by step, I learned in my training that just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither was a marathon runner created in one.  I put in my miles, changed my diet, got rest, and did all of the things my coaches told me I’d need to do to finish 26.2 miles. I succeeded, but not because I lucked out the day of the marathon. I achieved my goal because I put in the miles. I did the work. As a result of finishing the marathon I learned some very important lessons that can be applied to marathons or any major goal.

  1. The road isn’t always easy, in fact it rarely is.  As I think back to every major goal I’ve tried to accomplish in my life, I recall saying (more than once, in varying degrees with profanity added on occasion), “This is too hard. I don’t want to continue…” Let’s face it, when the going gets tough, our natural human inclination inevitably makes us feel like saying “forget this” at least one to ten times during the process. The thing is, giving up is easy; it’s a two second decision that can be made at any given time along the way. Yet, in the long run it feels so much better to ignore the voice that tells us to quit and honor the voice that tells us it’ll all be worth it in the end.
  2. Small goals along the way make the road smoother.  Because a typical marathon schedule is broken down into small segments, with gradual increases, it made the training seem less intimidating. Could I run just two more miles than I did the previous weekend? Sure! 14 miles more? Whoa there. Take it slow. This is true with everything in life.  College is not completed in a semester, rooms are not painted with one stroke of the brush. It takes continuous and consistent effort over the course of time to accomplish most things. Bit by bit, we can do anything!
  3. Trust the process.  For many weeks, I thought my coaches were nuts when they said I’d be able to do a marathon in a few months.  Yet, I listened to what they said, and more importantly, I believed them.  We’ve got to believe in what we’re doing and in ourselves. Systems are set in place to guide us to do most things in this world.  Our job is to follow directions and trust that in doing so, we’ll achieve our goals.
  4. Fairy dust only works in fairy tales or at the Magic Kingdom.  No amount of carbs the night before a marathon or Gatorade on race day will substitute for proper training leading up to the event. There is no magic pill or bullet that will make an untrained body perform. Similarly, most things in life requiring good old-fashioned hard work require months if not years of work to come to full fruition.  In the words of Vince Lombardi, “The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work.  Work is the key to success, and hard work can help you accomplish anything.”

Bottom line, it’s a great feeling to start with a dream, work hard, and in the end experience a certain pride that comes by accomplishing that goal. That mentality is the spirit that moves thousands of runners to sign up for 5K’s, 10K’s, half marathons, full marathons, Ultras and beyond. That spirit is what gets books written, bucket lists checked off, and brings graduates into the work world. It’s the spirit that moves us forward.

Whatever it is you want to accomplish, remember that it can be done.  It’s all about putting one step in front of the other. Here’s to doing the work, and having fun in the process!

Carry on, friends.

imrunnerchica.com

Copyright 2013

By Abbey Algiers

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Breathe. Relax. Let the moment pass.

 

Part of my pre-marathon ritual involves attending a Bikram Yoga class the day before my race. Now, while many people argue that I should be resting, and tell me that Bikram will dehydrate me, I ignore them, knowing that for the past 4 or 5 races, a pre-race class has been just what I needed to physically and mentally prepare. Today was no exception.

I started with a pre-race “dead body pose,” (or in the yogi language of Sanskrit, “Savasana”) where I visualized a solid race with little pain and no injuries or other issues. In other words, I played out a little fairy tale in my head, because I know that few (if any) marathons feel “SOLID,” or even “GOOD” the entire 26.2 miles.  There are hiccups along the way that challenge my body and my will. That’s the nature of a marathon.

Image

Savasana or “Dead Body Pose”

This said, I decided to dedicate my class to visualizing my desired finish time (which will remain unprinted for fear of jinxing it) and along the way, visualize as pain free a run as possible.

My corpse pose was interrupted as the instructor entered the room and asked us to come to our feet. At the start of every Bikram class, instructors poll the room to see if there are new students- those who don’t know the Golden Rule- that you must stay in the room the entire 90 minutes.  Next, the instructor will try to calm those who freak out at the possibility of no escape, by telling them that if they feel sick or tired, they can take a break on their mats. (To which many new yogis no doubt reply in their minds with, “Thanks, Jerk, it’s 105 degrees in here, I’m sure sitting down will help  me feel better.”)  Each instructor has a different way of giving that “you better not leave” message.  It seems that my instructor today catered these words just for me.  What he said was perfect not only for that particular class, but also for my marathon tomorrow, and quite possibly for every uncomfortable situation in my life.

The instructor told us, “Welcome to Bikram.  My name is Cornelius. As you go through the poses today, if you feel uncomfortable or challenged; just take a moment. Breathe. Relax. That uncomfortable moment will pass. It always does.”

How do you say “BINGO” in Sanskrit? In about 15 seconds, this instructor articulated the solution to my biggest marathon dilemma- how to deal with the many instances throughout the 26.2 miles that were uncomfortable or challenging. Any marathoner knows that a given race can hold many such moments. They are moments of physical pain (i.e. blisters, leg and stomach cramps, runny noses, aches that come out of nowhere, emergency bathroom issues) and mental pain (We are only at 10?!?!/ Why is that man breathing so loudly?/When is the next water stop?/Why did I sign up for this?).  And here’s the thing, new issues crop up all along the course.  It’s not like each runner gets just one uncomfortable thing to deal with and that’s that for the run. You don’t know how many challenges will pop up, and you don’t know when to expect them.  Sort of like teaching a class full of middle schoolers, the likelihood that something is going to send you over the edge exists at every moment. You’re never “safe” during a marathon.

With this in mind, one can imagine how my wise yoga instructor’s words resonated so deeply with me as I prepare for tomorrow’s challenge. I thought about his words throughout the class; a class which at times was difficult as my head chatter brought all of my anxieties to center stage in what was supposed to be 90 minutes of meditation. Again, the instructor repeated the message, this time during one of Bikram’s most challenging poses- camel. Camel is notorious for bringing all emotions and physical pain to center stage at once.  Instructors will tell us after camel, “If you feel dizzy, nauseous, or emotionally spent after doing camel, you’ve done it right.”  Well, Cornelius had his own version of this message as well, “Remember that in camel pose, sometimes you’ll feel like a million dollars, other times not. Don’t worry about it if you feel uncomfortable; just acknowledge what you are feeling and then move through it.  The pain will pass.”

Image Camel Pose

Again, a fabulous reminder that no matter how bad I feel… whether at mile 20 in my run tomorrow, at 10:00 a.m. during a bad day at work, or in any given situation where I’m feeling discomfort… that moment WILL pass. Acknowledge the pain, yes. But acknowledge it, knowing it won’t last forever.

As class wrapped up, and we again found ourselves in Savasana, or “dead body pose,” Cornelius had one final message for the class. He thanked us for coming to class and sharing our energy with each other. He reminded us that “yoga” means “union,” and that in our class, we all moved together, struggled together, sweat together. In other words, whether we thought about it or not, we all got through those moments together. Tomorrow, as I run with thousands of other marathoners, and pass the crowds who have gathered to show support, I’ll try to remember that there IS indeed energy all around me that can help me get through the uncomfortable moments that await me along the route.

So friends, the next time you feel especially uncomfortable or challenged, please remember to breathe and relax… and know that you are not alone. Those moments will pass… they always do.

Namaste

imrunnerchica.com

by abbey algiers

copyright 2012