Ourselves, Getting Stronger

Earlier this week, chatting with a friend, I surprised myself by saying “preparing for this race has been a life changing experience.” I realize its true as I’m saying it. Some of the changes have been unexpected.

I am stronger physically. Well, I expected that, intellectually it would make sense that after months of regular training, I’d improve, strengthen my legs, etc. But here I am, with a resting heart rate of 59, routinely exceeding my PR times from last spring just in training workouts, and its really pretty cool. I can do more stomach crunches, for sure, no big surprise there, but one day back when I was sick, I said to a friend, “well, no matter how crappy I feel, I can still do some stomach crunches,” and he just laughed at first, then paused, when he realized I was serious. And in his pause, I saw myself, the new myself, and wow! its true, I do double abs machine in the gym, then do some more abs work on the mat, nobody pushing me, no doctors prescription, just me wanting to be better, stronger, to give the race my best effort. Once a couple months back, I was walking up on a large hill, when across the street I saw a long, long staircase up to the top of the hill, and I just dashed over and up I went, every step without any pause, just to show myself I could, right up to the top only to turn around and come back down, smiling. Although I’ve been very conservative with my weight room workouts, I’ve increased all the weight amounts by this point, at least once. Back in October when I first visited Dr. Ray, he asked me to try to pick up a ball with my foot, and when I did he said my foot was doing the best job of that of any patient he’d ever seen. I thought for a second, then said, “I’ve been doing the picking-up-a-towel-with-my-feet exercise for a year now.” My arms are stronger, too, from the weights and from the walking, and its easier to carry things.

I’m lighter. Still not skinny like those Olympic athletes, absolutely zero chance I’m competing in a bathing suit anytime soon, but I’ve lost 14 pounds since that fateful day at the end of March I told Dave McGovern “I want to go faster.” Two weeks ago, I carted an armful of “too loose jeans” over to Goodwill, and had to restrain myself from dancing in joy right there as the guy asked if I wanted a receipt. No diet plans, no points counting or weekly weigh ins — just me, wanting to be faster, leaving half on my plate and cutting the saturated fats. I made up a few rules, like “no meat and butter” — can’t have meat and butter in the same meal; and “meat free Monday” — hardest to remember, which I often do halfway through a chicken salad for Monday lunch, but I think I’ve managed it about a third of the time; and “dessert with fruit” — so even when I cave I put a scoop of ice cream over a bowl of fruit, instead of the other way around.

I am stronger mentally. And this one I wasn’t expecting. Over much of the months of training, it seemed to be at the expense of my work. I still worked hard, rarely as little as 40 hours per week, but I felt that I was always leaving work to go workout, or arriving later in the morning after working out, always juggling, always compromising, to get the workouts in. But in December I got through a big work push, a result of two deadlines colliding, much easier than ever before, staying extremely productive right up to the last ten minutes. No small change — I got about twice as much done in a week than previous times. I tell myself that if I can get through two and a half hour workouts, and 5 hour long walks, then I can keep my brain cranking and get through these deadlines. And I do. This past week, I find myself playing my workout playlist while I push at work, and it brings home to me that these two things aren’t really two things — they are more alike than different. The voice in me that says “keep trying” and “yes, you *can* do it” and “you are going to whip this” has gotten stronger, and that voice is what’s left when you’ve used up everything else, no matter what you’re facing.

When the team steps up to that starting line next week, we will all be different versions of ourselves, because of these past months. If only someone could take a picture of *that*.

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