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Running is a solitary endeavor, which may be part of the reason it’s so appealing to me.  I’ve never liked team sports or group projects in school.  I don’t like to rely on people and deal with their bullshit.  I’m an introvert, which simply means that I gain energy and “recharge” by being by myself. Writing is another solitary pursuit that I’ve dabbled in over the years.  It’s no wonder that running and writing are (slowly) becoming my healthy escapes.

Why does our culture devalue solitude?  A little solitude isn’t going to hurt you 🙂  Even on a day like today when a blizzard is forcing many people in the tri-state area to stay indoors, most people feel trapped.  It’s understandable and I’m sure that cabin fever will hit at some point.  But wouldn’t it be better if we just accepted that it’s a day of hibernation?!  Read a book, watch a dvd, listen to music, play in the snow, daydream, get lost in your thoughts or do whatever you feel like…solitude is good for you!

Solitude is not the same as loneliness.  It’s amazing how so many people confuse these two concepts.  Enjoying solitude doesn’t mean that I don’t like people or want to be alone all the time.  It’s just that I prefer being with one person or a small group of friends rather than going to a big party.  It means that I don’t care for small talk and schmoozing.  Anyone-introvert or extrovert-can get lonely and shouldn’t spend every moment alone.  However, anyone can also benefit from some alone time.  Introverts just need solitude a little more than extroverts.  Most importantly, contemplative people are more likely to become writers, artists, healers, visionaries…so it’s time we got a little respect 🙂

Running is a process of carving out a little solitude with each training session.  Even though I know this, I’m still struggling with incorporating running on a very regular basis in my life.  My lazy/procrastinating side usually wins out whenever an excuse presents itself.  What I have to remember is that although getting myself to the treadmill/trail is usually a pain, after a certain amount of time the endorphins will kick in.  Then the benefits of solitude arise.  Sometimes it’s the same with writing.  Staring at a blank page is daunting.  Training myself to run and write on a regular basis is the cure.

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Some people pledge to complete a goal and immediately dive into the eye of the hurricane.  They are energized by the rush and intensity of what they want to achieve.  I’m not one of those people.  I ponder and analyze and doubt.  I explore all the options in my head before I take action.  I take baby steps..and sometimes two steps forward, and one step back.

As I look back at my “training journal” I’m a little disappointed at how little training has actually been going on.  When I started my running and writing adventure one month ago, I was extremely motivated.  The running was actually relatively easy at first, perhaps spurred on by pure adrenaline.  I’m still motivated, but the rose-colored glasses are slipping off.  Training is no joke.  I have to make a real commitment to my goal.  Two or three times a week is not enough.  Being tired or not feeling like it are lame excuses..that I’ve been using a lot of the time.  It’s ultimately a childish way of thinking.  If I want to seriously train, I have to grow up.

Even at this early phase, I can already see that when I slack off on training, the next time I run is tougher.  This happened when one week I only ran once.  I have some great excuses-it was the week of Thanksgiving after all 🙂  But the excuses won’t matter when I’m trying to finish a race.  Even though I’m trying to instill some self-discipline, I have to be careful not to be so tough on myself.  The drill sergeant attitude might work for some people, but not for me.  At the risk of sounding too new agey, I need to practice more self-compassion and less self-flagellation.  Where’s the right balance between pushing myself and taking it easy?  I’m learning through trial and error.  Maybe I won’t succeed, maybe I will.  I’m beginning to see how training for a marathon is really a metaphor for living life.  And it’s just the tip of the iceberg so far.

I’ve studied enough psychology to know that change only happens when you accept yourself.  I’m an introspective thinker who needs to take baby steps.  So what?  Our world would be a lot better if more people took the time to think before they take action 🙂  I will set small goals…push myself..make mistakes..forgive myself..and keep running.

Imagine two mountains separated by a body of water.  Crossing to the other side requires scaling down your own mountain, rowing past thunderous waves, and finally climbing up to the top of your dream mountain.  You want to live amongst the brave and strong people who pioneered the route.  But it’s a hell of a lot easier to stay on the mountain where you were born, envying (and judging) the others across the water.  What makes you think you could ever live amongst them?  It’s not too late to quit.  Or is it?

I was surprised by the amount of people who commented on the first step of my journey, online and in person.  Family, friends, and acquaintances were all supportive.  Which I really appreciate!  But interestingly enough, many people’s responses fell along these lines:  “That’s great but are you really gonna run an actual marathon?” Or “As long as you keep writing, it’s ok if you don’t actually run a marathon.”  And my favorite “Why would you want to torture yourself?” 🙂

I appreciate being given the benefit of the doubt, and an easy out in case it doesn’t work out.  Seriously I might fail, and then I’ll need some support to deal with it.  I might “only” run a half-marathon-which would still be a major accomplishment for me.  The truth is I can’t picture myself actually running and racing for over 26 miles.  And when the stresses of life hit, as they always do for everyone, I’ll have an easy excuse to hide behind.  So if I can’t imagine myself crossing that elusive finish line, how can I expect anyone else to believe it?

The few runners that I know give me hope.  I got some practical advice from them, and now I know who to annoy with all the questions that will come up during the journey. 🙂  But most importantly, it’s really inspiring to have real people who have run marathons believe in you.  They say things like “You’ll feel so amazing when you accomplish your goal.”  Or “You can definitely do it.”  And my new favorite “With proper training, the running isn’t the hard part.  Becoming mentally strong enough to handle it is.”  That’s a tough pill to swallow!  If I visualize myself training, does that count as a workout? 🙂

Whether it’s running or writing, my challenge will be disciplining myself to consistently put in the time and effort to reach my goals.  Mental toughness has got to be earned the hard way apparently.  But I’m starting to believe that I can get to the mountain on the other side.

My name is Marina and I am a couch potato.  Who wants to run a marathon one year from now…maybe even sooner.  This seems as likely to happen as becoming president.  I’m lazy.  There’s nothing I like better after a hard day at work than just zoning out to a good tv show and takeout food.  I don’t have the willpower to drag myself to the gym or track on days like that.  Who would want to subject themselves to running for 26.2 miles?  Is dreaming of running a marathon the first sign of craziness?

Back in high school, I envied the kids on the track team.  They seemed so dedicated, so athletic, so much cooler than the dumb jocks who played football or baseball.  So unlike me.  I was not athletic in any way.  I’m a very slow runner.  I hated gym.  It was a torture device invented by former popular kids to harass straight-A students.  That dumb class pulled down my GPA.  I envied the teenagers I read about in faraway states who were not forced to take gym all four years.

I briefly thought of trying out for track, but instinctively knew that I was not ready for that kind of commitment to anything.  I have no self-discipline.  When I tell myself that I’ll do something, I usually give up way too soon.  Tried yoga a few times, enjoyed it, but could not commit myself to the daily practice that was recommended.  Read tons of self-help books, but couldn’t seem to force myself to practice the skills I read about.  Got into some form of exercise for a few weeks at most, then promptly gave up whenever some kind of stress popped up.  Quit diets whenever a strong craving hit.  Wanted to write a book or blog but couldn’t get past a few pages.  Yep I have absolutely no discipline.  Will I give up on marathon training before I even sign up for a 5K?

So the ambitious part of me decided to kill two birds with one stone–train for a marathon and write on a consistent basis–by writing a blog about training for a marathon.  Maybe if I put my goals “out there” I’ll actually follow them!  Even if my biggest motivation initially is writing every week for the handful of friends and family that I hope will read this.  I can give up and disappoint myself again…but I can’t let other people down.  Hopefully I’ll actually become intrinsically motivated by running.  It’s supposed to be one of the best ways to exercise, clear your head, process energy, challenge yourself…and become fit and athletic.

But first I have to get off the couch!