When I’m Off, my ass is parked on my couch or, of late, laid out flat on my bed – and I summon my minions to my side for all the various things I need. Tea. My phone. A book that’s four feet away on my dresser. I can’t be bothered to move. And I am incredibly lucky to have a small family that indulges me in this amazingly lazy behavior.
All or nothing. You’ve heard of it. It’s basically the enemy of almost all that is good in our world. All or nothing is especially destructive to a healthy lifestyle. All or nothing thinking is what thwarts people from even beginning healthier activities. And if you manage to become engaged in healthy activities, all or nothing thinking is usually, eventually what will make you disengage.
But I’m a big believer in knowing thyself. And that’s just it. I know myself. On. Or Off. I do not understand in-betweens. So the last couple of years, my (fitness – but other aspects of my life too) journey has been about accepting this about myself. When I’m On, I try to harness that energy and ride into whatever sunsets I can with gusto, while the horse still wants to move. When I’m Off, I force myself to accept that this is a time for rest and just get that job done.
It has been helpful to discover my totems or spirit animals (yes, you can roll your eyes at how ridiculously hippie this makes me sound) to do this job of accepting myself for what I am. When I’m On, there are (at least) three different ways that I’m On. I’m On and want ridiculous amounts of physical activity – that’s Wolf. I’m On and want to conquer the world with my bright ideas – that’s Mermaid. I’m On and the entire house needs to be cleaned and I might just have an intensely focused shopping experience – that’s Dragon. And when I’m Off, that’s Bear. Oh sweet, galumphing, hungry, tired Bear. I wouldn’t know how to get along without him.
But Bear really hates to run. I mean, Bear wants to avoid running at all possible costs. There needs to be a hunter shooting at him to run. And, frankly, there ain’t many hunters in these parts for MY Bear (also, a different story). So, mostly Bear meanders, crawls, lolls, sleeps, snuggles, snuggles, and snuggles. That’s a pretty fantastic way to get through a winter. Unfortunately, this also means waking up to a spring with achy joints, weakened muscles and an ass that, legit, moves more than my feet when I run.
Wolf pokes his head out of the den in early spring and is filled with a twitching to run, then looks down at the mess Bear’s “Off” antics have made and is filled with disgust and anger. Wolf wants to do almost nothing but run. Run, swim, cycle (yes, this Wolf cycles), lift weights – oh my god, does Wolf love lifting weights!
So, about a month ago, to get myself off the couch and out of bed, I joined this 1000km challenge. The goal is to log 1000km of running in 2016. I was able to stay On for this for an entire three weeks. I calculated how many miles I would have to run each week to hit my target by the end of the year and I rolled with that. I went from running between 0 and 3 miles total each week to 15. And, because of my work schedule, I usually ran those 15 miles in the space of 3 days. So, I went from running 0-1 miles on average each day to 5 for those 3 days in a row.
If you’re a runner, you’re shaking your head and thinking how completely stupid that was. If you’re not, you might not have a context for how stupid that was so let me explain. One of the main rules of endurance training is to build gradually. You build gradually because if you don’t, you will injure yourself or burn out or both. Injury or burn out will cause you to have to stop and if your goal is fitness, if your goal is to run and keep running, you don’t want to have to stop.
So, did you hear that word: “G R A D U A L L Y”? Gradually. But, searched as I have for the “gradual” speed inside of myself, I simply can’t find it. “Off” and “On:” those are the only two I see!
So, in those three weeks, I destroyed my right knee. I know what it is. It’s my AT Band. I know I need to stretch and strengthen and stretch again to work with my AT Band and I also know that gradual build up of mileage, along with strengthening and stretching will prevent me from destroying my knee. But, why bother? Bear was happy to have an excuse to sit his fuzzy ass down on the couch again and yell to the other animals in my house to bring me water and popcorn.
In those three weeks, I also managed to exhaust myself and make myself hate running again, or burn out. Not mySELF, actually, but just Bear. Bear hates the On switch. Wolf sits at full attention inside lazy Bear at all times, waiting for the moment when Bear has enough energy to move even the slightest. The minute Bear moves even a little bit, it’s Wolf’s game and we’re On again, baby, full blast and running as many miles as we want to each day.
So, I know the key to my inconsistency woes is creating a “gradual” button. But how? You know, recently, a friend who is also an electrician, came over and helped my husband install a dishwasher in my home where there was none before. So, this gives me a hopeful metaphor. It IS possible to install a new function into an old house. And, listen baby, this house ain’t “old” yet! I know I can figure out a way to install a “gradual” button.
And, to be fair, maybe I have already begun that work because Bear didn’t exactly get full license to just sit around on his lazy ass these last couple of weeks since the 15 miles of running in three days isn’t getting done. Instead, Wolf and Bear have struck a deal. We’ll do the Couch-to-5K program AGAIN – for, like, the 100th time. But, it’s a really good program if you want to learn how to do things gradually. Wolf hates the Gradual. But Bear hates the On. So, while I’m completing Couch-to-5K workouts, neither of them is really happy but both of them are sort of happy. And it’s good that they are both sort of happy because that means, neither of them are really pissed either. We’re okay.
Serendipitously, as I was icing my knee during the third of those three weeks of Wolf Running, I stumbled across this blog post on The Mermaid Club’s homepage: http://livelifemakewaves.com/2016/03/mermaid-club-coaches-cove-run-easy-before-you-run-hard/ that told me NOT to do the very thing that I was currently doing – all the time knowing I shouldn’t be doing it. And… you know… Mermaids kick much ass. Mermaids are a big ON button most of the time. So, if Mermaids are telling you to chill the hell out, it’s probably a good idea to listen.
The trick is to keep all the animals happy at the same time. That is balance. Each animal has its own movement. Even Bear doesn’t mind crawling, stretching, gentle yoga, even core work (that’s Bear being crazy). And Wolf certainly prefers any of this gentle movement to no movement at all. The truth is, I think Mermaid and Dragon like to dance but because Wolf turns his nose up to dance as not being On enough, I usually don’t give myself permission to do it. Giving Mermaid and Dragon permission to dance – and do Bikram Yoga (god! They LOVE Bikram Yoga!) – will go a long long way to getting that Gradual button installed.
Why in the world – aside from the exquisite narcissism that is blogging – do I tell you all of this? Again, I tell all of the stories I tell with the hope that it resonates with you and also because putting them down like this helps me wrap my own mind around them. But, if it was just about wrapping my own mind around it, I’d save it for my journal (And, man, if you think this spirit animal totem stuff is crazy… you should really have a peek in my actual journal, the thoughts I don’t think are worth sharing, someday). Maybe you are an all-or-nothing creature too. Many of us are. Our culture is, traditionally, an all-or-nothing culture. If you are an all-or-nothing creature, I suggest you accept that about yourself because accepting it is the first step to understanding how it’s working in your life, for the good, but also how it might be thwarting some of your goals.
It might be clear from this whole blogging thing by now that I’m a big believer in personal growth. In the land of the QueenPrincess, endless upgrades are possible. If, like me, you’d like more than just an On and Off button to play with, I declare that this installing a Gradual button and maybe even a Slow Down button and maybe even a Steady As She Goes button is entirely within our capabilities. For me, these installations will take Patience, Consistency, Dancing, and some Bikram Yoga.
What will it take for you, Teamies? What keeps you from achieving what feels like Balance in your life? I’ll bet if you give it some thought, you already know. So, happy installing!
And don’t forget to upgrade with love – always, only, with love!