I’m almost at the end point of my year-long running challenge, my forty 5ks by 40. The finish line is so close that I can practically touch it. But there are days it’s hard to put on my shoes and get going.
I can get overwhelmed. Depression, anxiety, and stress can bog me down. Usually, I find a way to get things done, do my duty, go anyway, perform the tasks that are needed, accomplish the bare minimum. Exercise is a way for me to perform self-care. Sometimes, I don’t even do that.
I just completed 5k number 70, and my goal is to double my goal to 80 by early-mid October on my 40th birthday. If I run every other day or every 3 days, I can make that goal easily. If I run every other day or every 3 days, and if I don’t put it off, find an excuse to not do anything, or wait until I have several days in a row when I must work either too early or too late to run in decent weather.
September is here, yes, but it’s still summery outside this year, with a few days here and there of fall weather brought about by cold fronts and rain. It’s harder to stay indoors when there’s a break in the weather if it’s not raining hard enough to keep me inside. It’s easy to stay indoors when the high is in the mid-80s and stays hot even after the sun has been down for an hour. It’s also easy to stay indoors when I have to work at 6am. I give up, and upon reflection, that’s not entirely healthy. Yeah, everyone needs rest days and time to recharge, but there’s a difference between active rest when you have to slow down, and passive rest when you’ve reached a state of inertia or internal helplessness or lack of will.
One of my goals recently has been to work on physical strength again, and with that in mind, I picked up the New Rules of Lifting for Women book I’ve had for about a decade and started doing workouts again. I just have dumbbells, not barbells and weight plates and a full gym. I do the best I can with the equipment I have. My long-term goal is to get a barbell and some plates, and maybe even a weight bench, but that’s maybe something for next spring or summer just because I know it will be an investment, and I’ll need a place to store it. I did, however, buy an inexpensive exercise ball that is useful for some of the movements. It was several days before I got the right equipment to inflate it. I bought some sports ball needles that were too narrow to work, and a bike pump wasn’t going to do the trick, so I went back to the little store where I bought the ball to begin with and bought a flimsy pump for $4 that was the only place I could find something with the right nozzle attachment. I almost gave up and returned the ball, even though it was something I’d low-key wanted for a long time. It’s so easy to give up, and it shouldn’t be when just a little effort will put you where you want to be – or let you know that the activity just isn’t for you after all despite your best effort.
I was listening to a podcast on my begrudgingly-taken run this morning and listened to someone speak of acceptance of bad things and moving on, of accepting disasters, setbacks, and difficulties, bad things, as a thing that happened that cannot be altered and finding a way to go on despite it. It made me think about conversations I’ve had recently about rolling over and taking a bad situation as the new normal and accepting that as well. I’ve done too much accepting, and I wonder if a lot of that isn’t just baggage from my childhood as part of the working poor among people who never talked about their feelings and only expressed themselves in avoidance, stoicism, tearful outbursts, or violence. If you shut down, you can stay afloat and intact until things get better or something changes fundamentally. When you’re an adult, you have autonomy, and the choices you make or don’t make ultimately shape your life. If you opt out or shut down, you’re left with a lifetime of being shut down, nothing accomplished, nothing experienced, little happiness, and only the bars of a cage of your own making.
This morning, I made myself put on my running clothes and shoes, stretch out, find my earbuds, and go for a run even though the sun was a little higher in the sky than I wanted it to be. I had a little trouble breathing at the two-thirds mile mark, but the longer I ran, the easier it was. I opted to take a hilly route to make my legs work harder on the uphill, and I even tried a few uphill sprints (before my lack of breakfast started to catch up with me). It was also a simple in-and-out without having to double back, check my mileage to make sure I’d get in my full 5k, worry about dogs. The biggest problem I had was listening to the podcast, which was recorded on a busy city street with lots of traffic. I run in the countryside on an unpainted road frequented by horses and buggies, work pick-up trucks, large trucks hauling farm equipment and hay and chemicals, and nobody else. I would scramble to the side of the road at the sound of a large vehicle approaching, not sure whether it was just in my earbuds or if it was an actual vehicle approaching from behind. Kept it lively.
Trying helps you to grow. Doing is better than not doing, almost always. There are stakes to existence; sometimes they’re high, but usually, they’re low, but they accumulate over time, and the choices we make shape us into the people we turn out to be. I don’t want to be a coward who never tries. I don’t want to be scared of my own shadow, defeated by the smallest obstacles, ready to let myself lose the things for which I’ve fought or worked just because it’s easier than struggling. I’m not going to miss my goal of 80 run/walk distances when I’m so close to achieving my goal. This isn’t a sunk cost fallacy thing where I can just shrug and give up. This is my life. It’s going to count, and I’m going to be present for it.