Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in your goals, ambitions, and passions. I’ve fallen so in love with running, that it’s become a part of my identity. I can proudly announce when a new acquaintance asks me what my hobbies are that I like to run, take photos, and travel! I’ve been reflecting the last couple of weeks how there are times that we allow the endorphin seeking part of our brains to override our sense of living in the moment.
69 days. That’s what my Garmin watch now tells me is my longest streak of hitting my daily step goal. I hadn’t planned on stopping there, but I’m now working towards that number again in the hopes of surpassing it. I’m introspective enough to know that I was relentless and even boarder line obsessed with seeing my watch cross that arbitrary number I’d picked. Heck, I even consciously picked an achievable number because I knew it would drive me nuts not to meet my goal every 24 hours. I figured that was a smart approach so that on days when I was not feeling well I wouldn’t push myself past the point of stupid just to see my app light up green for victory.
I love to run, and I’m happy to carve out time each day to fit it in. I’m always thinking ahead to the next day or even the week ahead of me. I’m planning out which days are going to be busy, thereby dictating that I get an early morning run in. Or which days I work in the mornings and have the afternoon free for my dose of “happy hour.” There are some days that are tough. You need to get creative to figure out when these steps are going to take place. For example, on my epic road trip adventure. I knew I’d be spending quite a few hours sedentary on the journey down to Florida. So, the day I set out, I met a friend at 5am and hit the pavement for 6.5 miles. This ensured that no matter how many hours I spent sitting in the car, I’d already succeeded that day according to my activity tracker. Similarly, on the second day of driving, I had planned a pit stop to nap and then run. This ended up being a wonderful idea, as I kicked up those endorphins and I felt refreshed and rejuvenated for the next leg of driving.
Sometimes though, this obsessive need to “feed my Garmin” can get in the way of human interactions. I’ve witnessed this phenomenon in others over the past few months as well. We become so single minded in our pursuit of our goals – whether that’s mileage, steps, calories to burn, weights to pump, group exercise classes to attend, the list goes on and on…. This laser focus can actually harm the relationships around us and keep us from experiencing this beautiful life with the humans who cohabitate this earth. If we’re not careful, we become so busy living for our Garmin/Fitbit/step trackers that we forget to look at life above our wristwatch.
On my way back home from Florida, I stopped to visit my Aunt Chelle and Uncle Jim in Georgia. I’d gotten up at the crack of dawn to close the gap on the 7.5 hours separating me from them. I was absolutely over the moon excited to stop in on my journey northward. I had hoped that my family members would be up for a walk with me at some point in the evening. I anxiously awaited my aunt’s return from work and as soon as I could work it into the conversation, I asked if she wanted to walk with me. The only thing is…she works on her feet all day. So putting extra steps in was the last thing she wanted to do.
I began to panic and slip into my obsessive way of thinking. I looked at the road and wondered if I could set out on a solo adventure. I could go for a run and get the steps in faster, or I could go for a walk and enjoy the beautiful area they’d moved into since my last visit. As I sat there, pondering how I could excuse myself to go for a solo trek across Georgia…it hit me. I had not seen these two people whom I love dearly for over SEVEN YEARS. I had roughly twelve hours to spend there from the time I pulled into Jasper to the time I moved on towards Nashville. I was really going to go out for a walk rather than sit and enjoy just being able to look at them, engage in conversation, and live in the moment?
That’s when I realized that my watch had made me selfish. No – to be fair, no inanimate object can really make a person egocentric. That characteristic is either ingrained within or it’s not, but my Garmin definitely facilitated bringing that ugly trait out into light. I’m so grateful that I was able to let it go right then and there. I was at peace with the fact that I would end my streak that day. My Garmin would read “longest goal streak 69 days 05/27/2017”, and starting Monday I’d be back at zero. It was far more important to soak up absolutely every minute of time that I could visiting with Aunt Chelle and Uncle Jim.
This reverberated with me again this past weekend. Every year since its inception, Camp Bonfire has drawn me to Greeley Pennsylvania for a pilgrimage of sorts. It’s a summer camp for adults, and it is exactly what I hoped it would be. All the crazy fun of my childhood with the added bonus of being able to do whatever I want, whenever I want to do it. I look forward to those three days of reconnecting with nature and friends all year long. It’s a safe space to be loud, crazy, goofy, etc. I find it refreshing to be exactly who I am inside without fear of judgement. I thrive off of the safe haven that camp has always offered me, from eight years old to thirty. Just because I was at camp though, that didn’t lesson the desire to hit the road and add in some miles.
I recently started an eight week training regiment. My goal is to increase my speed, and the schedule is intense yet manageable. This is something completely different from any other training I’ve done. I’ve always been focused on distance and pushing my body and mind to the limits of how long/far I could go. I can’t honestly say whether my training for the marathon or this “speed camp” is more difficult. In distance training, it’s a lot of mental strategy to keep at it when you realize mid 22-mile run that you’re only 15 miles in and still have 7 to go. With my current training, the distances are much shorter with most days being 4-6 miles and a long run on the weekend maxing out at 12 miles.
This past weekend, my plan dictated that I get 6 miles in on Friday, rest day on Saturday, and 12 miles on Sunday. I’d spent some time strategizing my approach to both enjoying camp and staying on track with my Runner’s World dictated training plan. My hope was to swap Friday’s run with Saturday’s rest day. I figured I’d get up early Saturday morning and get my 6 miles done before breakfast. I was surprised to hear during the opening meeting that we weren’t allowed to reenter camp if we left. So that somewhat limited my options for running. I wasn’t going to be able to just go out on Route 6 for three miles, turn around and return to camp. I understood the safety precautions behind the rule, but it put a damper on where I was going to be able to run.
I felt the familiarity of panic setting in. When would I find time? I could still get up in the morning and run laps around the soccer fields. However, with recent rains, they would be sopping wet. I had only packed one pair of sneakers and the prospects of walking around in soaked shoes was somewhat less than appealing. I decided to try to wait for mid-afternoon when the sun would hopefully join us and dry up the grass. After lunch it was rest hour, and I definitely needed to recharge before logging any miles so I laid down for a nap. Following rest hour was the pool party – aha! Perfect! I don’t like swimming because I get too cold. I would run while everyone else was in the pool. As the camp began to come alive again after a collective nap, people made their way to the aquatic fun. I slipped into my running shoes and headed out to see how far a loop on the paved trails would get me. 0.3 miles. Ugh. So, just about the equivalent to running on the track behind the school. I started out, not knowing how many miles I’d tick off the daily agenda. I had hoped to find my groove, and get in the six that I needed. I quickly began to get bored on my loop. More than that though, I was feeling disconnected from my fellow campers. They were off making memories, and I had chosen an antisocial activity. There I was again, struck with the realization that I was missing out on life just because I had somehow convinced myself that my training plan was more important.
I finished three miles on that loop, then I happily ran back to the cabin to collect my towel and joined in on the fun. Looking back, I don’t regret it for a second even as I play catch up and try to realign my week with the calendar posted on my refrigerator. I had a blast at the pool party! I took the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and I jumped into a freezing cold pool. Then I joined a water basketball game, something I’ve never played before. I made memories with teammates whom I hadn’t had the chance to meet prior to the game as well as cabin mates whom I’d already started to form bonds with.
The hardest part of any training plan I’ve ever followed are the rest days. I’ve fallen so in love with running, that it’s something I actually enjoy doing every single day. It’s hard to take a day off, even if I know it’s for the best. We need those rest days budgeted in so that our muscles and joints have time to rest and repair. Those breaks from running are a cornerstone in training and preserving the longevity of our bodies in the sport. Most of the time, running injuries come from overuse and under utilizing cross training. I, myself, have fallen victim to these. It’s really easy to look at a calendar and pick out one or two days a week to purposely rest, it’s another thing altogether to get to that day and not don the gear and head out anyways.
Sometimes the best thing we can do in our training plan is to not train at all. To deviate from the prescribed schedule and engage in life as it happens. Of all the things I’ve seen over all of the miles I’ve run – there’s no substitute for making memories with family and friends. It may be hard to see the big picture when I’m so focused on putting one foot in front of the other, but I will never regret shelving my trusty kicks in exchange for loving on my fellow man.