Take a Leap...
Happy Leap Day. This 29th day of the seemingly longest month of the year unfolds only once every four years. Kind of like with the track and field Olympics, the Trials, championship competitions and special events, we wait for certain times to be able to do certain things. Although I tend to be struck by how arbitrarily these events are assigned to the calendar, I am a stickler for their numbered routine and structure, for orderly progression of quantified things, for the fire of a deadline under my bum.
I do not abstain from counting weekly mileage, calculating weeks out from goal races, measuring my lactic threshold or drinking at least two Nalgene’s worth of water daily. However, I have fallen off the stickler’s hard line. I am encouraged to cheat on the stickler orthodoxy by positive influences in my life; I am as grateful for those influences like delightful people and spontaneous urges as I am for the tools that quantification provides. Training by myself provides ample time to think, especially about the positive influence of certain (very special) role models.
Such introspection sheds light on the stark contrast of the stickler (Then) and half-stickler (Now). As a runner then, I was some degree of a Type A high school athlete(I have to admit that even as a college senior I tried to fake it through a femoral neck stress fracture, but didn't make it that far). Now, not so much. Now, I see, in extreme cases, a certain sense of desperate deprivation self-imposed upon those steadily ticking time bombs of Type Aers in the aim of achieving x, y and z.
We, these types, may define our self by a goal, its objectives and the time-space continuum of its carefully measured progress. Until we reach the specified end, we may see ourselves – and essentially BE, then – less than that end, less than our best. Up at Steens Mountain Running Camp last year, we laughed as our director called each of the camp assistants standing around the fire out; we’d bemoaned our current states of fitness when he said, “You distance folk are always ‘out-of-shape’ until you think you are peaked for your championship race!” We laughed because, really, we ask ourselves and each other, are you a 18:37 or a 15:58 5ker? Forty-mile or eighty-mile per weeker? All-League or All-American?
How do we muddy the pure passion for training and competition? Have we mistaken the means for the ends? Over the years, I found consistent internalization of feedback – be it subjective, objective, internal or external – and statements of whether I’d Become Who/What I Wanted to Be (say, a regionals qualifier, a Heptagonals scorer) and What I Needed To Be To Be That (say, 102 pounds, 70 miles per week, Workout Queen) bogged down and/or obscured my heart. Track-Girl neuroticisms about time, events, weight, miles, routines could harsh any groove, could hold me back, could perpetuate denial of the honest truth.
We, these Type Aers and other associated types, might merrily deny parts of our being the daily recognition and care needed for their function - whether we admit it. When we overload our selves and senses with an all-consuming,
self-defining goal, our own sustenance and recovery suffers, and
therefore our wellbeing declines. As does consistent progress toward any goal. Luckily, as potent as neuroticisms are, so is the practice of maintaining perspective of a goal and why it means what it does to you.
We can astonish ourselves when we stop thinking soly about the numbers, qualifications and other quantifications to focus on what we know we need to do – sleep, recover, ice, drills, hit paces, core work, be grateful, get in rainy/cold miles, etc. – to prepare ourselves to give our best efforts, to not let down those to whom we are held accountable. This enriched process is most beneficial, I think, when aimed at a shared goal.
Be assured, there is peace in the process. I have found more there - especially more than in the self-deprecating measurements we may constantly re-check while pursuing some arbitrary limit we’ve yet to reach. “We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?" once asked an author named Marianne Williamson.
So, who are we not to leap? We don’t have to wait for the 29th day of the second month of every four years to find joy at that point in the process, the struggle, where we may celebrate that cherished, sacred, unspoken action of hope and/or uncertainty. But the day merits a visit to the edge, the limit whether the world, the clock, the others, the self says you’re fit and/or ready. So, here’s to a leap.