I really don’t like running.
As a novice triathlete, this is a serious problem. It’s hard to train for, participate in, and finish a triathlon without running. Regardless of what distance you race – Sprint, Olympic, Half or Full Ironman – you’re going to have to run – a lot! - to get to the finish line.
I like swimming. There is something about a pool workout I find interesting. The technicalities of proper technique, drills, and timing require a lot of mental concentration. (Am I the only one who can’t remember what lap I’m on?)
It’s even better in the open water. Being outdoors, having to stay alert, incorporating sighting into your stroke rhythm, wondering what’s in the water with you, just makes swimming very engaging. I guess the prospect of drowning just carries with it a greater interest factor.
I like biking. What’s not to love about a man and a machine? Guys love gadgets and a good bike is one of the coolest pieces of gear out there. There’s also something about having two wheels under your keister that seems to make the workout more bearable. Pedaling produces much greater progress than feet on the ground. I mean, you can’t run eighteen miles an hour. You can’t jog ten miles an hour. And when you slow down to walk during a run, you still have to work. Even coasting on a bike offers some forward progress while you are sitting there doing nothing.
You can’t do that with running.
Whether it’s race day or another early morning training session, running is my least favorite of the three disciplines of triathlon. Tacking a run onto a bike ride in a brick workout is especially torturous. I don’t enjoy running on fresh legs, so climbing off the bike, slipping into my running shoes and heading out for even a short run is right next to miserable. Your legs feel like a mixture of lead and rubber. It’s a very strange sensation.
Whatever progress I might have currently achieved in the run, a brick will annul it entirely. Where I can run five miles on a running day, I can barely finish three miles on a brick day. The truth be told, I feel the urge to quit just a half mile into the run after a ride. It doesn’t matter if I have biked ten miles or twenty-five miles, my legs revolt on the run off the bike.
Summer in Texas doesn’t help falling in love with running either. You can’t get started early enough in the morning to beat the heat and humidity.
I really have to learn to love the run. I have this great big, hairy, audacious goal for my triathlon ambitions that I want to accomplish before I turn sixty. At fifty-three years of age with a family and a job, it will take everything I have for the next seven years to prepare myself. If I want to see it become a reality, let’s just say I am going to have to learn to run a whole lot further than six miles.
The Attitude of Gratitude
Recently, I decided that I would apply a discipline I have been practicing in other arenas of my life to the drudgery of running. I am a firm believer in the wisdom that gratitude is one of the best ways to adjust your attitude. When I focus on all the things I have to be thankful for, my spirit is lifted to a more positive and joyful place.
So I have been rehearsing a list of things I am grateful for while I run. It looks like this.
Grateful for my Health.
I am grateful everything still works.
My eyes, ears, legs, ankles, knees, heart, lungs, back, and brain all still work really well at my age. Heck, I am even grateful that my plumbing still works… for all of its intended purposes. Seriously, at the top of my list of things I am most grateful for is my health. Due to good genes and healthy choices, I am rarely sick, seldom injured, and generally feel enthusiastic about the many blessings I enjoy in my life. With the loss of twenty-five pounds over the past two years of eating better and exercising regularly, I am even seeing some muscles I haven’t seen in a few years.
While your list may look different, I encourage you to celebrate those parts of your body that still enable you to engage in the refreshing returns of physical activity. Every time I get around a para-athlete, I am both inspired by their courage and embarrassed by some of the excuses I come up with for not training.
Physically, I have a lot to be grateful for.
Grateful for my Life.
I am grateful that I get to run.
There are so many people my age that can’t run for one reason or another. Whether due to persistent illnesses, nagging injuries, unreasonable work hours, chaotic lifestyles, unsafe surroundings, family problems, or excessive weight, a lot of people just aren’t able to lace up their running shoes a couple of times a week and head out for a run of any length. I can and I count my lucky stars for that.
Sure, there are people who could run if they made different choices about their priorities and values, but that’s not what this is about. I am just grateful that I have chosen to tackle an enormous challenge and am able to prepare for it by going for a run (a ride or a swim) a few times a week. I have the ability, the freedom, the flexibility, and the capacity to go running. That alone represents an entire lifestyle for which I am deeply grateful.
Grateful for my Setting
I am grateful for the beautiful place where I live.
I am fortunate enough to live in a quaint and quiet community that was once the cattle ranch of an oil baron. It is absolutely beautiful. Whether I am running quiet streets through attractive neighborhoods or tackling trails amidst picturesque scenery, other than the oppressive Texas heat and humidity at times, there isn’t a single thing I can complain about when it comes to the setting where I get to exercise. It is not uncommon to run past groups of the ubiquitous deer that share our community with us, to sight an occasional fox (the four-legged variety), jackrabbits, ducks, roadrunners, or other such critters. As long as they are not slithering type, I am always happy to be distracted by them along the way.
I enjoy routes with gently rolling hills and long stretches of level ground. Some sections of the ranch offer me plenty of steep inclines for an occasional hill-workout. As I anticipate running much longer distances, I can do all of that within the confines of the ranch where I encounter very little traffic, plenty of changes in scenery, and all the fresh air my heaving lungs desire.
Grateful for my Community
I am grateful for the camaraderie of other athletes.
It is not uncommon on my early workouts to pass other people out for their morning exercise. I encounter walkers, runners, and cyclists putting in the miles alone or in groups. As we pass one another, we greet each other as athletes do, often with very few - if any - words. The smile, the wave, the nod, the salute, the high-five, the “good morning,” the “on your left,” and the attaboys are all a part of that language runners share to encourage each other along the way. Because the community where I live is so small, I often pass people I know. The sweaty high-five is just our way of saying, “I am proud of you for being out here and making the effort.” No need to stop and chat. The few seconds of our encounter is all it takes to share our mutual admiration for each other regardless of how slow we are going or how messy we look.
(Honestly, every time I pass another runner going in the opposite direction, what I really want to say is, “There HAS to be an easier way.” I want to, but after about a mile neither talking nor breathing comes easy for me.)
There is even the occasional passing motorist who recognizes me and chooses to honk their horn as a supportive gesture. (Just a note. If you’re going to honk your horn for a runner, do it AFTER you have passed them. Less chance of the runner having an “accident”…if you know what I mean.)
I have a safe, friendly, supportive place to run whenever I want. That right there is a lot to be grateful for.
Grateful for my Progress
I am grateful for how far I’ve come.
Three years ago, I couldn’t run a mile without having to stop and walk. I felt so pitiful. I ran track in high school and college. When I was a teenager, I used to run ten miles just for fun. But family and career happened along the way and exercise was both sporadic and short-lived in resolutions to “get back into shape.” If you are over forty-five you have probably realized like I have that it is a whole lot harder to get into shape than it is to get out of it.
After I finally conquered the mile, it seemed like I’d never get to my next goal of three miles. Now, I smile to myself when I refer to three miles as my “short run” where I focus on a quicker pace as part of mixing up my run workouts. Six is my new “long run.” My next milestone to reach is thirteen miles; a half-marathon. But honestly, thirteen miles seems like running around the globe. If I am to achieve my goal, I will eventually have to be able to run a marathon.
I will get there. Somehow. Someday. Because I. Will. Not. Quit.
Grateful for my Dog
I am grateful for a dog that enthusiastically greets me when I am finished.
Every time I lace up to go for a run, my dog thinks it’s about her. She’s hoping to score an early morning walk. (Her running days expired a couple of years ago.) Unfortunately, I head off without her. She will obediently lie there in the front yard and dutifully await my return.
I swear, every time I finish a run she bounds toward me with all the exuberance of not having seen me in weeks. I know I am slow, but I am rarely ever gone for much longer than sixty minutes or so! Maybe it looks like I’ve just returned from a war and she’s thrilled I made it out alive.
In her delight, she embodies that phrase about the “tail wagging the dog.” She has this little whine she does when she gets really excited. That tail, that whine, that “so glad to see you again” enthusiasm sure is nice to come home to after another attempt to run.
Each and every time, she greets me like I just finished an Ironman. Little does she know I just gutted out five miles where it took everything in me not to stop and walk.
Man’s best friend, they say. I have one of the best friends a man could ask for.
What are you grateful for?
Your list of things for which to be grateful may look different than mine. That’s okay. I’m encouraging you to discover the difference gratitude can make in your attitude about whatever you find difficult. Make your own list of things for which to be thankful. Try ticking them off and really appreciating them while you’re doing what you can’t stand to do.
If it’s running, or exercise, in general, I hear ya. Whatever you do, don’t quit. It’s good for you. Keep looking for ways to keep motivated. It’s different for everybody. But here’s what I know for sure. Your attitude is everything.
Give gratitude a try. It just might help turn your attitude around.
When it comes to gratitude….and running….I. Will. Not. Quit.
It’s working well for me. I’d love to hear what works well for you.