28 Days of Inspiration – Day 25

Setting Goals, Working Plans

One of the truisms of New Years’ resolutions is that they’re hardly ever met.  We’ve all heard the maxim that it takes 21-Days to form a habit that sticks.  If I can make my January 1 workout routine stick for three weeks, I’m gold.

Well, it takes about three times that amount of time.  So it’s day 22 and you really don’t feel like going to the gym, by you’ve done it for 21 days so it’s okay to skip a day… and pretty soon you’re not going. If 21 days were the gold standard, I wouldn’t be pumping out Day 25 of my daily inspirations no less than 7 hours too late to get it in on the proper day.

I’ve found it exceedingly important to set goals for myself that require a plan: I’m going to run 46 races this year, I’m going to go back to school and earn an MBA, whatever.  I find that I’m often too conservative with my plans: I hit 46 races in August, meaning I had 4 more months to run races; I finished my MBA a semester ahead of when I planned.  That’s fine though, its the goal that’s important and having a target to shoot at.  Once the goal is set, and I communicate it out to hold myself accountable, there’s only the plan for how it’s going to happen left

I think of it this way: if I don’t already know how to get somewhere, I have to have help getting there – a map, a gps, a friend who does know the way.  If I haven’t built the habit, I need to chart out what I need to do to reach my goal.

When I get those goals set, I start working the plan.  This works great for things I DO want to do, but it’s particularly important when I don’t want to do things.  To this point,  the inspiration to more frequently do laundry or make the bed just isn’t there, but these things have to get done.  I haven’t been able to inspire myself enough to get a goal around these, but I know if I do it’ll get done. I would like to be better about doing things I don’t want to do, and perhaps that will be my next goal.

If you don’t have a habit – remember, throw that 21-day jive out the window – you’re going to need a goal, and a plan to get to that goal, and the commitment to work the plan.  It’s easy to fail, it’s ridiculously easy to back pedal or go off course.  Good plans will help you recover.  A solid relationship with yourself will help you decide if you can commit to a goal – if you REALLY want to achieve that goal.

 

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28 Days of Inspiration – Day 21

Patrick Downes & Jessica Kensky and Adrianne Haslet-Davis 

On April 15, 2013 their lives changed.  While at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, then recently married and Boston area natives, Patrick and Jessica were there to enjoy the day.  It was that day they became victims of the Tsarnaev brothers first bomb in their bombing attack.

It was that day Adrianne fell victim to the second bomb in the attack, opening her eyes to find her left ankle and foot missing. A professional dancer, she was looking at her life’s work and direction irrevocably changed in an instant

This year they demonstrated ridiculous resilience when Patrick became the first marathon bombing survivor to come back to the race and finish it on foot.  Through it all, Patrick and Jessica have stayed together and become stronger.  Three years after the attacks, Jessica is still undergoing surgeries. He’s lost a leg.  She’s a double amputee.  This is still a fresh wound for them both. Adrianne also lost a leg and took up running because of her injuries – not in spite of them.

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Patrick raising his arm to approach the finish line.  From the NY Daily News.

Patrick didn’t know it, but he finished the race at just about the time the bombs first went off that fateful day completing the race in 5:56:46

“[When I first started] learning how to use the blade, I made a pact with myself that I would at least try to run. I [thought], ‘Gosh, this blade is so difficult to use,’ so I decided to make it a challenge that I would overcome.” Adrianne Haslet-Davis 

Adrianne too was at the 2015 Boston Marathon, as a dance performer at the finish line.  This year it took her about 10-hours to run her race. Less than a year after the bombing, she performed on Dancing with the Stars.  From the beginning she knew she was in for a challenge.  She accepted it, and worked on advancing.  She did not quit.

Neither were runners previously but have used their life experience.  All of them could have easily succumbed to the ease of “giving up.”  They could have easily have made excuses for themselves, to feel sorry for their condition, to allow themselves to hate the Tsanaevs for what had happened to them.

When you focus on hate, you don’t allow yourself to grow, to change, to rise above.  All three of these people have risen to become more powerful, more inspirational than they were before.  Patrick was running to raise money – $250,000 – to fully endow a scholarship for disabled students.  Adrianne was running to raise money for Limbs for Life, a charity for providing prosthetics for those who cannot afford them.

There is nothing routine about completing a marathon.  There is nothing routine about experiencing life changing circumstances, and resolving to accept the challenge.  There is nothing routine about accomplishing goals and then setting them higher.  It takes mental fortitude, resilience, and commitment.  And ANYONE can do it, but not everyone does.

28 Days of Inspiration – Day 15

Rucksgiving and the New England Spahtens

Over the past year, I made a commitment to myself that I was going to run 50 Obstacle Races by age 50…which then morphed into 46 Races in 2016 for my 46 years…which has again morphed into getting as many done this year as I can.  As part of this evolution, I’ve connected with some wonderful people along the way, see here Joel Chavez the man representing Day 3 of the 28 Days.

One group which which I’ve connected is the New England Spahtens, a local obstacle course racing (OCR) enthusiasts team that has over time morphed (not unlike my race list, nor would that be coincidental to my own list) into other races, fitness activities, and social events.  After all, it’s a team, right?

OCR is an interesting community.  It’s designed as an individual challenge, but we’re social animals and want to engage these pursuits with other similarly minded folk.  I’ve noticed several “teams” of this kind in various places: joining is optional, there are no membership fees, no one gets cut, be as active or passive as you want.  If you want to register for a race, but the team hasn’t been formed, form it.  You can confidentially register for a race, join/create the team and you’ll have the support of others even if you don’t know them.  They’re there to support you, perhaps help you over an obstacle with the sole purpose of sharing the sport and making it accessible to as many as who want to join.

For the past two years, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the Spahtens marshal as many volunteers as they can, loaded with donations and carry  ruck sacks stuffed with the gear around a route through Boston to carry donations to the less fortunate. This isn’t an administratively heavy endeavor (read the blog post, linked to here – this is a general call to arms, some pre-planning, and general strategy on the fly).  There are no news crews covering the story, no administrative costs.  Just teams of people caring for others, while living the purpose of the group – health and fitness.  It’s a marriage of the mission and vision of healthy activity, and supporting others.  And it’s ridiculously inspirational.

 

 

28 Days of Inspiration – Day 11

“Too Fat to Run” Julie Creffield

Julie is a marathon runner and has been for over ten years.  She’s also plus size – Size 18.  Her doctors told her she was too unfit to run after she pulled a muscle in her back. She was so inspired to prove the doctor wrong, three weeks later she ran the London Marathon and later founded a website “The Fat Girls’ Guide to Running” at toofattorun.co.uk.

The idea is to inspire people to get out and exercise.  Overweight people are particular risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke among other health concerns. Julie’s site is part running club, part blog, part motivational speaker booking agency.  She’s all about getting plus size women out and active, running for their health.

Yesterdays entry was about speed.  She’s actively reaching out to women to try out different techniques for increasing their running speed.  Consider this: instead of advising other plus size women they’re too unfit to be running, she’s encouraging them to be out there and active.  Not only active: faster. If they want to be.

I always say to women that are just starting out that your running speed doesn’t matter, the most important thing is to get out there as often as you can and to learn to enjoy the sport regardless of any improvements of speed or distance.

Its incredibly important to find empowerment when perhaps you’re feeling vulnerable.  The last thing someone needs to hear is that they can’t do something.  Here’s someone asking people to get out there, be active, and enjoy themselves. To continue to work toward their goals.  Consider this tidbit from the CDC: “Physical activity reduces risks of cardiovascular disease and diabetes beyond that produced by weight reduction alone.”

It’s more important to be active to reduce the risks of heart disease.  Julie is out there encouraging women to get out there and be active.

 

 

28 Days of Inspiration – Day 3

Joel Chavez

Maybe not a name you’ve heard before, or if it is, I’m probably not referring to the same person.  Joel isn’t famous, although perhaps he should be.  He’s an ordinary guy, so far as I can tell, facing extraordinary circumstances.

You see, I “know” Joel through Facebook.  I’ve never actually met him, I may have commented once or twice on his posts, but we’re connected through a mutual group for Spartan race enthusiasts.  He’s ridiculously dedicated to his workouts, is impossibly toned, and so far as I can tell runs as many obstacle course races as he possibly can.

By all appearances, he’s dedicated to his two young kids.  I don’t think he lives with them both because he’s posted that mom hasn’t let him see one or both of them – Facebook is such a strange medium: it allows you into people’s lives without really knowing them and without all the details of their lives.

Here’s what I do know: he’s in his late 30’s, with two young kids – everything in the world to live for. And he’s got cancer.

So far as I can tell, it seems aggressive.  He undergoes chemotherapy frequently.  Almost as frequently as he goes to the gym.  He shares inspirational quotes speaking directly to him.  He shares his optimism heading into treatment, the less than optimistic news he receives from the doctors, but he always seems to buck up. I’ve seen him post despair, but he finds something to hold onto and crawls back.  It must be exhausting, but he continues to find a way.

So many people would back off, crawl into a malaise, give up.  Joel just keeps pushing forward.  I couldn’t be more impressed at his stamina and his will.

I can’t begin to imagine the struggle and the fight this man is waging.  His strength – physical to be sure, but mostly his emotional – is so inspiring.  Where some say that their family inspires them, he demonstrates that through his virtual presence.

Now, I realize that on the internet no one knows you’re a dog, but he’s not looking for aggrandizement.  He’s just a guy.  A guy who’s facing a struggle but making the best of it.  He’s living his life where others might quit.

Here’s to Joel and his battle, and more particular, his spirit and courage.

Update: Today Joel shared news that was not good.  He has lung cancer, and two years ago he was given 18-24 months. He says himself that he knows he’s on borrowed time, but that he was scared to learn how massive the tumor was and what the likelihood that his cancer has spread.  He’s facing further diagnostics this week to determine next steps.

Those next steps have brought with them the knowledge his cancer has spread to his brain and within his lungs.

I learned a little more about the man from that.  He has his good days and his bad days, but he shared more today than I’ve seen him share to this point.  And it’s through that sharing that I learned just how much more I look up to him, just how inspirational his fight, his attitude is.  He’s truly a man among men, and someone I admire tremendously for his courage and will.

Beware For I Run Fearless…

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On Saturday, I completed race 46 of my goal 46 in 2016.  The Ragnar Trail Run is a three loop trail race, completed with a team of 8 with each runner completing all three loops, and in this case it meant covering about 15 miles over the course of however long it takes one’s team to complete the circuit.  Except my team was short runners…and half way through, we had an injury.

My 15 miles became 24, 19 of which were run in the second 12 hours of the race.  It was a monstrous race.

I’m a street runner.  I’m an obstacle course fan.  Elevation gains and long distances arent my thing.  Coming down that last trail – the longest, highest elevation – running, running, running…almost unable to stop, with quads screaming to stop and yet not being able to – it was a feeling like I’ve never had, truly something alluding to what I have to believe hell must be like.  Being Ragnar, and being the last runner, as I came to the transition area to complete the race, my team joined me to cross the finish line together.  It was an amazing, awesome conclusion to the race, but a fantastic way to mark the completion of my 46 race goal.

These were folks I had met only for the race.  I didn’t know any of them.  Not one.  I responded to a Facebook post looking for team members.  Their only interest in me was that I was filling a slot that would have otherwise gone unfilled.

41337066_race_0-9710193401717151-originalAnd, yet, by the time we crossed the line together, this was their goal too.  It was important to them that they were a part of this for me.  I heard them talk with pride about the fact this was my 46th race on the year.  I kept the bib.  It was important to me, and it was important them.  That meant so much to me that over 28 hours,  we went from strangers to friends bonded by the completion of a goal.

It was a powerful experience; not just the completion of my original goal, but how these strangers came together to care about my goal.  Years from now, I will look back at 2016 and I will remember this experience fondly.

This year has helped me be fearless about setting goals.  Fearless of taking on unknown challenges.  Fearless about pushing myself for more, to be better, to compete in the unknown.  And this has made me powerful.  I’ve taken chances.  I’ve lept from safety and pulled the ripcord, not knowing where I would land.

I honestly thought it would be more difficult to accomplish than it was, but as I look back I realize I’ve relied upon my old friends, stepped out of my comfort zone and met new friends, and have joined strangers who have become friends.  It’s been a fantastic year and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year holds.

I met one person in March by happenstance who has become a solid race buddy.  I met another guy who responded to my call to join our Ragnar Relay team with whom I’ve now run a couple of other races and recorded our #Kill22 pushups together at the Providence City Hall. I jumped into a pool of ice water in the middle of February just because I was asked to, to raise money for a kids’ camp.

I feel incredibly powerful for having met my goal.  I feel incredibly blessed for having met so many wonderful people in my year of running.  I already know how ridiculously blessed I am for having such a fantastic peer group of old friends supporting me.  My family has been so loving and supportive.  Nothing happens in a vacuum.  I’m living proof.

Beware I am fearless and therefore powerful.

Goals

On or about my most recent birthday, I committed to a plan to run in 46 events for each of my years.  Actually, it kind of evolved from 50 Events by Age 50 – meaning about 11 yearly because I was going to retroactively apply the handful of races I had done the year before…you know, just to make an even 5 year period and not because I had questions.

The idea wasn’t that there is some magic number, but rather that attaining that goal would require continuous, sustained commitment to fitness over a lengthy period of time…and that I really didn’t have enough T-Shirts so this seemed like a good way to get them.

Realizing, of course, that having a goal without actually having a plan, was a recipe for failure, I set about finding these events to run.

In the months previous, I had registered for several races in advance as doing so is generally cheaper and, frankly, I’m kind of cheap.  I signed up for the Rugged Maniac onsite of last years race at some ridiculous discount, and the Battle Frog sometime in October at an equally ridiculous discount – both of which I’d registered to run by myself, something I’d never EVER tried.  Sometime later, I registered for the Spartan Sprint, so I had the nascent beginnings of a “plan,” but only that.  I suppose it’s really helpful to WANT to do  what you’re planning.

My plan slowly grew – adding a “fun run” 5k in February run by a local running group, then a series of St. Patricks’ Day themed runs and my plan was hatched.  In fact, it was at this point that I began thinking “perhaps I could do a little better than 50-by-50.”

Now, I have to disclose at this point, that I’m not much of a runner.  I don’t particularly like running, I’m not really built for speed either.  What I do enjoy are obstacle races – hence, the reason the first three on my agenda were OCRs.  They’re physically and mentally demanding, and let’s face it, pretty damn badass.  Not everyone wants to do them, not everyone actually can do them so when you want to and can, you should.

There’s little by way of a secret as to why it became important to me to pick up this mantle on or about my birthday.  As one’s youth gets progressively distant, and the questions, doubts, perhaps even fears of middle-age come into the forefront, time ceases to be your friend.  If it’s going to happen, it needs to happen now.  I didn’t want to be that late middle-aged guy who has a few tweaks and dings, perhaps a spare tire, and high blood-pressure medications.  I didn’t want to be that senior who has to sit by a window watching others go about their activities of daily living.  We’re not here forever, and we’re only here once, so I want to be sure I’m physically able to do everything I want to do.

By February I had done 4; March 10; and April 16.  By this point, I’d registered for a couple of what I would consider epic challenges: A 200-mile Ragnar Relay, a Spartan Super, and quite possibly the most demanding Spartan Beast.  A marathon relay tossed in there, and some thoughts of a half-marathon as well, although that remains unscheduled.  Some weekends I would run 3 races: once I ran 2 5ks on Saturday and a 10k on Sunday, another weekend I ran a 5k and the Spartan Sprint on Saturday and ran Sprint a second time on Sunday.  This was as much an expression of my goal motivation as it was my sometimes extreme personality.

None of this happens, of course, without accountability and without a supportive peer group.  The people I went to high school with have been the most important influence toward working to this goal, holding me accountable – because they all have their individual goals as well – and, perhaps most importantly, refusing to allow those goals to keep me from achieving more: achieve one goal, define a new one.  I’m thankful I had the good sense to define my peer group wisely and I’m thankful I have such a strong bond with these men.

Today, I run race 38 on the year – a 5.5-mile, hillfest.  My 46 has grown now to a plan of 54 and half way through the year I’m left to redefine my goal further and to set new ones.  None of which could have happened without setting that initial goal getting me off the couch.  There is a lot of literature about goals and goal setting, not all of which I’ve found helpful in this journey.  For me, having a fitness goal was important, but I needed to bite off small chunks.  I needed to have a series of successes and demonstrate such a schedule was possible before I lept in.  Had I set a goal of 100 races for the year, I could imagine being here in Mid-July deciding I couldn’t make it.  For me, having a modest goal and building out worked wonders and I can’t imagine I’d have been better off for having a more audacious goal – I may have been worse off.  I know my personality and that’s made all the difference here.

I’m pleased with what I’ve accomplished to this point, accomplished with the support of my friends and family, but I’m not done and nor is my plan done.  Without my initial simple goal, I’d have never have found out where I could go and the power of ones friends.  I’m incredibly fortunate.