Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Struggle

Pierre Du Coubertine once famously said:

"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."

This afternoon I went to the lunch time yoga session at Yoga Mandala and we did a lot of back openers. Doing these always gets my mind rushing on the walk home! Today, I began to think about the concept of "struggling" and where it shows up in my life.

I recently signed up for my first half marathon in Calgary on October 1st, called the Harvest Half Marathon. I didn't quite have the guts to attack the full marathon just yet. I'll grow big enough balls some day soon;) But for now, I will celebrate the victory of taking on this challenge rather than guilt myself into feeling like a failure because I didn't push far far far past my point of comfort. Baby steps. Far far enough is fair for now.

A couple of my good buddies and I are going to train for the race together (well, we will be holding each other accountable as we all live very busy lives!) and then we'll celebrate with delicious liquid lunches afterwards. I've got my training plan on the fridge and I am really enjoying having it there as a sense of accountability in my life. 

Yesterday's run consisted of a 3km warm up, then 4 sets of "hills" and eventually ending with a 3km cool down. Sounded easy enough. But what I didn't really consider was that yesterday in Calgary it was a blistering 30C. The sun was hot and the air was humid. I, being the unseasoned long distance runner that I am, laced up at 1:30pm to embrace the open road and mighty hills. Bad timing.

I made it through the run, but when I got home I was so HOT that I couldn't cool down. I was sweating profusely and I thought that my head was going to explode. The minute I walked through the door I ripped off my runners, squished off my socks, pulled out my headphones, wriggled out of my sweat drenched Lululemon shirt, guzzled a gallon of water and laid dead centre in the middle of my living room. I was panting worse than Patch does after he disappears to chase birds for an hour. My heart was thumping, my skin was getting hotter by the second and beads of sweat dripped off my body into a giant pool around me. I kept thinking, "I might die. I might actually die."

Eventually, after 15 minutes of laying there with a fan blowing on me, I cooled off. It was a pretty painful experience and one that I am hoping to avoid in the future. 

So today I have a 5km run in my plan. And when I was walking home from yoga I started to notice an interesting pattern in how I approach struggle in my life. My bad wolf starts to be very loud and powerful. It growls:

Remember how you felt yesterday? Remember that awful suffering you were experiencing when you were so hot? You don't want to feel that again, do you? Your legs are still tired from that experience. 5km might actually be too hard for you today. You don't really have to do it. How will you feel when you start running and you can't push past 3km because you are starting to over heat?

Shut the front door! 

I have a really bad habit of going to the most awful scenario that could possibly occur. I have always done it and I am sure I will continue to do it until the day I pass away. I like to try and talk myself out of things and make up excuses in my mind. I think many of us do.

Sometimes I let the excuses win. But today, I refuse. 

I am going to be smarter about the time that I run. Perhaps a 3:30pm jaunt will be more convenient for my body engine. But most importantly, I am going to enjoy the struggle. That's why I'm doing this. That's why I signed up for a half marathon. I want to embrace the struggle and try to find pleasure in the process. I want to push myself beyond my point of comfort because I want to prove to myself that I am capable. I want to be immersed in the process and I want to be faced head on with the choice between stopping and continuing on. I want to choose 'continue' because that is the person I am. I don't back down. I push through. I embrace challenges. I accomplish my goals. As Pierre alluded to above: I fight well. 

I'm lacing up and going for that run. Crossing out today's mission on the running plan is going to be satisfying, but perhaps not as satisfying as the struggle it will be to get it done.



Kerri said...

Your post was just the kick I needed to get back into a training routine. I started jogging earlier this year. Hands down the hardest thing I've ever done as I've never liked running. I did 3 5K's....I'd never even done 1! Then I stopped training because life got busy. Truth was- I was making excuses & listening to the voice saying who cares if I miss a few days/weeks/'s hard, makes my feet hurt, it's too hot... All excuses. I'm going back at it tomorrow. Would love to know where I can get a copy of a 10k training schedule!

Christine said...

Whenever I re-embark on running I remember one specific day I felt that "runners high". It was somewhere in my training for our half marathon, I did 11kms and at the end I felt like my lungs grew, my head was crystal clear, that my feet didn't touch the ground! I was euphoric and I'll never forget it, it was worth all the crappy days put together. And I have WAY more crappy days. I think that's the fun of running, you never know when your body is going to cooperate and surprise you, but eventually you figure out your own recipe for an awesome run.
Congrats on the new goal! 2012 might be the Year of the Marathon for me.

Kyle Shewfelt said...


The motto "Today Not Tomorrow" has always helped me push myself. I'm glad I was able to inspire you to get your run on! I wish you a good struggle today!

A great place I stumbled upon for a training plan is: . Pick your race day and then work backwards from there.

Christine -

The crystal clear head is always a dead give away that you've got runners high!

I think that running is a great metaphor for life. Crappy days are inevitable, but it's those great days that make it all worth it. Running is also like meditation - it's more about the discipline of showing up than the end result.

Keep me updated on your marathon plans!


Katie said...

Your posts always motivate me to better myself. It's far too easy to let life get busy and allow excuses to take precedence over results. This post has me pumped to start running again. My new goal is to complete a 10k before I become a doctor, so 44 weeks to get it done! Thank you, as always for the inspiration.

Kyle Shewfelt said...


Thanks for your kind words. To hear that I've inspired you is the biggest compliment I can receive.

Amazing accomplishment on your behalf in becoming a doctor. Congratulations on the dedication ;) Running a 10K should be no problem for you.

As I told Kerri, here is a great training plan:

I've found that having a plan keeps you motivated and accountable. Things that are measured get accomplished. Otherwise excuses can start to be very loud!

Keep me updated on when/where you decide to run your race. It would be most excellent to follow your journey!