Running, writing, and changing your thoughts

running

This morning when I woke up at 6 a.m., I had a choice on how I could spend the next 30 minutes before I had to start getting ready for work.

I could go for a run.

I could sit and peruse Facebook and email.

I could cram in some editing.

I could close my eyes and get 30 more minutes of rest.

My preference would have been to lounge in bed, scrolling through social media. I’ve made that choice many times. But this morning, knowing I was due for a run, I got out of bed and put on the workout clothes I’d set out the night before. And then, before I could talk myself out of it, I walked out the door and hit the pavement.

Let me confess here that I am not a natural runner. Before I even start running, I HATE running. I’ve learned to just not think about it too much beforehand, because if I do, I’ll talk myself out of it every time. Instead, I have to set myself up for success by laying out my clothes the night before, and set the coffee so it’s brewed by the time I’m done running.

Once I’m running, the first few minutes are spent getting over the shock to my system. Remember, I’ve only woken up about 10 minutes earlier, so my mind is generally cussing me out. Not my body, mind you. My body is still unsure what’s going on, and is just going with the flow. But my mind is well aware that I traded scrolling Facebook for heavy sweat and aching muscles.

Here’s where the shift comes in. It’s up to me to pull my mind out of the mental gutter and focus on what’s going right.

***

Mind: @*#%@*&

Me: I’m not sure you should be using that kind of language.

Mind: Fine. This sucks.

Me: No it doesn’t. I’m powerful.

Mind: No, I’m slow.

Me. But I’m learning to be fast.

Mind: Everyone thinks I look stupid.

Me: No, everyone thinks I’m amazing for even being out here running at this hour. Besides, why do I care what people think?

Mind: I don’t even know why I’m doing this. Eventually I’m just going to give up and stop running. Then all this will be for nothing.

Me: I’m not worried about tomorrow, or any other day. I’m worried about right now. And right now, I’m running. And right now, this feels easier than it did yesterday, and the day before that.

Mind: Actually, that’s true.

Me: Yup. And I’m almost done running.

Mind: Wait, that was fast. And I kind of feel amazing. And powerful!

Me: See?

Mind: Still, I’m going to have to do this again. And it’s taking forever to make progress.

Me: But each step forward brings me closer to my goal. So I’m not giving up.

***

And you know what happens after my run? My calves ache. My body sweats. And I feel incredible. In fact, I feel like I can take on the world. Just 30 minutes earlier, I’d been filled with doubt. But once I pushed through it, not only did I feel amazing, but I felt triumphant to have accomplished today’s challenge. It was only 30 minutes, and I got it done and out of the way before the day even started.

This is the trick with any goal, and the exact way I tackle my writing career. Do you think I always wake up ready to write when I’m in the middle of a book project? No. That’s a big fat NO. There are some days when I just want to sleep in or take a day off. But if I do that, I know I’ll lose the motivation I need to finish my book. So every day, I wake up at an ungodly hour and I start writing. To ensure success, I always leave myself notes during the previous writing session so I know where I left off. And I make sure my writing station is (mostly) clutter free, all my materials are within reach, and the coffee pot is set to brew. Every morning I have the same choice of options as I do on my running days—waste time on social media, sleep, or write. To keep from making the wrong choice, I don’t even check my social media or email until after my writing time is complete. Then I dive right into my book project. I don’t even worry if it sucks (rather, that voice does come up, but I push it out of the way). I know I can fix it later. I don’t bother with necessary research, I just make a note to check it later. I write, going through the motions until I get in the groove, and I change my thoughts every time I start to get down on myself.

Regardless of the goal you’ve set for yourself, you have to change your mind’s thought process first. If you’re telling yourself that you suck, encourage yourself instead. If you tell yourself that you’re going to fail, focus instead on what you’re doing RIGHT NOW to succeed. If you’ve become buried under negative thoughts, find positive ones to take their place. Speak to yourself as if you were one of your friends. Leave inspirational notes around your bedroom or in your car. Read inspirational books that uplift you and make you want to strive for more (I recommend Man’s Search for Meaning, The Alchemist, and A Return to Love, to start). Keep yourself surrounded by the positive so you can chase away the negative. You might have to force it, at first. But do it enough times, and that voice of positivity might sound more and more like you.

Stay tuned, I have another blog coming on how to make goals and stick to them.


Do you lead a busy life and wish you had more time for your writing? Are all the responsibilities of your day eating up the time you wish you could spend on your craft? Do you often wish you didn’t need to work full-time so that you had more time to write? Learn how to have both a full-time job AND a fulfilling writing career with Reclaim Your Creative Soul: The secrets to organizing your full-time life to make room for your craft.

 

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Running up that hill, and living to tell the tale

One minute into running, and all I can focus on is the fact that I have four minutes until I can finally walk again. It’s how I start, how I always start, treating each minute as a countdown to the next, unsure how I’m going to make it to each walk session, and lamenting the fact that I only have two minutes of walking until I have to run again.

Oh, Couch to 5K, how I love to hate you.

My daughter is with me, enduring these tiny moments of torture right alongside me. We’re both in Week 5 of the program, and it only took us 11 weeks to get here. And apparently she’s been training behind my back because she’s pulling out ahead of me while I’m struggling to keep putting one foot in front of another.

Five minutes. Funny how an unchanging amount of time can mean so many different things. Five minutes until I have to leave for work, and time moves at warp speed. But five minutes of running? It’s at least a week long. I keep looking at the phone in my hand that’s counting down the moments until I can stop running. Two and a half minutes left. I slug on, trying to keep up with my athlete of a daughter. I vow not to look at my phone again until I’m close to the end. Focusing on a point that feels two and a half minutes away, I keep going, sure that my legs will probably fall off before then. When I reach that point, I look at my phone again.

Two minutes left.

I think my phone is broken. But I keep going. I imagine all those runners I’ve seen while driving my car, the ones who have this look of serenity on their face as if this is their preferred mode of travel. I wonder if I look like that, too. I focus on keeping my face as calm as possible, as if I’m totally feeling zen about this whole running thing. I’m not sure how well it’s working when all I can chant is Kill me now.

The buzzer on my phone dings, and we’re both walking again. There’s a triumph in this moment. We did it! We survived the first five minutes! Now we get a blissful two minutes of walking.

Wait. What? It’s time to run again? How could that have been two minutes?

The next run is only four minutes long, which offers me a little bit of peace. But not much. My legs remind me with each step that I’m not a runner, that sitting is my favorite, that writers don’t run, that I’ll never be as fast as my daughter who I’m struggling to keep up with. Four minutes. Then three. Then two. Finally one. I focus on my breathing. Two steps, one breath in. Two steps, one breath out. I’m sure the whole neighborhood can hear my wheezing. The seconds pass by slowly, but we finally make it to walking once again.

We are halfway done.

Once again, the two minutes of walk time lasts for only a couple seconds before we’re running again. Except…this time, it’s different. My body submits to this whole running thing. In fact, it seems I’m enjoying this. Nothing hurts. I could actually keep going if I wanted to. Five minutes comes and goes, then two minutes of walking, and then the final four minutes.

“Keep going,” I encourage my daughter, even though she was the one who was running like a gazelle just ten minutes earlier. We’re in our final stretch, the last four minutes of running until we can cool down and relax at home. Just four minutes. And I’m suddenly a runner. I can do this. I am doing this. I like running. The last minute begins its countdown and the finish line is in view. Thirty seconds left. Then fifteen. Five. One.

DONE.

The walk back home is sweet. I feel strong, like I just ran a marathon. Nevermind that it was only a run walk for 2.6 miles. Nevermind that the majority of runners can race circles around me, including my stepson who can run a mile in five minutes. Doesn’t matter. I ran. And I survived.

This week, I was the featured writer over at Writing and Wellness, a blog that shares tips on staying healthy and active, even when a creative lifestyle is mostly sedentary. In an interview with Colleen M. Story, I talked about my running routine, how yoga helps to balance me, what motivates me to eat better, and even a few writing tips, like how to keep a thick skin through criticism. You can check it out HERE.

Do you struggle with exercise, too? Have you found ways to make it fun? How do you fight against the urge to lay around in favor of getting up and moving your behind? 😉