One, Two, Three, SPLAT!
Around the beginning of July, I set a goal for myself. I decided it was time to "run" my first 5K. I've walked this distance many times, but have never run it, and have never pushed to achieve a specific time. I am not, nor have I ever been a runner, and at four feet nine, it is unlikely that I will ever break any speed records.
I make it my goal to walk 10,000 steps a day. It was slow going at first, but now it's a rare day I don't achieve it. I cover the distance of a 5K almost daily, but I felt the need to increase my intensity. I started using a plan where I would prepare for a 5K in five weeks. The first week, I timed myself doing the distance, pushing myself fairly hard, and noted the time.
That way, I could track my progress and feel that oh-so-important sense of pride and accomplishment when I far outstripped my time in those five short weeks.
I pushed, and I carefully followed my plan. Because my floor is concrete, I did most of my running on a rebounder or mini trampoline. And most of my running was not actual running. Some was jogging, some was brisk walking, and unfortunately, some was barely trudging while sucking great lungs full of air, usually after running. It wasn't pretty, but I was psyched! I was going to crush my initial time! I was going to feel stronger, and life would be great!
The fifth of August arrived -- my own personal D-Day. I donned my workout clothes, started the timer, turned on my music, and got right to it. As ready as my head was, my body wasn't feeling it. I was tired and shaky, but I kept going. When I reached the all-important 5K mark, I was anxious to check my time. Had I improved by as much as five minutes? Or was it a slightly disappointing but still acceptable two or three minutes? It was... nothing. That's right, absolutely nothing. I walked, ran, jogged, and trudged the 5K in exactly the same amount of time it took on that first day. How could that be? It seemed like a cruel joke! The first question I asked myself was, "What did I do wrong?" There were a few things, but there was plenty I did right as well. I knew I would need to also answer another important question: "What am I going to do about it?"
What did I do wrong? I probably made some mistakes physically, but I am too new at running to even take a guess at these. My problem seemed to be involved more in planning and goal setting. On Podcast 50, Mel interviewed Diane Bergeron, a blind triathlete. She outlined her strategy, both there and in this blog post. Essentially, she sets for herself a three-tiered goal. In tier 1, she focuses on what might be barely attainable. The second level of the goal is measurable and is something that can be reasonably reached with planning and work. The third goal is one she can achieve, even if things go terribly wrong, that will still allow her to feel successful.
What did I do right? I broke this larger task down into smaller chunks. I drank plenty of water; before, during, and after exercise, and generally took the best care of myself I could. I know that I am very quick to look at the things I have done wrong, but I think that focusing on the things done right is also helpful. That way, when goals aren't met as planned, it's a no-excuses way of assessing whether or not I really did all I could. In my case, I had not been feeling well, and found out three days later that one of my medications needed to be changed. In other words, my poor time was not completely in my control, and I did all I could to prepare.
What am I going to do about it? Trite as it sounds, we all have setbacks, but the important thing is determining how we will deal with them. I am not terribly competitive with others, but I do like to challenge myself. I knew I would need to do this again, just to prove I could make progress. I like the idea of planning to do a 5K every five or so weeks. It allows me to check up on my progress. My next one will be September 8. That is five years to the day that I lost nearly all my possessions in a flood. It just seemed like an extra way to give that a proverbial kick in the pants and to live strong. I'm still adjusting to the med change, so I don't feel 100 percent at the top of my game, so I have set my 3-tiered goal accordingly:
1 I will knock 7 minutes off my starting time.
2 I will knock 3 minutes off my starting time.
3 I will equal my original time, I will know that I have done all I can to succeed, and I will set the next 5K.
The glamor and glitter of making a new decision and starting on a new path has long since worn off. I am indeed stronger, even on days when I don't necessarily feel it. After all, the strength to persevere is just as important. And life is already great. I just aim to make it a little more so... one step, one splat, one pick myself back up, one step, at a time.