I tend to have this cycle where I get really excited about something, decide to pursue it all out, invest a lot of time in it (and, sometimes, a lot of money), but then I eventually get discouraged by not being the best or as good as others or as fully committed as I once was — and then my interest slowly diminishes until I finally drop it. Whether it’s launching a new blog (this site is probably my 10th rendition of some form of blog in the past eight years), trying a new style of workout class, starting to write a book (yeah, I bet I’ve started close to 10 of these, too). Have you been guilty of falling into this cycle ever?
This has happened so many times in my life that I’m now aware of myself entering the cycle of love-pursue-dwindle when I become obsessed with a new big plan or idea, and I get fearful of when, not if, I’ll get over it. I suppose it can be a good thing to dream up interesting and novel pursuits for myself, but the fizzling out part, over and over, is the problem.
It always reminds me of the quote, “Learn to rest, not quit,” which is a good cue to whisper when I’m feeling the itch to get out of things I really do want. But, recently, I had to quit training for a marathon I planned on running in September for reasons other than I wasn’t doing good enough or I got bored with it. It was none of that. Sure, it was freaking hard and I was never a natural at it, but that’s not why I ended up stopping.
Rather, I began to experience some side effects of anxiety around training, as well as physical ailments. A few weeks ago I wrote about all the things training for this race has taught me — physical conditioning is as important as mental toughness, uphills always lead to downhills, hydration is imperative, and the spiritual component I began to experience during particularly challenging days. All of those things are still true, yet once we began getting into the higher teens mile-wise, it became more and more difficult for me to approach long runs without the thought of them consuming me.
I’ve never had the best feet or back (because apparently I’m 26 going on 62), and those didn’t feel good, per se, after long runs, but I think I would’ve had the capacity to push through that alone. But even on shorter runs, like 5- or 6-milers, the skin beneath my sports bra and pants began to literally burn from the friction of my clothes, to the point where I would have days of painful scabbing as the skin attempted to heal amid more running, exercising, sweating, disrupting.
Y’all, I don’t skimp when it comes to athletic clothes since I wear them so often. I wear a lot of Lululemon, which, if you drink the Kool-Aid, you know is all about the best fabrics, material quality, and comfort levels. I even bought a few new sports bras to see if the old ones were just worn out. I tried putting powders and serums on the chafe-prone areas. But, no luck — I’d never had this happen before, but I’ve also never ran this much so often before and my skin is super sensitive.
The really long runs were particularly destructive to my skin, and I have a few small scars now on my back and chest from the excessive rubbing. It sounds so dramatic, and every time I’d text my sister, who graciously said yes to training for this thing with me, about another round of burns, asking if she’d experienced anything like it yet, she would be like, “Are you serious?! Again?”
The night before our 16-mile run, I was with friends in Dallas and I went to bed around midnight, planning to wake up at 5 to get it done early and go on with my weekend with girlfriends. That is, I got in bed around midnight, but I tossed for at least a couple of hours before fitfully falling asleep. I was still optimistic for the run after three hours of sleep, but it didn’t go well, as you might imagine, and I started to dread the next long run.
Just less than two weeks later, I was staying at my brother’s apartment in Denver. Granted, there was a lot of overwhelming things happening that week, but at the front of my mind was the unsettling knowledge that my sister and I planned on doing the next big run — 18 miles — that Friday. It was Tuesday night when I got into bed around 11, exhausted from a long day of travel and goodbyes to friends, only to lay there hoping sleep would come eventually.
It did — 45 minutes before my alarm went off to get ready to leave for the airport the next day. I laid there for six hours wide awake, counting backward, practicing breathing techniques, wondering if I should just take a few shots of something to pass the heck out (kidding, kind of). As I mentally paged through the events of the week trying to figure out why my body couldn’t chill enough to fall asleep, the only thing that made me feel extreme tension was the idea of running 18 miles Friday.
After enduring three mentally and physically taxing hours of jogging, I knew what would come next was the painful skin burning and days of an achey body. I appreciate the soreness from a tough workout, but the hurt that came after long runs was more a joint fatigue than sore muscles. (We’re past the point of TMI, so I’ll throw in that my poor bunions suffered the brunt of those long runs, too. Y’all, my body!) I have never struggled with insomnia, and after my 45 minutes of sleep that night, I decided I was reaching a point of anxiety and physical depletion that wasn’t healthy. My body and mind were actually revolting against the idea of this damn 26.2 mile run in September.
With guilt stirring in my stomach, I told my sister I didn’t think I could do it. I wasn’t just pushing myself to new limits for fun and to see if I could anymore; I was harming myself and making myself plain miserable. But a part of me just felt like I was doing my same old cycle, finding a reason to give up when the going got tougher. I talked my sister into doing this, and she’s continuing the training on her own. I am so freaking proud of her, though, because she is nailing her long runs and doesn’t have any of the pain or anxiety that I was experiencing. I told her I’d do a half marathon when she does her full, since I know that’s something I can get through.
The bottom line is that I never want to pursue something for the sake of checking it off my bucket list if it doesn’t actually benefit or build me or others up in any way. We talk a lot about creating boundaries with others to protect ourselves, but we also need to build boundaries around our own limitations. While I learned a lot from (halfway) training for a marathon, I’d argue the most important thing is learning these limits and understanding it’s okay to not push them if it ends up causing legitimate harm.
That’s not to say pushing yourself is worthless — I think lofty endeavors are required for growth, and I know I could stand to push myself the extra mile in other sections of my life. But being attached to whether or not we accomplish the big and the bold is not necessary, or even the point. Failing to finish is a lesson in itself, and there’s already enough negativity coming at us without feeding ourselves any more. I will probably always come up with crazy ideas. I’ll also probably give up on a few more, get one or two more scars from others, and succeed at some, too. It’s all a part of it, the disappointments and the wins, and that’s what makes life so magical, anyway.