The most difficult part of preparing for a race isn’t the physical training. The pain of a track workout is over before I know it. And there’s chocolate milk after. The dread of a long run, bike or swim dissipates as I knock off the miles and meters. And there’s pancakes after. Nope, what trips me up is all mental. Getting in the right frame of mind tends to be my biggest challenge. I can talk a good game, but then I second guess myself. I argue with myself, become emotionally sensitive and am increasingly hard on myself. If I let it spin out of control, I will think that I am the word’s worst writer, reporter, employee, friend, daughter, girlfriend, aunt, neighbor, athlete, etc.
So my job is to not let it spin out of control. Because I can talk myself right into a firm belief that I totally suck faster than I can down a plate of pancakes. But I’m reminded of one of my favorite sayings from author Marianne Williamson: Your playing small does not serve the world. Life is meant to be lived fully and my version of living fully is unique to me. I can be inspired and motivated by others, but how playing big looks in my life is a case of personal taste.
As my mind wanders down this alley, I begin to notice that I get myself into all kinds of mental and emotional knots when I start comparing myself to other people. When I start judging my success and fun and “playing big” by what others are doing, I quickly spiral toward the “I suck” mindset. To counteract this, I try to switch my thoughts to the present moment, to really being present, and enjoying what I have in front of me. Oddly, this same sentiment was expressed by U.S. Soccer superstar Abby Wambach after she led the American team to a win over France in the Women’s World Cup semifinals on Wednesday. In a column by Christine Brennan, Wambach said:
I feel like I have to make sure I don’t regret a moment. I want to smell what the stadium smells like. I want to breathe in all of this experience, because who knows if I’m going to get another shot in four years? Who knows if I will be healthy? Who knows, who knows?
Perhaps I’m waxing a bit too philosophical these days. It’s one of the dangers of taper week. But what I take from Abby’s quote is an intense focus on the present. What is in front of me today? What do I want to focus on? I could think about my shortcomings and fears. I could wallow in thinking about how much I suck. Or I could think about my strengths, my loves and the possibilities that lie in front of me. I can think about creating what I want, rather than being scared of losing what I have. I can breathe in the experience of today, whatever the day may bring.