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Head Games




“It’s mind over matter.”

How many times have you heard that and thought, oh phooey, it still takes some doing to get things done? Well, it’s entirely true that if everything we wanted to accomplish simply stayed in our brains, nothing would happen. I think that’s called “daydreaming”?

However, sometimes tasks present some rough going and, without fierce mental resolve, we would quit and some big challenges in life would go unanswered.

For myself, I never consideredmyself to be an athlete and I certainly didn’t consider an endurance event like triathlon or marathon within the realm of even trying. For most of my adult life, I considered myself a rather neutral sports figure, someone who was more of a hiker or walker; definitely not a runner or swimmer.

This identity probably had seeds in my childhood. Raised to be “a girl”, it was rare in my day to have female athletes in the media in anything other than a handful of sports. The world of sorts was still pretty much a man’s world.

This attitude continued into my early 20’s but things started happening. I got a little bored and curiosity got the best of me.

I received a class schedule in the mail from the local community college and, as I was flipping though it, a karate class caught my eye. Karate was something that always held a bit of mystique for me and piqued my curiosity. I had never been in any kind of physical altercation and knew I would be so pathetic if I ever had to physically protect or defend myself. It had allure, this karate class. I talked myself into signing up. I could always cancel, right? Besides, I didn’t know many people in town and it was something to get me out of the house.

I showed up the first night of class and no one was there. I was utterly confused. Where was everyone? Was I the only one who signed up? I waited around for about 5 minutes and then went home. Whew. I had been a bit nervous about taking that class, a physical class no less, all by myself amidst strangers. It was a sign. I dodged that bullet. Well, dodged it until I got home…

My phone rang and it was a very nice man, Dave Lamb, from Southeast Community College. He was the instructor and there had been a scheduling mix-up. Some people, like myself, had come at the right time but to the wrong room and he wanted to make sure I made it to class. To be polite, I talked with him and told him maybe I would come some other time, some other semester. He kindly urged me to come, heck, come any of the two nights the class was offered, that was fine with him. After some persuading, I agreed to come. That decision changed my life.

I practiced karate with Dave for 2 years and it gave me much more than I ever imagined it could. I expected to learn some deadly moves and get a workout but it gave me both body awareness and physical confidence. I got to know my body, a real feeling physicality, and this knowledge opened up a whole other world and way of thinking. This mental workout had been completely unexpected.

What else could I do? Now, any sport or activity was an option. I started to set some personal challenges for myself. Some goals were simply can-I-do-this tests. Running. I tried in earnest at the ripe old age of 30… I could to it! So, I maybe I could do a race? A 10K perhaps? At the time, I could only run 3 miles but why not? I could train. Wow, I could! I kept running. I used to swim as a kid so I wondered if I could do a triathlon? An olympic distance triathlon? I wanted to scare myself into something significant. I signed up, trained my butt off and, after fearing the ocean swim, the swim turned out to be the fastest piece of my race time. I was giddy! What next? I decided I would register for a full marathon, something I would’ve never dreamed of attempting.

The funny thing about the marathon was my fear of attempting so many miles. Up to that point in time, I had never run more than 8 miles in one stretch. I was curious as to how I would physically manage, how I would feel, if my body would do such a thing.

I talked to a friend of a friend who had run a marathon or two. He said something that helped break my mental block, “After running about 6 miles, they all feel about the same after that.” Surely he was kidding? How could running for hours feel the same as running a 10K? I mentally prepared to find out.

Training for a triathlon was an endeavor of scheduling, work outs, eating right and, of course, mental preparation but the marathon loomed larger for me. The idea of all of those much longer runs scared me. I had a binder with all my notes and training miles mapped out by week. Turns out, I both dreaded and loved my training runs. Training runs gave me hours every week of mental solitude and peace. Feet hitting pavement, alone with my thoughts for hours at a time was a wonderful thing. It was my mobile meditation. As the day grew closer, I felt like I really could be ready on race day.

At mile 23 of that marathon, it became very clear that it was a mental race from that point on. My mobile meditation became a valued asset. I was tired, I had to pee, I kind of wanted to walk but knew that would mean finishing later, prolonging my discomfort. My brain ran those last few miles. I’d invested all of that training so no way was I giving up but, when I was lagging, it was will power alone that got me through. (And yes, after mile 6, they do all pretty much feel the same.)

So, go ahead, daydream often. Exercise your brain, ponder the possibities and discover a myriad of amazing things you can accomplish. The process will give you gifts you may have never imaged. Had I not followed my heart and my head, I would’ve robbed myself of some peak life experiences.

What can you put your mind to?


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