Isn’t it funny how as you grow up, your perspective on things changes dramatically? I remember back in primary school, where my main priorities included ensuring my friends and I got to the cafeteria early at lunch time so we could get ‘our table’, and walking home fast enough to be in front of the TV just before Full House started. I went to the only all-girls uniform-wearing junior high schools in my hometown of Edmonton, so a priority of my 13-year old self was finding good spots between school and the bus stop to change into regular clothes so that we wouldn’t get made fun of on the bus. (Sad, but I swear it was a real thing!)
In the private high school I went to overseas, it was about getting good grades. This was because it was firmly drilled into our student brains that success in the world ahead (and more immediately, getting accepted by our top-choice universities) depended on letters earned on final exams.
After the get-accepted-into-university hurdle was cleared, it was still about good grades, but also about experiencing a bit of freedom, Bacardi Razz, doing outrageous things, and in my case as a BBA student, competing for co-op positions that would look good on a resume (and thus make it more likely that I’d get a job straight out of my undergrad).
From Full House to full-time work – that’s quite a shift in priorities, isn’t it? I found myself thinking about this the other day, and more specifically, how my perspective and mindset around fitness has changed.
Back in 2006, I was in my first year of university and one of the first activities I signed up for was the varsity cross country team. I loved running and was somewhat decent at it, so it seemed like a natural fit. Joining the team also connected me to a whole bunch of great teammates and friends. But in retrospect, social perks aside, my motives for running weren’t rooted in performance or competition.
At that time I was only a year or so fresh off of my significant weight loss journey, and while I wouldn’t have admitted it, I think part of me was worried the weight would all come back overnight if I didn’t keep active every day. So I pretty much did exactly that – ran every day (or at least most of them).
Somewhere along the way, my brain learned to take a chill pill and realized that rest days, in fact, are essential in becoming fitter, no matter what one’s health and fitness goals are. So I took them, but again, if you’d asked the question “why do you exercise”, the honest answer still would have likely been something to do with the way I aspired to look. Running has always made me feel fantastic, but back then I was motivated very much by a number on the scale and the fact that I could fit into smaller clothes. Thank freaking goodness, that changed.
“They” say we get wiser with age, and apparently it only took a couple of obstacle-filled years for life to teach me some important lessons. Although I wouldn’t consider myself to be super competitive with others, I am very competitive with myself. The races I ran in my early/mid 20s were run not because I was interested in any sort of placing or podium positions, but because I wanted to be able to set new PRs for myself. (That’s a personal record in case you’re not familiar with running lingo.) Previously I’d been all about seeing a number on the scale, but the time on the clock was a new form of validation in a sense. It made me feel that what I was doing was significant.
As is the case for many determined runners with ambitions to beat the clock, my efforts were tested with some injuries. One of the most notable was major Achilles tendinitis back in 2012, which impacted my training for an entire 10 weeks leading up to my first Seawheeze half marathon. It magically disappeared just in time for the race, but then, right there in the middle of the course, I somehow managed to sprain my SI joint. How I crossed the finish line is still a miracle, but I chalk both of those injuries up to overtraining. Training for the sake of logging miles, not training smart.
Perhaps even more impactful than those injuries was finding out I had anemia in 2013 and the long quest to restoring my iron levels. If any of you have the same condition, you’ll know what it’s like to go from feeling super fit to completely winded and covered in sweat within the first 5 minutes of what should feel like an easy run. Talk about a blow to your confidence.
It’s now about 2 1/2 years after my big anemia struggle, and while it was undoubtedly one of my most frustrating, annoying setbacks, it was something that again, has shifted the way I think about exercise. Having reached time goals for the half marathon in 2014 and having completed my first half Ironman this year, it might seem as though I’m still measuring myself against a number on the clock. But the truth is that I feel like I’m in a place where I don’t seek validation from fitness at all.
There’s no denying it: setting new personal bests in running and triathlon feels great. Even the thought right now sends tingles down my spine. And yes, training for these things regularly is a way to help ensure that the jeans don’t get too tight. But what I’ve learned is that what feels even better than achieving a particular aesthetic or PR is knowing that now, the main motive behind my athletic pursuits is that they make me a better person.
These days when I train and race, I can’t help but be in awe of how truly awesome, strong, resilient and capable my body is. It wouldn’t be that way though, if I hadn’t realized and actively practiced proper fueling and rest (two things that sound like common sense but in reality aren’t quite as easy.)
Of course, I fully expect that there are years of even more learning ahead, and I know I haven’t truly mastered anything yet. But it kinda feels good to see yourself growing, ya know? The body truly is a temple, and in combination with a strong mind, I think that’s a duo that can propel us through some pretty darn epic things – athletically and otherwise.
In other (somewhat related) news…
I NEED to tell you about something really cool ASICS has been working on. Over the last 3 years, ASICS’ Institute of Sport Science has been researching, prototyping and designing a product they think will master long distance running – all with no restrictions – and it’s called MetaRun. (If you’re reading this as an email and can’t see the video below, click here to come over to the post.)
The big reveal happened on November 12th, and to celebrate this launch, they’re having an Instagram photo contest!
Every week from 11/6 until 12/4, ASICS will be choosing new winners who will score themselves a pair of these awesome new, long-awaited shoes.
Here’s how to enter:
- Post a photo showing what #MasterIt looks like for you. Include #MasterIt in your description
- Check your Instagram DMs each week to see if you are a winner (selections made on 11/6, 11/13, 11/20, 11/27 & 12/4).
- Learn more here about why the MetaRun is so freaking awesome, and why I’m so excited about this shoe!
To finish off this crazy long post, something to think about (and comment below on if you like):