Getting Started SUCKS But It Gets Better
It's frustrating as hell to scroll through social media when you feel like you're drowning. It's curated, we all know that, but for some insane reason, it's impossible to remember when we're ready to throw in the towel.
The first few weeks are the hardest. They're soul-crushing, all-encompassing, frustrating, and painful. You know that Haruki Murakami quote, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional."
Today was one of those days where I paced back and forth on a street corner, trying to convince myself not to call an Uber and quit marathon training. 👍🏽 I’ve written 48 billion iterations of this caption trying to tie up my shitty soul crushing run with a bow, stunt for the gram and be the optimistic, inspirational Kelly I normally tend to be but yalllllllllllllllll. HERE IS THE REAL TALK: I’m frustrated. I’m nowhere near where I wish I were when it comes to strength and endurance. Im spending a lot of time and energy worrying about what’s going to happen in a few weeks (which is making me a mental case. I know better. I’m working on it. Don’t @ me.) There’s no such thing as the right time to get started. Getting started will always be the hardest part. But the only way to move towards the strength and ease you aspire towards is to get through it. Or get it over with. Whatever works. Literally, #JustDoIt. And if you cry on a street corner, you’re doing it right. 👍🏽 It’s normal to struggle and have really shitty runs. It’s normal to have more shitty runs than good/average ones. It DOES get better. IT GETS BETTER. IM 87% POSITIVE THAT IT WILL GET BETTER. Just watch. UNTIL THEN, please excuse me while I sit here silently muttering f*ck off to all the smiley workout pictures everyone posts on Instagram 👍🏽 Happy for you. Jealous of you.❤️ IF ANYONE NEEDS ME, I’LL BE OVER HERE THINKING ABOUT MY LIFE CHOICES. 🌈 END OF RANT. 🌈 (It will get better.) #SportsBraSquad #BadassLadyGang #ProjectMoonshot #TeamNike
Yeah...That's a quote that resonates AFTER you've fought through and miraculously persevered through the first few horrible few weeks of training. Because when you're first getting started, suffering is sometimes the only option.
BUT KELLY, IT'S ALL ABOUT YOUR ATTITUDE! YOU TALK ABOUT THIS ALL THE TIME YA HYPOCRITE!
Yeah, I know. I've read every book out there on the mental game of running AND I get help from a sports psychologist. I'm not saying choose to suffer. I'm saying that sometimes, no amount of mental attitude gymnastics can make getting started less of a suffer-fest. Making the conscious decision not to suffer and instead, find ways to feel grateful and celebrate where you're at will change your life. But that's a muscle that takes time to develop. And there's nothing worse than suffering and having someone tell you to simply choose not to suffer. All I'm saying is that figuring out how not to suffer takes time and it doesn't always work.
Here, I'll explain...
I'm a TERRIBLE runner. Like really, really, really bad. There are some things I'm innately good at and running is WITHOUT A DOUBT not one of them. I still have a hard time believing that I, with my long history of quitting, somehow managed to become a runner. (I mean if you want to talk about something I'm good at, let's talk about my ability to convince myself to quit a goal when I realize I'm having a hard time and then disassociate all feelings of disappointment.)
About a month after I ran my first marathon, I was having a really hard time running anything from three to six miles. It felt just as hard as it did when I first started running and I was starting to panic. How was it possible that I couldn't run three miles when I'd just ran 26.2?
I was a receptionist in a dermatology office at the time and a pharmaceutical rep and I were talking at lunch when I found out she was a runner. I didn't know many runners so I jumped at the chance to see if my struggle was normal. I told her about how I was having a hard time running three miles and she said to me, "Getting started feels like pushing a boulder up a mountain. But there will come a moment where everything will click and you'll fly." (I'm paraphrasing here but that was the gist.) She continued, "Becoming a runner is challenging. But if it were easy, everyone would do it! Once you can run those three miles, it'll get easier."
It was like having a conversation with a Pinterest board. I realized that she might have missed the part that I'd just run a marathon and had been running for a while so I brought it back up. And she laughed and told me that maybe running wasn't cut out for me if I was still struggling to run three miles.
Luckily, my life was so shitty and boring that quitting and not running wasn't an option. Despite the fact even after two half marathons and a marathon, I still felt like running wasn't going to get any easier, suffering and having something to work towards and feel proud of was felt worth it.
So I didn't give up.
But here's something I've learned in the years that followed that conversation:
Getting started or starting again will always feel like a struggle. It will always suck. And it will always test your will to persist and persevere.
Back in April, my Physical Therapist at Finish Line Physical Therapy advised me not to run my May marathon and instead, take a few weeks off to rehab my hamstring and piriformis muscles. And after six weeks completely off of running, she had me restart by running one mile every other day for a week. Then I graduated to two miles every other day for a week. Then three. Four. Five. And once we hit six, I started training for my next marathon.
And here's the kicker, it took me an additional five weeks before I felt like I wasn't struggling through my "easy runs". That's right, for those of you keeping score, I suffered and floundered for ELEVEN WEEKS before I felt like it was finally starting to get better. (OK, if I'm being COMPLETELY honest, the first two weeks when I was running one and two miles were actually kind of fabulous. When I wasn't feeling panicked about going from one mile to 26.2, I was like DAMN. I SHOULD RUN ONE MILE MORE OFTEN. THIS IS AWESOME. But once I hit three miles, it was all pain all the time.)
So when I say IT GETS BETTER, I mean it.
IT GETS BETTER.
It just takes a lot of fighting and a strong will NOT to give up when your doubts are loud and it doesn't feel like it's ever going to get easier.
It's OK to want to burn things to the ground when, after weeks and weeks of struggle runs, you scroll through social media and see smiles and crushed workouts. It's OK to want to smack the crap out of a million pinatas when someone in your running crew tells you that they ran a PR without really training for that half marathon you worked your ass off for. And it's normal to doubt yourself or question whether you're ever going to be ready when, after months of hard work, you still feel like you're working twice as hard as everyone else.
No two experiences are alike. Some people magically don't suffer like we do. HOW LOVELY FOR THEM! But just because we're not naturally athletic or just because we're a hell of a lot slower than everyone else doesn't mean that we aren't strong. Try to focus less on times, paces and distance and instead, focus on your effort level. As long as you continue to give your best effort every single day and tell that voice in the back of your head that says you'll never be ready to f*ck off, it will get better.