Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Turn Your Challenges into Strengths

As I fought through 1200's by myself on a dark, frozen track the other morning, I couldn't help but think how awesome it would be to have a team, a group, or even just another faster runner or two out there to help push (or pull) me along for track workouts.

I read blog posts by runners who get to train with runners who are faster than them, and by runners who have faster runners or bike pacers that join them for their intervals, long runs, and tempo runs. That would be amazing. It can be hard to train on your own all the time.

It's easy to look at your own situation and see the challenges. I have to train alone. I have to run crazy early in the morning to get it done because of our schedule and family. Icy roads force me to do quality workouts and runs on a treadmill for months each year (last year I had multiple 100 mile weeks on a treadmill). There is not a flat road to be found here. My stomach is a fickle thing. Whine, whine, whine.

But the more I think about it, the more I see the challenges to my training as blessings and strengths.

Yes, I would love to have others to train with. But on race day I will know how to pace myself and push myself, by myself.

Yes, I have to get up by 4:30am most days and run crazy early. I would love to run in the sunlight and get more sleep, but instead of complaining, I choose to see my early runs as a symbol of my discipline and commitment. Every morning I answer my own question of "How bad do you want it?" by getting up and getting it done, no excuses.

Yes, I get "stuck" on the treadmill for most of my runs for months each year. It would be incredible to live somewhere that I could run outside all year long, but I am grateful to have my treadmill as an option for safe, quality training in the winter, and I know that all those treadmill miles are building mental strength, which is an essential part of marathoning.

And as much as I would kill for a flat road once and awhile,  I will run those dang hills, day in and day out, and will be tougher for it. 

So I will take my challenges, I will embrace them, and I will turn them into strengths. I will be a better and stronger runner because of them.

Everyone has challenges to their running and training. Maybe it's a job, a busy family, school, a health issue, a hot and humid climate, a crazy cold climate, injuries, a new baby, an unsafe area,  or a combination of challenges. We have the option of letting our challenges discourage us, knock us down, and prevent us from achieving the things we want to achieve, or tackling our challenges head on and using them to make us stronger, tougher, and better.

Much like most things related to running, this is also true in life. We all have our challenges in life - love, family, finances, employment, health, relationships, substance abuse, tragedy, loss, etc. We can allow the challenges that life deals us to knock us down, or find a way to use them to rise up and make ourselves stronger.

Turn your challenges into your strengths.

"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved." - Helen Keller

"Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men." - John F. Kennedy

"Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength." Arnold Schwarzenegger

What are your running "challenges"? How do you deal with them and overcome them?


Holly @ Run With Holly said...

I live on a flat, tropical island. While people in the US are embracing the cool of fall that rewards the long, hot runs of runs stay hot and humid all year long, without any variation. [Like, 80-90 F and 80+% humidity most mornings.] And the highest point on the island is 160 meters. How can I train for a hilly course/terrain, when I don't have any hills to run? Whine, whine, whine.

I deal with the heat by acclimatizing (this took a few months!), then carrying lots of water, learning where the water refill points are, learning how to use salt tabs, only wearing skin tight spandex, and carrying a wicking towel with me when I run. I deal with the flatness by using hilly programs on the treadmill, by running repeats of the few hills we do have, and by stair climbing when I can.

And when I start feeling annoyed or discouraged, I remind myself of three things:
1. I get an immediate speed boost when I travel to a cooler climate for a race. [And I'm never unprepared for a race in hot conditions.]
2. I spent 7 years in upstate NY, shoveling my car out for half the year. I don't think I could buy a snow shovel here if I wanted to.
3. This time of year, I can get great bargains on summer running apparel!

coach dion said...

I hear what you are saying, and while I am coach at UCT in Cape Town I feel that if I want that bit extra I need to get out on my own in the mornings and on the weekends...

Don't worry the kids know that as well... To reach the next leave you will often find yourself having to put in the hours alone.

Amy Lauren said...

I really admire your dedication- it's super hard to train on your own and get up and do a track workout by yourself. I used to train more alone (and I'm nowhere near as fast as you), and when I moved to Charleston and started working out with a group, I found it so much easier. It can be tough training by yourself but I can't even imagine the 100 mile weeks on a treadmill! Especially in winter, when it's kinda depressing outside anyway. Plus, your stomach woes :(.

There's a lot more to being a winner than just making the podium or placing. You are crazy fit, yes, and very fast... but you also have a huge heart and an amazing dedication and love for the sport. And that's a big win.

Christina W said...

I have taken flack before from those who live in warmer climates and believe the treadmill should not be part of the equation of training. I say to them, come here and try running on the ice and see then how you would feel about the treadmill! :)

I think there are pros and cons no matter the climate, but I honestly think it is healthier to have colder climates for training rather than hotter. Less risk of heat related injuries and health situations. Hansons are purposely still up in Michigan and they approve :)

Kristen Lawrence said...

I used to train with people almost daily and now I train alone because of my kids schedule. I'm convinced it's making me mentally tougher. Initially your paces may not be as fast but now I am able to push myself in a way I didn't before. You are strong!

You may hate me for this, but I wish we had your hills. It's 100% flat here and I get destroyed when I travel to hilly races. So proud of you!

Suz and Allan said...

I love all three of those quotes! I'm always amazed at how you motivate yourself and stick to your training when you do most of your running alone and so early in the morning.

Jill said...

You always have the best mindset and positive forces inside you. Always so inspiring to come come visit your blog :).

You do what you have to do and you don't have to explain to anyone why. I run a lot on my treadmill when it's hot, when it's super cold, or whenever I'm feeling a bit tired so I let the treadmill do the work for me :). Keep being strong, lady!

HalfCrazed Runner said...

Love the quotes. The past year's challenges: Time & Injury. I always think, I can't squeeze water from a stone - it is what it is. And resolve to make the best of the situation. No sense beating yourself up - that's a dead end road!

Matthew @ My Little Eye Surgery said...

Very motivating! Thanks a lot.