I begin this blog with a lot of hope and a lot to say. I will preface this blog by saying that I’m a bit uncomfortable these days with “putting myself out there” online. Maybe it’s because I used to disclose everything this way ten years ago (hello, Myspace!) and I burned myself out. Maybe it’s because I’ve been so introspective in the past five years, that I’ve grown comfortable there, by myself… dwelling in my head and not having an audience. This feels rickety and rusty, so please bear with me if my writing is a bit clipped or unclear.
I have recently been chosen for Team Nutribullet’s marathon training program, and I decided to document my experience with this here. This experience will be fully public, with you who is reading this as my witness. There is a lot background here, so again I will ask you to bear with me while I pour my thoughts out on these virtual pages…
I will start off by saying that as a child, I loathed exercise, playing sports, dancing, or being physical in any sense of the word — I’ll get to the “why” in a moment. I was one of these kids who was happy to read, or spend time alone indoors. I was a very sensitive, eccentric, intelligent kid who just didn’t fit in anywhere and I liked my own company. Being around others during this time was painful. You know how kids can be when there is someone around who is… different. Confidence and faith in myself was a tool I never really developed. I became a very resentful and angry kid who looked at others with a mix of envy, hatred, longing and mistrust.
At school we would have to run laps during PE and I hated it… I hated it because it highlighted the shame I felt in myself. I felt slow and fat, with other kids running yards ahead of me with little effort. I compared myself to them and just fell short. I didn’t know any better and I tore myself up and down, just wanting to be as good as the rest. I’d strain and push myself only to feel like “what the hell is the point of all of this? I’m just not athletic. I’ll walk the rest of this lap.” And so began my negative association with all things physical.
Fast forward to the third decade, where adult Courtney has been drinking and smoking and doing god knows what else to excess since high school. Self-medicating. I’m just starting to feel like I want to help myself, and I quit smoking. I really REALLY want to quit this time, and I read somewhere that to be successful, I must replace the smoking with something else. An opportunity to join a local outdoor fitness group (“bootcamp”) comes up, and I jump aboard without any expectation other than I desperately want help and change. With full remembrance of my negative relationship with fitness, I jump in anyway.
(2012) I get to a point where I am six months in this bootcamp, I am starting to feel strong and healthy and good about myself… dare I say, I like working out!! It took a very long time but I can honestly say it…. Aaaaand I relapse. I start smoking and stop going to my bootcamp workouts. I being a long and hollow two years of feeling shame about this and I become very dormant, shunning any kind of physical activity.
(2014) I quit smoking AGAIN. This time, my lungs were gurgling in the morning from smoking so many damn cigarettes, and it was so scary. My Grandpa had passed away in 2013 from emphysema and I told myself “you deserve better than this, and this needs to stop now. This dread and worrying is killing my spirit…. and this will definitely kill my lungs in time.” I just got tired of worrying every time I took a breath.
My good friend and fellow camper, Corazon, is now the head trainer of the bootcamp I stopped attending. She invites me back, and I take her up on it because I want to jump on that change train again so badly.
I’m happy to report that for the first time in my life, I’ve worked out consistently for a whole year. I have grown to look forward to my workouts in the mornings with a group of people that are so supportive, fun, and hard-working. The feelings of shame I associated with fitness are demoted as I learn not be so hard on myself, and embrace what I’m doing and where I’m going. This is working for me.
I will also say that at this point, running is still such a struggle for me. It just kicks my ass. It’s the part of our workouts that I like the least… but it’s a hell of a lot easier than it was a year ago.
In August, Corazon told me about an opportunity to apply to Team Nutribullet for marathon training. She told me about the support, nutritional counseling, and guidance and I thought it sounded really cool. Now please keep in mind…. I didn’t know A DAMN THING about marathons, other than that they a) involved running and b) that they were long. Seriously. So I say, “Hey, that sounds great, I’m interested.” I figure it would be a way to improve on what I consider a weak point.
In talking a bit more about the training, I find out that a marathon is 26 miles. Please don’t laugh, but this was news to me!!! 26 fucking miles?!! How do people even do this? I immediately start to recant my enthusiasm for this training program. 26 miles? Me?
I relay these thoughts to Corazon, who responds as she always does: with unconditional belief in me. “Uh, yeah! You can absolutely do this” is her response, and I in turn take this in with some serious consideration. You see, over the past year, her support and belief in me has always made me stop and override my negative self-talk. She brings me back to the present and helps me see so clearly what is possible… so when Corazon says something, I REALLY stop and listen.
I apply for the Team, and immediately have ambivalent thoughts… can I really do this? Yes I can! Why not me? But 26 miles, really, that is frightening! I suck at running. But, by the laws of nature, if I keep at it, I will become better! And dammit, I just might be able to do this. What if they do pick me? I will really have to do this and part of me just is SO afraid to… but a better part of me wants to see myself try something impossible and emerge though the other side, having actually done it.
Friday is the day they announce the decisions and to my surprise, I’m nervous. The decisions are a bit delayed because it’s not an easy choosing process. I had a conversation with my mother that night about it, and I said, “Well, if they don’t pick me, I can always do a Couch to 5k program, or something like that.” As I said these words, I felt a slight disappointment at this prospective outcome. I am finding that there is something deep inside of me that wants this afterall.
On Saturday night, I get a text from Corazon that says “CONGRATULATIONS, TEAMMATE!” I am drunk on Santa Monica pier, and I just stop in my tracks when I read this. This news floors me and brings about a lot of emotion (they chose ME). I am overwhelmed with a feeling of happiness and hope.
Fast forward again to yesterday, September 19, 2015 — our first day of training. A lot of mental ping pong leading up to these days brings me to our first meeting with a barrage of thoughts and feelings. There is a feeling of heavy power in the air, and my antennae picks it up immediately. We are introduced to the mentors and coaches in the program, and they all impart such inspiring, empowering, and relatable messages… messages about believing in yourself, throwing away bullshit-garbage-negative self-talk, ditching old stories you tell yourself about yourself… overcoming obstacles, and the life-changing experience of putting your mind to something and seeing it happen. After these speeches I am feeling ready and so motivated.
We start our run, and 5 minutes into the run, I roll my ankle. I am so upset. It hurts, badly, but I limp on and power walk the rest of the run. I’m disappointed — hey, I’m supposed to be running, right? I calm myself down and say “do the best you can, Court.”
When I get home and take off my shoe, all hell breaks loose and my ankle is distended and feels stiff and just wrong. I immediately start crying and an ugly thought snakes its way into my brain… “See, this is out of your league. This is a sign that you’re taking on too much and you can’t and SHOULD’T do this. Who were you kidding?”
And something from the meeting earlier just stuck with me and I immediately rebounded “BULLSHIT. Yes I can, and really want to!” It’s then that I realize that I’m crying because I really, REALLY want this and the notion that I wouldn’t be able to participate in this program because of an injury feels like a huge loss.
When I wake up, I feel better. My ankle is still tender but the swelling has gone down and I realize the sprain is not as bad as I thought it was, and that I was having those panicky thoughts earlier out of fear. I am going to be just fine, and I will heal. The places fear takes me are so far off the path of where I want to be, and this is another lesson for me to stay present.
I have recently read the awesome “82 Commandments of Alejandro Jodorowsky“, one of my favorite movie directors. Each item is profound, but onein particular really resonated with me:
37. Conquer your fears, for each of them represents a camouflaged desire.
Ain’t that the truth. In examining my feelings about running for the past year, and especially these past few weeks, I have discovered that there is a core of desire within me that wants this BADLY. It’s always been there, and it manifested as me grasping at chances to change — quitting smoking, eating well, trying bootcamp for the first time — these are all powerful desires I have had for change. I would not have known these desires or seen them clearly without the negative experience of worry, shame, self-doubt, and injury. In transforming the negative and extracting the shell of my will, I am able to see what I really want now.
Till next time…