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Post-marathon running, to put it bluntly, sucks.

When you have completed a marathon, you are on a high that lasts for so many weeks, you can easily forget to work out, in which case, your body slowly begins to take on the form of the retired Mr. Incredible.

But the increased size and odd shape of body parts is not the only downfall: you also realize that your once-a-week long run is the exact same mileage as your previous daily runs.

Lately I’ve noticed the first four miles of my runs are hard.

Really hard.

I feel so completely out of shape and uncoordinated I seriously doubt I was the woman who ran 26.2 miles last July.

But once I get past the four-mile barrier, something amazing happens: I feel strong.

I can pick up the pace and really focus on what my body is doing. I can challenge myself in ways that, at the outset, seemed quite ridiculous. It’s at this point I begin to realize daily effort pays off big-time.

In life, working towards a specific goal is hard work. And hard work automatically implies a process that is uncomfortable and quite possibly smells bad.

Often as you approach your barrier, you feel like you should just give up and slink back to wherever it is you came from.

Why work so hard when the goal isn’t even in sight?

But if you press through it, you will find that the sweaty, smelly, difficult exercise has made you stronger.

Soon, you are flying along, not even thinking about what you can’t do, because your head is filled with what you are actually doing.

I once heard a pastor who kept talking about the Iditarod he ran once without freezing to death, which is all well and good, but he ran it in 1973.

What had he done lately?

If 1973 was your last great achievement, then you might want to consider that opportunities may be mushing past you. 

I don’t want to be one of those people who talks about the marathon she ran once, a long time ago. I want to be doing amazing things right up until the day I die.

Amazing goals don’t have to be grandiose: you could strive to be a healthy person when you’re in your 80s (like my Grandma), to have a good relationship with your kids (also like my Grandma), or to be the most awesome teacher, friend, architect, parent, or spouse ever—amazing goals are not necessarily the most public ones.

In fact, the most difficult goals to achieve are the ones that come without recognition.

I don’t know when I will run another marathon, but I do have dreams I’m moving towards. And while many of them seemed utterly out of reach six months ago, now, they’re starting to sound reasonable, achievable.

And that is exciting.

But it’s hard.

Really hard.

Sometimes the struggle doesn’t seem worth it. And at those times, the muscle memory of my highs will have to carry me through the lows.

But once I’ve made it past that four-mile barrier, I’ll be flying.

Then I can say:

Sure, the marathon was great, but look at what I’m doing now!

Whatever your goal may be (some of us would like to lose 20 pounds before the high school reunion in August:), keep working at it.

I guarantee once you’re past your own personal four-mile barrier, you’ll be flying too.

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When I was 18, I thought:

  • I wouldn’t get married until I was old–like in my 30s
  • I might have 1 child someday
  • my bachelors would take forever
  • I would love being a high school drama teacher
  • I had said goodbye to my beloved Europe forever
  • homeschooling was for cultists, who don’t allow females to wear makeup or blue jeans
  • “athletic” was a word that could in no way be associated with me
  • having kids drained the fun out of life
  • there’s no way a husband could also be a best friend

Nearly 20 years later, I find myself living way beyond my original life’s vision:

  • I married at 20
  • had 4 fabulous children
  • felt college breeze by, including the 2 years in the masters program
  • have great respect for public school teachers, but could not be bribed, drugged, or arm-wrestled into becoming one
  • hang my hat in Germany
  • teach all 4 of my kids at home and on the road, while wearing pants and makeup simultaneously
  • finished a marathon without an ambulance
  • laugh more with my kids than with any other group of people on the planet
  • have a friendship with my husband that grows deeper every day

I have a lot of goals, and I wonder if they will be met in the way I anticipate, or if life has something bigger in store for me.

In the future, I want to:

  • be published
  • make an actual income from writing
  • avoid cold, dark and snowy places at all costs
  • run an ultra marathon
  • do ten real push ups in a row (don’t laugh–it’s a dream of mine)
  • write more letters with paper & ink
  • learn a second foreign language
  • be less self-centered (I admit, blogging doesn’t help this)
  • improve the world in a meaningful way
  • travel to Africa
  • watch my kids soar
  • love my husband even more than I do at this moment

Twenty years from now, I wonder what I will think of my current goals–they seem pretty high to me.

No matter what our ages, we should all be dreamers. While gaining the prize is a wonderful thing, it is bravely pressing forward on the quest that matters most in the long run.

What goals (or misconceptions) did you have when you were 18?  I would really love to hear what they were!

I want flat abs, and I’m not sure why.

I can’t blame Hollywood or the media or peer pressure. 

My husband is innocent too. During the course of nearly 17 years, he has seen my stomach stretched into shapes that defy the laws of physics. He currently thinks I can leap tall buildings in a single bound. So, if he doesn’t have a problem with my flabby abs, why do I?

Can’t I be content with how things are?

I contemplated this while doing crunches on the ridiculously big blue ball in the basement. The reason I desire flat abs is the same reason I wanted to run a marathon: because goals, no matter how great or small, make me feel truly alive.

Without goals, I begin to wither. I physically/mentally/spiritually need a trip to plan, a book to write, or a marathon to run. 

Life is more than shuttling kids to activities—my life has worth too, even if it’s not in mint condition.

I kicked the ball across the room, and as I quivered in plank position while keeping a close eye on the stopwatch, it occurred to me that my quest for meeting high goals, at the core, comes from an ember of low-self worth, which faintly glows inside me.

It is an uneasy feeling, which periodically fans the message:

“I am not quite good enough.”

I used to pray it would go away. For a while, I pretended it went away. When that didn’t work, I took meds to make myself think it went away. Finally, I worked hard to force it away. Despite all my efforts, nothing could completely extinguish it.

Insecurity, once it scorches the land of the heart, cannot be forgotten.

Despite new and more vibrant growth on the surface, the evidence lies forever in the soil record—never rekindled but always revealed if you dig a little.

The strange thing is, without this charred ground, I would not be motivated to reach new heights.

Insecurity is part of me, and I should make peace with that.

After all, without it, I would be a completely different person.

With it, only God knows what I might accomplish.

I may have flat abs someday.

Stats:

Miles last week: 23

Plan of action: Increase mileage until I’m up to 30 miles a week. Continue physical therapy for the knees. Be faithful to my hand weights and old-school upper-body festivities. Keep philosophizing about my abs.

Weather: We had a week of rain, which turned the lovely snow into mud, whereby I was forced into the dungeon, I mean, basement, to use the treadmill. Then we had a break of sunshine (temps in the upper 40s to low 50s), which makes me feel like I might just go a couple more days without fleeing the country in a gray-sky induced panic attack.

Wildlife: the deer are plentiful, and so are the hunters. To be honest, it’s only one hunter, the Village Hunter, also known as the Jaegermeister (some of you are familiar with that word), who has built a new deer blind. I try to scare the deer away from his lair (I waved at him up there during a run–he waved back), and I am always sure to wear colors not found in the natural world.