Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Mental Toughness

I didn't want to go hike today.  I was tired.  It had been a long week and Saturday was a very long day.  My youngest had her play this week and Saturday had two performances, a cast party and then a cast mate spending the night.   I think I got to bed around midnight.  That doesn't work too well for me.  I got up around 7:00 a.m. and let the puppy out and fed her and had just sat down when Joe got home. "Where are we hiking?" was the first thing he said.  Ugh.  I really didn't want to go.  I had convinced myself that it was okay to just bail this week.  I had a super busy week, I was tired, I had a bit of a headache and it would have been entirely justified to not go.  Also, I had to be home before noon because I had to do my last web conference for school on my last observation for practicum.   Another good reason to stay home.  How can I go hike and get home and cleaned up before I had to be online?

But suddenly I knew I needed to go.  I would be mad at myself if I didn't.  Even if it was a short hike I needed to do something.  So I got dressed and started getting my backpack ready to go.  The minute I had my running clothes on Bailey started following me around.  She was so worried that she wouldn't be able to do along.  lol

We headed out and decided to go to Dimple Hill via Upper Dan's Trail.  I have been going all the way to the bottom of the hill to Lower Dan's Trail and have never been able to find where I need to go for Upper Dan's trail.  I figured it would be a good day to check it out.

We ran down the first hill and up a ways so I got that first mile in running, but nothing more.  That was good, at least I didn't loose ground.

The reason I had been getting confused is that there was a sign for Upper Horse Tail trail and then another road to the right with no signs.  I was unwilling to go down the road because I didn't know where it would go.  Joe said it was the road that led to the junction of Lower Dan's Trail and Upper Dan's Trail. So off we went.  The road was pretty.  The forest was damp because of the rain we have had for the last couple of days and the trees are starting to get buds and leaves.  I love the smell of the forest after a good rain.

Bailey was in puppy heaven.  She ran and ran and ran and ran.  I think she went twice as far as we did.  She loves going on hikes!

We got to the junction of where the road and Upper and Lower Dan's Trails met.  So now I know where the different trails meet up.  That's a good thing.  At this point I feel like I know enough of the main roads that if I did take some random trail I would recognize something that I connect to and find my way out.

Upper Dan's Trail doesn't seem to be getting any easier.  Actually today was tougher because the last three times I have done it I have been alone.  Having Joe with me just makes it really obvious how slow I am going and how hard I am working.  He is in front of me just walking along while I trail along behind, breathing heavy and slogging along.

I said that I didn't know how he and others we know run up this stupid trail, I can barely walk up the dumb thing most days.  He said something along the lines of you just push through it, decide what you are going to do and do it one step at a time.

I said that he is much better at that kind of mental toughness.  I just can't seem to do that.  I'm better at just being mental.  lol  Joe didn't like that comment.  He told me, rather firmly, that the mental toughness that I use to be successful in grad school is the exact same mental toughness I need for pushing myself physically.  That made me think.

I have never seen them as being the same.  Getting homework done isn't the same as being able to run up a hard freaking hill with switchbacks.  At least in my mind.  I have never seen myself as having mental toughness.  Not like Joe.  When he decides he is going to do something he does it.  He makes a plan, works towards it and gets it done.  I don't think I have ever seen him not reach a goal that he is set.  From my point of view, he doesn't seem to have the frustration and self-doubt that I go through.  I'm sure he has it at some level but not anything compared to me.

That got me thinking about Mental Toughness.  What it is, who has it, how it works.   My friend Wendie spend four hours on a stationary bike today as part of her training for her Ironman.  That's badass!  I went on a hike.  I feel like that was kind of Eh, in comparison.  But there is that comparison thing again, which I have learned is very, very, very bad!  So back to what is mental toughness?  I have hiked every weekend since Christmas Break.  I haven't missed a single weekend in three months.  I am tired, I am overworked and I have WAY too much homework.  And yet I go.  And I get my homework done, I get my work done, I do what I need to do for my kids (I hope) and my husband (ditto).  So maybe I have more mental toughness than I give myself credit for.  After all, I have been working on the tired factor, weight loss and running for four years with limited results.  (Results, but not as much as I would have liked at this point.)  While that is all going on I have kept working on it, in spite of not spectacular results (small progress is still progress) and have been working on my master's degree and have been working on being trained and starting to teach a new subject (which I love!)

I have been working on not comparing myself to others, which I feel I have come a long way with.  Now I guess I need to give myself more credit for being mentally tough and being able to do more than I think I can.  Maybe when I don't have so many things to juggle it won't seem so overwhelming.  :-)

Today we ran quite a bit of the first part of the hike, walked (trudged) up Dan's Trail and then walked down the road back to the Saddle.  I was planning on running down the road and I just didn't have the energy.  I could feel those old feelings of frustration start to well up.  But I decided to stop and think about why I didn't have the energy to keep going.  After all, I hadn't gone as far as the week before.  Then it hit me.  I hadn't eaten anything before we left the house.  Because I had initially talked myself out of hiking and then changed my mind.  I quickly got ready and we left.  No fuel since dinner the night before.  No wonder I had no get up and go for the last part of our hike.  It had got up and went!

I'm glad I took the time to really reflect on why I was struggling instead of just immediately bashing myself.  I have worked really hard on that that past fall and winter and this was a good test to see if I was on the right track.  While the run/hike might not have been my most successful it was a win on many other levels.
This guy always believes I can do anything
I compared the mile on Upper Dan's Trail this week to the mile on that same stretch of trail from last week.  I was just over a minute faster this week.  Doesn't sound like much but I am happy about it.  And because of the way the numbers look at first glance it looks like an even bigger gap which makes me happy even though I know that is not the reality.  Last week was 22'04" and this week was 20'55" which at first glance looks like a two minute improvement.  Really it is a difference of 1'09" but I will take any improvement going up that hill.  Especially on a day where I wasn't feeling it at all.  Sometimes it's good to remember that any improvement is a good thing.  Going at all is a good thing.
The view looks different every week.  
Bailey loves being able to explore when we are at the top.  This trip she found a stick!
Love that my Ironman takes time out of his training to support what I'm doing.  Love my guy!!
The wind was blowing quite a bit when we got to the top so I set the leash down to put on my jacket. I left it sit there.  I didn't realize it until we were almost to the road.  Joe jogged back up to get it for me and I kept walking.  He jogged down to catch up with me.  I was going to jog the whole way down to the Saddle like I have the last few weeks but it just wasn't happening.  I could feel those frustrations coming again.  So a little self talk had to happen.  No one is making me run.  No one is expecting me to run.  The only person who is putting those expectations on me is me.  So I needed to focus on what I am getting done instead of what I think I should be getting done.  I went on a hike.  I went for more than six miles with elevation gain/loss of over 1,000 feet.  Yay me!  That's a lot more than a lot of people.

Learning to be okay with what I AM accomplishing instead of bashing myself for not getting something done that no one but me was expecting.
The trees are starting to get their leaves
The trees are starting to turn green and every week the forest looks different.  In a few weeks we will start seeing wildflowers blooming as well.

I had an interesting problem on the parts of the hike that I ran.  I was wearing my Fuel My Fire leggings that I got at Old Navy a few months ago and they kept sliding down.  Now the last time I wore them I had a running skirt over them so that could be the difference.  Or I have a smaller bum now and there was nothing to hold them up.  lol  I'm not really sure.  I recently have been noticing that my arm jiggle has gotten jigglier.  I was kind of worrying about that, but then I got to thinking.  Maybe it's jigglier because I have lost weight?  Hmmmm.  Interesting problem to have.  Definitely going to have to start lifting weights!!

Bailey was a muddy mess because even though we managed to not get rained on it had rained hard the day before and all night.  There was lots of water and mud on the trail.  She had a blast running in the ditches, around the corners on Dan's Trail and back and forth all over the place.  We went 6.4 miles and I'm pretty sure she went 12.8 miles.  lol  When we got home she had to have a bath.  Then she runs around the house like a crazy dog.  When I finally got a chance to sit and take a nap she snuggled up with me.
I continue to feel like I am making good progress in my attitude.  I have a lot going on right now and it would be really easy to just let the stress cloud everything.  The weekly hikes have been really important for me to keep things in perspective and I am proud that I haven't missed a weekend since Christmas vacation.

I had a friend that severed our friendship last summer and I didn't know why.  When I finally pushed it they told me that my comparing and frustrations were impeding their journey to wellness so they had to cut me out.  I get that.  But in the process they didn't talk to me about it and left me feeling like I must be a horrible person.  Because only a horrible person is worth cutting completely out of your life, right?  It took me awhile but I now realize that it is my friends problem not mine.  I was going through a tough time.  I am not a negative person by nature and I was struggling with several deaths of people I care about, unresolved health issues and basically I was going through some depression.  I now feel sorry that my friend felt that the only course of action was to cut me off completely instead of realizing I was going through a rough time.  Distance is understandable!  I would never want to impede someone else's journey.  However, I am a pretty awesome person to have around (most of the time).  This friend should have distanced themselves from the negative and kept the positive.  All of this is to say that I was having a great deal of self-doubt about myself as a person and a friend because of the situation and the lack of communication.  So, to quote the song, I have let it go.  It really isn't my problem at this point and the entire situation has impeded MY journey.  I know that I am a good friend.  I know that I love people.  I also know that I'm not perfect.  If people aren't willing to forgive me for going through some struggles then I guess I will have to move on.  It makes me sad but I know it is out of my control.  I'm grateful for the friendship and value it greatly.  Maybe someday we will find our way back to it.  I know I hope so.

My journey to figuring out how to be happy with who I am and where I am has been avoiding the reality of this issue for months.  It's been good for me to really examine my part in what happened and also realize it wasn't really all me.  I've forgiven myself.  Maybe someday this friend will forgive me too.

This situation has also reminded me that I have an amazing group of people that were able to stick with me as I worked my way through my yuck.  I value them even more now than I did before.  Thanks for putting up with me and my misery.  Thanks for cheering me on when I'm doing better!  I am glad you didn't give up on me!! Again, focusing on what I have right now instead of what I have lost.

What's all this got to do with running?  Emotional issues, depression and stress factors get in the way of being a entirely healthy person from the inside out.  This past year has been more about getting healthy on the inside than the outside.  I'm hoping to continue on this path and that if the outside never gets to where I envision it, as long as I keep working on being healthy, I am going to be okay with that.

I'm starting to realize if I can get through the things I have worked through the last few months that I am probably a bit more mentally tough than I give myself credit for.

That is going to be something I will be reflecting on quite a bit for the next few weeks.

I've said before that this journey into health has not gone the way I expected.  But I am realizing that I should be extraordinarily proud of myself that I am still working on this journey.
Found this today.  Seemed perfect!  
No matter what.  I plan to continue!! Guess that takes some Mental Toughness.  :-)

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