Archive for the ‘running’ Category

Excellent bracingOne of the first pieces of advice our upperclassmen gave us when we reported to The Citadel was, “Don’t think about Recognition Day. Think about tomorrow. Think about the weekend. Think about Parent’s Day weekend.” At the time, Recognition Day was shortly before graduation, meaning 9 long months in a plebe system, a military system in addition to the rigors of attending college.

Our upperclassmen had been there. They knew that classmates that continually looked to the end of the 9 months didn’t make it. There was a transition point, when you get close enough to Recognition Day, that holding out for it keeps you motivated to continue in the Fourth Class System. However, that transition point is well into second semester and we were still in the midst of the two week training period before classes for the year began. Until then, you needed to focus on something else. Their suggestion was to set milestones around events that we were nearer to. Just making it to the weekend meant having survived another week at The Citadel. That was one more week than many others had done. That was one more week to add to your accomplishments. And adding that week meant that once again, you had proven you could make it. That was often enough motivation to take on the week to come.

Life is the same way. Most of us have big goals that are a long way off. I am far away from my ideal running weight. However, if I look at that big number, I’ll get discouraged and I’ll quit. That number is my final goal. In between I have set a number of milestones to remind me that I’m making progress, that I’m getting to where I want to be. Case in point: this weekend I had a certain set of goals in mind for my running. I accomplished them fairly easily. I am ahead of where I planned. That’s a good thing. Knowing that I passed my “test” easily has brought additional motivation to see my goal through to the final number. This is the power of a little victory.

In your goal planning, make sure you set milestones that measure your progress. Ensure you have these in order to achieve little victories. These little victories remind you that you can do it. They provide additional motivation to keep going. And they make the overall goal look more manageable and achievable. These little victories are crucial to accomplishing that bigger goal. Plan for them as you work your way to the final goal. Celebrate them as you accomplish them. Allow yourself to look back and see what you’ve done. Like finishing another week at The Citadel, those little victories should be a growing body of evidence that what you have purposed to do is not impossible. Set them and use them to keep moving forward.


Read Full Post »

Tuba PlayerLast night I was feeling terrible. I had stayed home due to sinuses but I had on my workout schedule to go run. I really wasn’t feeling up to it, but I knew that if I didn’t go, I would be setting myself back. I needed to do something, at least a little, so when we got back from church I changed into my running clothes, laced up my shoes, and started out on what was supposed to be a 3.1 mile loop.

I learned this lesson back at The Citadel when the Director of Bands, Major Day, brought in an old tuba player he knew. The tuba player either played with the Commandant’s Own or the President’s Own Marine bands, but I don’t remember which. What I do remember is he played my part for Stars and Stripes Forever from memory. And he played it on the tuba. Since my primary instrumentation was flute and piccolo and he played the piccolo part on tuba, I was picking my jaw up off the ground. I couldn’t believe a brass instrumentalist had that kind of embouchure, especially someone who was supposedly retired.

Major Day brought him in for a reason. He wanted to inspire us and to motivate us to work harder. He did so with that gentleman, who also took part in our spring concert. Major Day did ask the man what was his secret for success. The man’s answer wasn’t surprising, as we had heard it before. But after hearing and seeing what he had just done, most of us took it to heart. Here’s what he said, as best I can remember.

“Practice every day, even if it’s only for 15 minutes. If you’re sick, get out of bed and do those 15 minutes. And don’t just practice what you like. Practice what you need to work on. Make those 15 minutes matter. Of course, you should practice longer, but don’t neglect a practice. Don’t ever skip one. “

Running last night was about giving my 15 minutes. I have a goal to be able to run long distance again. Skipping last night would have been detrimental to that goal. So I went. I hurt. I cut it short, only going 1.66 miles, but I went. I’m still not able to run the whole time, but I did run over half the distance. I made progress. Maybe I didn’t make the progress I would have liked, but I still took a step forward.

It’s easy to make excuses. It’s easy to give in to the circumstances. It’s easy to find a “legitimate” reason not to do something. However, if you want to reach your goals, you need to push forward, even when it’s hard. We grow during times of adversity. And if we want to truly accomplish a goal and master something, it’s going to take consistent effort, even when we’re not feeling up to it. Case in point:

Watching this master do a simple bo kata reveals a lot. His moves are precise. They accomplish the purpose for each strike and block. He has more hours practicing this kata than he can probably remember. And likely he practiced it when he was hurting, when he wasn’t feeling well, because it needed to be practiced. It needed to be practiced if he wanted to be at that level of performance.

And that’s a key way to get an edge: to work when others aren’t willing. So when you aren’t feeling well, when you are feeling tired, still look to make some progress, any progress, on your goals. Each time you work when others don’t, you either gain ground if you’re behind, or you extend your lead if you’re not. Also, for skills that require continual practice, you don’t backslide. You at least maintain and maybe even improve. Therefore, even if it’s only 15 minutes, take the time to make progress.

Read Full Post »

I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine. His name is Allen White (blog | twitter) and he’s one of the top folks in our shared profession of supporting Microsoft SQL Server. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him in person at a few conferences and working with him at a community level last year. As a matter of fact, he has been recognized by Microsoft for his contributions to the community. As smart as he is on SQL Server, that’s not  the only reason why he’s pictured here with a blog post entitled “Find Your Heroes.”

Allen is also a marathon runner. He has a goal of running a marathon in each state and he’s well on his way. This was after setting and completing a goal of running 50 miles for his 50th birthday. Running helps keep him in shape and keeps him reaching for more goals. Like with the Microsoft SQL Server community, he also gives of his time helping people train for their first marathon. This past Saturday we talked about that and how he was helping someone from our technical community train for her first marathon.

I’ve identified running a marathon as a life goal of mine. I am slowly working my way back into running and then I’ll start building a base to do longer and longer distances. As I’ve thought about it, I’d like to run ultramarathons. This takes a lot of work and a lot of time, but I used to love to run. I started running when I was 3 because my mom ran and she couldn’t leave me at home. I joined the cross country team as a 7th grader in Japan and ran 10Ks. When I got back to the states I didn’t run again until I ran track my 11th grade year, then followed up by running cross country and track as a senior. At The Citadel, I did the normal PT stuff, but damage sustained playing baseball and soccer over the years meant a lot of pain in my ankles and knees. So I did just enough to make it.

Over the years I’ve learned to deal with those nagging pains and I’ve realized how much I have missed running. Running was always great for burning off stress and for just getting alone and thinking. It’s been a number of years since I’ve run regularly and I want to get back to that. Seeing Allen’s posts about running in marathons, hearing in person how he trains and gets ready, and then discovering he is helping others (with no public fanfare, which fits Allen if you ever meet him) just made my respect for him grow and grow and grow. He was already someone I thought very highly of, followed, and read because he’s one of the foremost Powershell experts in the SQL Server community and because he often was the voice of reason in the community work we doing. The running catapulted him into a higher orbit.

For your bigger goals in life, it helps to have heroes. You want to find folks who inspire you and keep you pushing forward, even when things get tough. If it’s someone you happen to know personally, even better. Remember, you’re not looking for perfect people. You’re looking for the right types with respect to that particular goal. You might not like Kobe as a person, for instance, but if your desire is to learn how to be a scoring force on the basketball court, there are few better players to follow in today’s game. His work effort is legendary, shocking even his peers. Obviously, if you can look up to high character people, that’s even better, and I have that advantage with Allen. Every time I see him running another marathon or see one of his tweets encouraging another runner, that motivates me to keep pushing, even if the pace of my development is slower than I’d like. That’s why I say it helps to have a hero. Go find yours today!

Read Full Post »

ExhaustionLife isn’t a series of ideal situations. Much of the time, the situation before us is actually far from being ideal. We cannot let that stop us from pushing forward toward our goals.

“Discipline is doing what’s right, even when no one is looking.” – quote from The Citadel

I woke up this morning with a bad migraine. I had balance and I wasn’t particularly light or noise sensitive. So as far as migraines go, this one was mostly pain. When I say I woke up, I was actually up before 4 AM. My alarms were set for 5 and 5:15 AM (second alarm to help ensure I got up). I knew I wasn’t going back to sleep. And I knew I was tired and hurting. But today I had slated to walk 3.5 miles for my workout.

I got some things done around the house and ate a quick breakfast that I knew would help fuel the workout. After that, right around 5 AM, I headed out the door. It would have been really easy to beg off today due to the migraine. I’ve done it before. However, I knew that whether I stayed or went, I would feel the same discomfort from my headache. Exercising wasn’t going to make it worse. Not going would mean I wouldn’t advance towards my fitness and health goals. And it was this level of reasoning that got me out the door.

We face discomfort and obstacles all the time. The natural response for most folks when this happens is to not want to move forward. After all, most folks don’t like being uncomfortable. It’s easy to go with this natural response and a lot of folks do. But we need to remember that whenever we do this, whenever we allow discomfort and/or other obstacles to win, we make no progress towards our goals. We stay stuck just where we are. And truth be told, there will always be obstacles in the way of any worthy or challenging goal. In these situations we need to acknowledge the reality of the discomfort, to spot the obstacles, steel our minds to face them, and push through with what we need to do.

Note that I didn’t say I had a knee injury or had tweaked an ankle such that it would have been a bad idea to go out and walk for that distance. I was dealing with discomfort and what I needed to do to move closer to a goal wouldn’t result in permanent injury or a long-term set back. If we were talking about something along the lines of an injury that could have been exacerbated, the right thing to do would have been not to press it, but to either get healthier or seek a better situation.

Our motivation is key to pushing through. One of the things we can do to give us motivation is to remember what we’re working towards. Picture in your mind’s eye you having achieved your goal. In my case I want to get back to where I can do long distance running. Long distance running was something I once enjoyed and it is something I greatly miss. However, I still have quite a ways to go before I can begin doing so again. Images of me running along the seawall in Iwakuni, Japan or through Charleston, SC, memories from when I did run, provide the fodder to push forward. They give me a hunger to get back to that state. And that means I’m more than willing to face the discomfort so I can make progress.

Another thing to remember is that most folks won’t push through. They’ll let the obstacles or the discomfort stop them. So by pushing through, you gain an advantage. By pushing through, you set yourself apart. That’s something else you can use to motivate yourself.


Read Full Post »

Goal – I Want to Run Again

Some of my earliest memories involve running. My mom ran, and since she ran, I ran with her until I was old enough to go to kindergarten. The base was a good place to run and even out in town around the base it wasn’t bad. So we ran. We ran every day.

In elementary school, when we played pick-up games of football, I ran. I ran back punts and kick-offs and I played running back. I didn’t want to play quarterback, even though they always got the ball. Quarterbacks, at least back then, were either supposed to hand off or throw. And I wanted to run. Then we moved to Iwakuni, Japan.

I picked up the game of baseball and like most unskilled players, I started in right field. At the lower levels of Little League, the ball hardly ever gets to the outfield and when it does, it more often than not doesn’t get to right field. If it does, typically the throw from right field to the second baseman is the shortest throw from the outfield so those new kids with noodle arms have a chance of getting the ball in without it hopping or just rolling in. I got a lot better that first year and eventually started at second base in the games, but one thing I was always good at was running. My first year I didn’t have power in my swing. But I could put the bat on anything in the strike zone. If it wasn’t in the strike zone, I took the walk. I understood my job as the lead-off guy. Get on base. Get in scoring position. Let someone knock me in for a run. Easy. So I got on base a lot. And when I got on base, I typically stole second and third if I wasn’t knocked in first. I never got caught, because I loved to run and getting caught meant I had to go sit in the dugout. My second year I hit for more power, but I still did a lot of running.

My third, and final year, in baseball was a bit disappointing. I was the first baseman because I could catch just about anything close thrown my way. And I was the clean-up hitter (4th) because I had the most power on the team, even though I was the third smallest. Why? Because of my legs. I had figured out in my second year how to use my legs to bring power into my swing. I won the triple crown: batting average, runs batted in (RBIs), and home runs.  Because of my power I was an RBI machine. And because of my power I was rarely on base. Which meant I did almost no running. And by the end of the season I grew to dislike baseball very much. It was time to find a different sport. Soccer! And soccer has been my love ever since.

But along the way I ran track and cross country, too. As a 7th grader I ran a 10K against US Marines. It was a blast! As an 11th grader I ran track for the South Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics. And then as a senior I ran cross country, ran track, and played soccer. When I got to The Citadel I loved the running part of PT (physical training) runs. I just didn’t love the push-ups. I never had much upper body strength. But my knee injuries from baseball and my ankle and hip injuries from soccer caught up with me and it was harder and harder to run, especially as I wasn’t maintaining a runner’s regimen. Towards the end of my junior year, with my shoulder messed up, I went back to running. Running for distance. Running to get that runner’s high. Running to deal with the intense pain that I was in. An hour or an hour and a half runs were enjoyable and were my salve for my shoulder when no medication worked. That continued through the summer and some into my senior year. But somewhere along the way in the US Air Force, I stopped running. I stopped and started intermittently, and I never got to a point where I couldn’t run, but I never ran as well as when I was at The Citadel, much less in high school or back as a 7th grader. In fact, my best times were in 7th grade when I was training properly as a long distance runner.

I can’t run now. I’m significantly overweight (and back when I was a 7th grader we would have said, “fat”). And I miss running. I miss running for an hour or more, clearing my head, and just focusing on running. I miss the training to be a good long distance runner so I could run longer and longer. As a 7th grader I remember getting stronger and stronger as a runner as we did circuits, wind sprints, long runs, weight training, proper stretching, the works. I remember one time leaving school one afternoon and running to wingside on base to get to the gym (not the main gym on mainside, which didn’t have weights) for our weight training. I didn’t have my bike with me for some reason. It was about 5K between the two spots and I remember getting there and being pumped up. For whatever reason, my coach wasn’t going to be there and that meant everyone else skipped. I couldn’t: I saw how it helped me be a better runner. I remember having the best weight training session ever, probably because I was still pumping from adrenaline due to the run. I remember maxing out on the leg press machine, which got a few folks’ attention because I was a little skinny 7th grader putting up the full 1000 pounds. For 10 reps.

I miss those days enough to do something about it in the new year. I’m walking 5Ks now. That’s my normal circuit. But I need to alter my diet and I need to start the proper sort of weight training to get my weight down and my strength up. And then I need to start training to run distance again. My big, probably unachievable, goal is to be able to run a marathon by the end of the year. My reachable goal is to run a half-marathon by that time. My sister-in-law, who runs marathons, saw my Facebook post and challenged me to run a half-marathon in Charlotte towards the end of next year. I agreed to it. Because I want to run again. This is my biggest non-spiritual goal for the coming year.

Read Full Post »