I would love to say that my biggest concern of the day is whether I should swim, bike, or run, and that my three kids (ages six, four and nine months) are eager to see to it that I get ample time to exercise. However, life is real…the baby is screaming because he’d rather not take his nap, my four-year-old is sawing through the changing table with a butter knife, and my daughter needs me to drive her to Brownies.
So, welcome to boot camp.
The biggest challenge so far has not been the workouts themselves, it’s been carving out the time to do them. Coordinating with my husband so that I can get a swim in, making arrangements with babysitters so I can go for a ride, and making sure the baby is asleep and my son is entertained so that I can get some time in on the treadmill. I realize that this doesn’t seem like the best time in life to throw an extra brick on my load of things to do, but if not now, when?
I have been thinking about doing a triathlon for the past ten years. While thinking can be a most challenging activity, it doesn’t burn calories, boost the heart rate, or develop endurance. Many an excuse has kept me from trying:
I don’t have time
My house is a disaster
I have to get the kids off to school
I have to get the groceries
I have to make dinner
I need to do laundry
A list of drudgeries, I must say, and if you’ll notice, none of the things listed above are out-of-the-ordinary occurrences. They are things that most people do every day. So, how do some people wind up fulfilling their personal goals in the midst of ordinary life?
This question led me to a more substantial list of excuses:
I can’t run
I always get side cramps
I’m not an athlete
I’ve never been good at sports
I don’t have the body type
I’m not thin enough.
Now we’re talking! Those are some good reasons! Gosh, with thinking like that, I could buy myself an extra five years on the couch. Seriously though, if you look closer at both of those lists, you’ll find that they say the same two things over and over. The first list says, “I don’t feel like trying,” and the second list says, “I’m not good enough.”
Getting beyond the first list was easy. Once I realized that those excuses were born out of sheer laziness, I was able to drop them. No one likes to admit that they are lazy. But the second list starts to get tricky. That list comes uncomfortably close to some long-time physical and emotional insecurities. Not fun…in fact, deeply painful.
If you’ve ever experienced any sort of mockery or exclusion as a result of your appearance, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Over the course of a lifetime, little comments, here and there, get woven into a script that we choose to accept as our own. Because we are human, the comments that merit our constant attention are the negative ones. We hold them close to our hearts, protect them, and keep them safe. These life scripts are written in dense tablature, which, unfortunately, can only be changed with a sharp instrument.
I have an unwanted script in my life that says, “I’m not good enough.”
Letting go of deeply-rooted hurt doesn’t happen instantaneously. It takes time, attention and, for me, it will take something extremely physical, difficult, and monumental in order to say, “You’re gone.” My sharp instruments of choice are my pen, which never lies, and my lifelong archrival…my nemesis…cardiovascular fitness.
It’s almost comical.
The last time I swam competitively was when I was eleven years old. I was the last kid in my age group to learn how to dive, which made me the notable belly flopper of the eight ‘n unders. I had the dorky version of the 80’s Speedo swimsuit. Maybe you recall when they first came out with the “High Cut” racing suit. The leg looked like a check-mark. It was so cool. I wanted it.
Deemed immodest by my mom (a word that my sisters and I will always associate with trying on bathing suits), I gave up the dream of the “high cut” suit. My Speedo stripe was thick and fat and it accentuated the belly (an area which I didn’t want to draw attention to).
I wasn’t a bad swimmer but I also wasn’t one of the greats. I did my fair share of pretending that “I didn’t know” I was using the lane line as a backstroke-propelling device. But I could hold my own in the water. The true driving force behind my participation in swim team was, of course, the concession stand.
Ahh…concessions. That’s what it was all about. My friend Sara and I would get to the meet, tune out the coach’s inspirational speech, yell a rousing cheer of “ooo-sa-sa” and then we’d scope out the concession stand. Since we weren’t allowed to eat anything before we swam, those glorious concession treats would inspire us to swim faster so that we could get a brownie or even a Rice Krispie Treat when it was all over.
My memories of swim team don’t really include any fierce competition. I loved getting ribbons. Most of mine were red, white or yellow. I think I may have had a couple blues (thanks to DeeDee Cooper who swam faster than a shark… sometimes the coaches accidentally put me on her relay team—I loved those days). I had some pink ribbons also…those ribbons meant “you swam.” They were for people who didn’t get other colors.
My goal for this sprint triathlon is not to get a blue, red, white, or yellow ribbon. I just want a pink one. “You did it.” Because for everyone out there, crossing the finish line is more about life than the race itself.
Published in beginnertriathlete.com (March 2007)