It was a little over a year ago that I set out to change—not just my way of thinking, but also my way of living. I was intrigued by the question: Can a person, as glaringly average as me, change their outlook on life through exercise?
Despite the fact that others have answered this question with a heartfelt “yes,” I felt compelled to find out for myself. I had always wanted to do something largely athletic. For me, completing a triathlon would be like harnessing a mountain and bringing it home in my pocket. But for years, a censoring voice inside my head blocked my ability to take the necessary steps toward my Everest.
As soon as I started to think, “Hey… all sorts of people finish triathlons… maybe I should train for one,” the mega-nag in my head would immediately retort, “Well, sure… they can do it… but you aren’t they!” An unnecessary amount of doubt clouded my aspirations.
This time, I was going to listen to a stronger voice… the voice of sheer will.
“Will” and “Want” look similar when you brush past them, but when you line them up side-by-side, they are two very different forces. For instance, in the following statements:
“I want to do a triathlon.” Vs. “I will do a triathlon.”
The first statement sounds like a wish… with room for excuses. As if an inherent “but” is waiting to follow. “I want to do a triathlon, but I can’t _____.” (Fill in the blank with your favorite excuse.) Unless, of course, the “inherent but” is a solid work of maximus muscle, most people are more likely to be propelled by “will.”
“I will do a triathlon.”
This statement is filled with power, determination and confidence. The only question that could possibly follow such a statement is “How?” And the answer, ironically, comes back around to… will.
The Amazing Powers of Will
Will… the invisible force inside that persuades you to put your running shoes on instead of your flip-flops.
Will… the little voice that tells you not to have “just one more sliver” that runs the length of the brownie pan… but redirects your craving to something else. Something that grows!
Will… the internal coach who says, “just one more minute! You can do one more minute,” twenty times in a row. Only because you told yourself that you would run for twenty minutes… and every minute feels like a minute too long.
Will… the encourager who reminds you that it doesn’t matter what you look like in your bathing suit, it just matters that you’re in it, and you are moving water.
Will… the boost of confidence that dares you to keep pedaling up what appears to be a right angle.
Will… the miraculous force that keeps your breakfast where it belongs when you stop suddenly after a race. (Do not… throw up… on the nice man… who is trying so desperately… to remove your race chip.)
Yes, I can say with confidence that if it were up to “want,” I never would have completed my first triathlon. I never would have finished a 5K. I never would have continued to exercise after reaching my triathlon goal, and I certainly never would have taken my running shoes on vacation with me… and used them.
It seems that at first, I had to rely on “will” to get over all of the excuses that would have previously held me back. But now that exercise is a regular part of my life, I truly want to do it, and… this is funny… I miss it when I am unable to.
I used to be baffled by people like that.
“Why would anyone choose to go running on vacation? It’s supposed to be vacation!”
This summer, for the first time ever, I ran for fun.
The week after I completed the Danskin Tri in Pleasant Prairie, WI, my husband and I packed-up our three kids, along with a ridiculous amount of equipment, and headed north to Canada. The beach was absolutely pristine. Other than footprints and a few plastic shovels, the shore was untouched. On our second day, I wanted to run on the beach.
Lacing up my running shoes, I casually announced, “I’m goin’ for a run.”
The air was fresh and cool and the sun was warm. Somewhere between the waves and the dry sand I found a sweet spot; a sandy surface that was solid enough to hold me. I set my pace and followed the crescent shape of the bay. Each time a wave disappeared, a thousand percussive bubbles played in the sand.
There was room to think, in every direction.
My head was free of all the nonsensical chatter that typically accompanies my workout. I was in a zone. I could have spent days sipping fresh air and running along the shore.
So this is why people run…
I think I get it.
Somewhere along my path, “will” became “want”… or is it the other way around? Either way, I learned that we rely heavily on will to pull us through the difficult tasks, which eventually lead us to purpose. So I say, “yes,” no matter how average you think you are, it is possible to change your outlook, and your life, through exercise.
Try it. You’ll like what happens.
Published in beginnertriathlete.com (September 2007)