When Fitness Is Not Enough

This blog has also been reblogged on – sthsyd2sthcoast.org where I’m now guest blogging.

Let’s just be honest for a moment: Do you ever sit at your desk, like me, and think to yourself, there must be more to life than this?

Wouldn’t it be awesome to get up in the morning and feel like I’m making a difference. Wouldn’t it be nice to get up in the morning feeling like I’m giving myself and those around me a better life by making a difference to this planet we all live on, or a better future for my children. Even if I could just be making a difference in a handful of peoples’ lives. And what would be really great was if I could not only make a difference by having an effect on other people, or the environment, or animals… but also if I could feel as though whilst doing all this I was able to give myself a better quality of life through wider experiences, more time outdoors, etc.

I swear all the above is achievable and it’s not too hard to take some steps today. I think it comes down to squeezing those difference-making moments into your time where-ever you can. I am not going to harp on too much, philosophising about this and where I’ve been in this train of thought in the past few years. Instead let’s get straight to the point –

Well, almost. Before I tell you what I’m up to I want to take you on a quick tour of the journey I’ve been on for the last nine months:

So if you’ve been reading any of my previous posts, firstly thank you for sticking with me, and secondly, you’ll know that since about September 2012 I have discovered the wonder of working out outdoors and all the benefits that boot camp training on (and by) the beach in my suburb has done for me. I’m the fittest I’ve EVER been. And let’s just be clear I was never a sporty person. I was OK at all sports at school, OK at running, OK at hockey, BAD at tennis, OK at volleyball. Never good enough (or perhaps more significantly) confident enough to make a team placement or to represent. I used to run the 200 metre at sports day every year and usually came 3rd or 4th (out of about 6-8). I was average, and my upbringing focussed more on music and the creative arts! But while I wasn’t a sporty girl, I was always a healthy, outdoorsy child whose family were big ‘walkers’ (read ramblers if you will!) and also bike riders. So I guess the outdoors is a strong pull to me as an adult too.

I soon found that getting outdoors, getting my fix of the outside world before I sit at a desk indoors all day every day was (and is) wonderful. Rising from bed early and seeing the sunrise. Getting more out of my day. But at the same time, suddenly I was getting fitter, stronger, faster, better – better health (no more long lasting colds and flu bugs), better stamina, better outlook on life. Just getting up at 5.45am twice a week and training with a fun group of girls five minutes walk from my home, in a beautiful beachside location was having a tremendous effect on me. By January I’d shed four kilos. By April it was six total and I was a weight I hadn’t been in ten years and hitting some goals I’d only pencilled in.

And then I started to realise I could run.

Three things happened to make me realise this:

One, I started looking forward to the sections of running we would we do at group training, and we went on an 8km run one morning that I never thought I could manage (and it’s a lot easier to keep going with a group of people!) – I was up at the front and noticed that I was able to keep up with one of the girls who was fastest and had the most stamina (and I knew she had run the Tough Mudder) – I was passing people I used to think were so fast.

Secondly, I went to a gym with Mr OC for the first time in six months or more (I quit once I started the outdoor stuff, realising which worked better for me plus I  was unable to afford both). I hopped on the treadmill and went straight for my comfortable running pace (which I choose if I want to endure) – 9-10kmh  but soon I knew I needed to up my pace – I felt like I was being held back somehow. I notched up to 11 and then 12 and even for a while 13. I ran 5km comfortably in less than 30 minutes. Whether or not that is fast – I know heaps of people for whom that kind of speed and durability is natural and easy – the point is, how shocked I was, how I had spent many years running at the ‘old’ speed and having the same expectation of myself and all of a sudden things changed – massively! In the old days, I kid you not, it was a struggle to convince myself to stay on the treadmill for 5km – it was taking longer than I wanted to notch up my 5km and I never saw much improvement either – not very inspiring. Not only was I seeing results but I was getting my work out done quicker and with more effect – I was drenched in sweat but could easily have kept going.

Then my final revelation came in our group training ‘fitness tests’ – we do a sprint that is probably between 300-400m (never measured it, probably should) but we are timed and everyone’s time is logged as a measurement of your fitness level at the start and end of each eight week set. Back in January when I was already going good I was running it in 1.12 (minutes) and coming second or third out of the group (12-20 people). At the end of the last set of eight weeks (about four weeks ago) I ran it at 1.10 and was gobsmacked, I didn’t think I could get any faster. Then we started the next eight weeks with the usual fitness tests to kick off, we did the sprint and as I dashed, absolutely beat, through the finish line our trainer called out 1.09! OMG I shaved another second off! Couldn’t believe it. Felt amazing. Better than that, the next person was several seconds behind and to make my ego swell a little I’m leading the group because the girl who was lightning fast recently stopped coming (sadly, as she is a mate!). I don’t expect, need or want to beat that time at the end of this eight weeks, in fact I’m focussed on improving my core fitness (planking namely) which seems to have been a bit slack in the light of my focus on running… unintentionally. 

Please understand I do not write this to boast my times – I have no idea if they’re quick and suspect they are probably extremely average and that is FINE! I really just post it because I never went in to this to become the best runner in the group or any such claim – I post this because I went in with minimum hopes. When I started training I just wanted to feel better, I wanted to stick to a workout regime for once. Mostly I wanted to shed a few pounds. Then all of a sudden I’m experiencing a whole wealth of benefits – both mental and physical.

All of a sudden ‘I can’.

I can do 100 body burpees and 550 squat jumps, I can run 5km without getting bored, I can know I’m the fittest and healthiest I’ve ever been, I can still enjoy cake and wine when I feel like it because I’m enjoying my life and I earnt it, I can see the sunrise and get the most out of my day, I can occasionally get a sore throat and fight it off within a day or so instead of it turning into a flu that drags on for a season, I can fit the clothes I used to fit, I can feel so much more positive every day even when I’m tired and fed up, I can spread that energy to others, I can put on fun boot camps in the back yard with my nieces, and put more into everything I do… but most importantly knowing ‘I can’ means I feel even better about myself. 

But then what? I’ve achieved some goals, got further than I intended or expected. Now what? What am I going to work for now? Because it can’t just stop there… I can continue to go to training and live my healthy lifestyle, but what else?

Ah, now we get back round to the thought that there must be more. Humankind needs to strive – it’s embedded in us, right?

Well, firstly I want some new challenges.

And secondly, I want to make a difference – leave my mark if at all possible.

So the next step (of many, I hope) is partly in having signed up for a couple of runs.

But most significantly… I signed up for a 100km walk (U.S. peeps that’s like just over 62 miles) – helping my cousin-in-law to raise $100,000 for The Hunger Project.Walk for Hunger the hunger project

More soon….

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