Keep out of your own way
I have this on my phone to remind me every day -- my mantra for the next year. This month has been about mental strength. At times I am strong and others I am not. When I am not I tend to self-sabotage. I tend to get in my own way. I do this through self-doubt which leads to inaction on my part. I tend to compare myself unfairly with others. I beat myself up and waste energy. I stop focusing on the goal and wallow in the immediate illusion of failure.
I have been making a practice of not allowing that into my world. I am embracing my strength. Embracing how far I have come. Embracing my badass-ness. I am allowing myself to claim it. It’s a lot of work to remain focused on that. It is harder than any physical test. It feels as challenging as meditation – which, well may be the next step in mental training for me.
November was the Thanks & Planks challenge at Title Boxing Club. Each day we complete a plank. The times increase as the month goes on with the final day being 5 min. I have never been good at planks. However my plan was from Oct-Dec I would increase my upper body strength and finally do the work to strengthen my core. Core work was something I always conveniently left out of my training. Yes I know it is good for runners, blah blah, blah. But it is way out of my comfort zone. WAY out. Give me a bike and I’ll do anything. Core? No thanks.
This year is different. I have a lot riding on what choices I make now that will affect my Ironman success next year. I only have one chance at Ironman- there is no re-do if I DNF. Because I am going into Ironman with a long term knee injury the core work is vital to my success. So I committed to the Thanks & Planks challenge 100%. Lets see how far I can go. First day 20s. Easy. Looking at the plan- by the end I would be doing 5 min. No way. Here I go attempting to get in my own way by already telling myself I can NOT do it. I find a balance in the month of just enough self-doubt to push me forward. As I moved on and held planks longer, I saw that I could do it. I saw that it’s all a mental game. I am not only doing this for my core I am doing this for mental stamina. THAT’s the hard part. Some days it took up to 5 tries to complete. In the old days of self-sabotage I would have given up after the first try and accepted that I was not ready for this or I was somehow special and just can’t do it for some reason or another. Sure I’d get angry when I dropped but I also knew I could try later. That was key for me. It was not either-or on the first try. As a result, I always completed the assigned plank that day.
I was finally able to leave my false dichotomous world. I know somewhere there really is a physical and mental limit. I gave myself permission to accept that when and if it came. But I am wired to push the envelope and see how far I can go. As a child my mom would tell me “There is no such word as can’t.” That’s why I do the things the way I do in my life. The limits are far beyond our comprehension. We can go further than our mind allows. With the planks I decided that no matter what, I will do it whether it takes multiple tries or I need to extend the challenge past the month for more time. Whatever I needed to do to make it happen I could. I am allowed to do that. I don’t need to beat myself up. I don’t need to tell myself I can’t do it. The bottom line is getting it done. I can evaluate what went wrong. What internal and external conditions may have played in dropping or holding. I can be kind to myself and hold myself accountable at the same time. I can learn and move forward.
Today, I dropped early at the final plank challenge at my boxing gym. During the plank, I was distracted. I could not find “the mode.” Despite my music and attempts at distraction I knew exactly what was happening all around me and within me. It was too much. I did not feel like I had control over my shaky legs. I did not feel like I had any mental control or focus. The music became noise. I dropped.
After the drop, I was angry. Very angry. My initial instinct as soon as I dropped was to go home and wallow in failure. I instead stayed for class and channeled that anger into boxing which gave me a great hard session today. I may have dropped, but I worked on increasing that cardio and upper body strength. And as a result of working hard and following the plank schedule 100% I won a massage, haircut and personal training session. Thanks Title Boxing Club!
There are still many hours left in the day. My goal was 5 min, not necessarily publicly at class. I did not commit to winning the challenge. I remained clear on that. I was not limiting myself either. Certainly if I went past 5 I’d do what I could to hang on. But my bottom line was 5min. And I will do it today.
In evaluating today and moving forward, I will continue planking this month without the music and create many external stimuli training my brain to work past it in increments. I’m sure I could take advantage of my teen and preteen bickering and throw down a plank in the middle of their dispute. Now THAT would be an accomplishment!