Just do it.

Monday, September 4, 2017

I DREADED the Presidential Physical Fitness Testing in grade school and junior high.
DREADED it.  I know I'm not the first to admit this.  A lot of kids did.
It was twice a year and I HATED having my level of fitness of the moment called in to question and compared to that of my classmates.  
Thank you Lyndon Johnson.  
I see where you were hoping to go with that, the initial quest for motivating and helping to improve the health and fitness levels of children across the land?
But the annual test, for MOST of us?  Was dreadful.  
And did little to nothing, in propelling or motivating any of us forward in to greater health.
For me, it mostly began and ended with sweat, tears and a more diminished sense of self-esteem than what I began with.

I saw it as another moment of total embarrassment and shame of trying to suck in fat rolls in my flimsy, unforgiving gym shirt and drawstring shorts while striving to achieve unattainable goals.
Touching my toes?  Please.
Flexed arm hang for more than three seconds?  Forget it.

And God, how many times I ripped ass trying to complete the "required" number of sit-ups in a minute.
(That alone, was humiliating enough.)
Needless to say, I never received the Presidential Fitness Award, nor got an A for effort.  I was functioning more at a D- level.

Naturally I did what I could each time the testing rolled around to get out of it.  
Fake illness or injury, proclaim I was not allowed to partake in the fitness festivities because it was against my religion (pretty sure Catholic's can engage in physical activity.)

Like most 13, 14, 15-year-olds, I didn't love and appreciate my body yet nor have ANY desire to push myself past what I perceived to be my absolute physical limits.  (Which included the aforementioned pull-ups, touching my toes, sit-ups and/or running.)  
For years, this was my general attitude towards fitness.  Dread, fear and shame.

Until 8th grade, when I'd had just about enough of myself.  I was tired of running away from these brief and temporary moments of discomfort.  This "running away," I was coming to realize, required and expended more physical and emotional energy from me than the actual exercise events!  
Even when it came to the mile run.  

"Liz!  Why don't you just run the damn thing?  Just try it.  See what happens!"  I told myself.

This little voice, one I hadn't really heard from yet in life, chimed in from somewhere deep inside.
Encouraging me to do something TOTALLY different from what I'd always done.  
Not run FROM but run TO.

"What?!  Hell no!  That's ridiculous!  Why would I do that?!  Run?  Phft!"
I nearly laughed out loud at the urgings of this new part of my conscious mind never tapped in to before.
But when this voice arrives, you'd better listen.

And for whatever reason, for the first time in my life, my urge to do the opposite, was far greater than my fear.

"Fine."  I responded to myself.  "I'll try it."

In mental preparation and to relieve some pressure, I allowed myself the leisure of walking if my legs stopped working or if I could no longer breathe.  Or maybe just running for a few minutes, assessing how I was feeling, and THEN determine if running the whole thing was doable.
But I'd at least TRY to run the WHOLE thing without stopping (my ultimate goal.)

I DOUBLE-knotted those little white Keds that day.
Tied extra SUPER tight the drawstring on my red Umbro's around my belly, to ensure if I DID die or pass out, at least my shorts would stay attached.

When Ms. Dunne's whistle blew, I ran.  (Well, more of a dragging, slow jog.)  
FULL of doubt and fear at what I was about to attempt, yet somehow knowing the only way I'd see what I was capable of, was by simply TRYING.
Not looking ahead, but just putting one foot in front of the other.

I'd never run an ENTIRE mile before without stopping to complain or whine, chat with my friends or gawk at the athletic prowess of my comrades who lapped us slower (less motivated,) kids with undeniable ease and grace.  Jerks.

This quietly became my 8th grade Mt. Everest.  It required all my attention.  A feat never before attempted by me.  And one I didn't think I'd survive, to be honest.

As I rounded the half way point, feeling not too bad nor having yet stopped, I looked up to see my gym teacher off in the distance standing with her stopwatch to clock the super fast track kids effortlessly sprinting through.  And for a second, I looked behind me at the slew of kids I'd passed, doing the thing I'd always done; dragging themselves along, begrudging this day and life itself, fighting the torture that is running, every step of the way.

"Holy shit!  I thought.  "I'm really doing it!  I'm running this thing!"
And I kept slogging along.  "Now all you have to do is finish," I thought.

My feet were killing me (Keds are about as pliable as 2X4's,) my legs were on fire, my lungs had never known physical fitness such as this, but it didn't matter.  I could see the finish!  And I was actually doing it!

I picked up speed as I approached the final stretch.  My gym teachers' mouth (as well as those of the fast track kids,) hung open.  A few kids clapped awkwardly, still unsure if what they were witnessing was real.  Some yelled my name.  Ms. Dunne rubbed both her eyes exaggeratedly with her fists.  Scrubbed at the screen of her stopwatch with the back of her sleeve.

"SORENSON!  WHAT IN THE SAM HELL GOT IN TO YOU?!  WHAT IN THE WORLD?!  DO MINE EYES DECEIVE ME?!"  She bellowed and balked, in total disbelief of what she was seeing.

Sorenson.  Me.  Running the damn mile.

Ms. Dunne was rough around the edges.  A tough-love type of woman that rarely laughed or smiled or allowed good cheer and joy to enter her being, at least publicly.  She was perpetually crabby.  But that day, the hint of a smile appeared across her face, lingered for a second.  

"Well, I'll be damned, Sorenson.  Good work," she snorted as I heaved past the finish line to the click of her stop watch.  "Sorenson?  9:40.  'Atta girl."  She gave me a hard slap on the back and continued her yelling at the slower kids coming in.

And that was it.  I was hooked.  I didn't stop running after that.  
I dove head first in to the sport or running that summer.  

I ran the sidewalks of my city in crap shoes as much as I could, with no real goal other than with the plan to go out for my high school's cross country team in the Fall.
You know, because clearly I was a runner now:)

I was too short to play volleyball (the only other sport I'd really known and enjoyed) and there were no try-outs for cross country, so I was a shoe in.  I couldn't fail or be denied.
And I proceeded to be an average runner for the next four years, which I was always okay with.
I grew and developed, not just as an athlete, but as a human, under some of the greatest coaches, alongside the greatest friends and learned to challenge my body and mind every day.

I learned that pain is temporary.  That we ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS (if we allow it,) will learn something from it even if it slows us down or halts our steps completely.

I continue to learn we are FAR more capable of anything our minds tell us.  That our minds and thought patterns are just a thin layer of our being and not who we really are and DEFINITELY not the end-all-be-all of how we THINK things are going to go.

What an immense joy it has become to re-immerse myself in a sport that not only, I'm realizing has been a huge part of my upbringing, but naturally moves my body and frees my mind in the beauty of nature.

Stepping on to a new path has reminded me, although exciting and exhilarating, does not ensure ease or grace.  
Often close behind is fear, doubt, and trepidation.

Only from commitment to the process of experience and surrendering and accepting whatever happens on any given day, do these things start to fall away, or become mere background noise to us achieving our dreams or simply enjoying the route along the way.

In my own recent personal journey towards fearless living and greater freedom from the ramblings of my mind, (refer to, well, every post prior to this one,) this re-learning something I've always known continues to launch me in to greater understanding of this human mind and body.  And the idea that discomfort, pain and heartache can be used for good.  It is ALL in service for you.  More on that to come. . .:)


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