Two Words that Change Everything

Running ShoesLast week my life flashed before my eyes. After 1500 straight days of running, I almost had to stop because of an injury. I hurt my hip lifting weights, and I found myself struggling just to roll out of bed. For 3 long days, I slowly laced up my running shoes and headed out the door for the slowest of runs. Somewhere in the middle of my 11-minute miles, I realized that my outlook for the last 4+ years has been entirely wrong.

Most days, as I head out the door at 5 a.m. or 5 p.m., my wife hears me say, “I’ll be back in a bit – I have to go run.” It took an injury for me to realize that I don’t have to run, rather I get to run. I’ve been very fortunate to avoid injury over the last few years, with only minor aches and pains, and I’ve been guilty of a lack of gratitude for the opportunity to run each day.

Whether it’s exercise or life, the moment we replace “I have to” with “I get to“, we unlock gratitude and start to see challenges as opportunities.

There are many things that we dread doing. As I look at my office window, I know I need to mow the lawn, and it’s not something that excites me. But the moment I realize that I get to mow the lawn, I’m able to be thankful for the house where we live and the yard where my kids can play.

It’s exhausting to consider the demands of things we have to do. However, the moment I say, “I get to ______”, my outlook and attitude changes.

  • I get to make another sales call
  • I get to put together another report for my manager
  • I get to clean the house
  • I get to clean up after the kids (we may just leave this one in the “have to” category)

When we start to see things we have to do as things we get to do, our gratitude allows us to approach them with enthusiasm and excellence.

Thankfully, it only took a few days for my hip to recover. But my hope is that I remember what it was like to be injured so I appreciate every opportunity I get to run in the future.

By changing our words, we change our outlook, and only then can we change our lives.

 

12 Reflections on 1200 Straight Days of Running

IMG_3328It started off as an ordinary February day. To be honest, I don’t remember much about the day itself, but looking back now I wish I’d paid more attention. On a typical week, I’d hit lift weights at the YMCA and find time to run 2-3 times during the week. This day was like most Friday’s, but 3 years later, Feb. 15th, 2013 is the day this whole madness started.

Today marks day 1,200 of my Running Streak – meaning I’ve run every day for the last 3+ years (minimum of 2 miles). I never planned this; it just sort of happened. I guess I thought I’d try to run every day for a week. That week turned into 2, then 3, and before I knew it, I was approaching 100 days of running.

So here we are 171 weeks later still going at it, and not knowing how to quit. Looking back, here are 12 takeaways from the last 1200 days.

  1. You have to be intentional.
  2. Some days are easier than others.
  3. The best way to run in the morning is to set out your clothes the night before.
  4. My wife deserves 95% of the credit (She’s a saint!).
  5. Habits – good and bad – are hard to break
  6. Cruise ships are much more fun to run around than hotel parking lots.
  7. Texas summers are miserable.
  8. I’m a much more pleasant person when I run in the morning.
  9. “What we’re doing here is not a mark of intelligence.”- Jon Simpson
  10. I’m very thankful for hotel treadmills.
  11. My dad is my hero – at age 73, he’s averaged 3 miles a day for the last 365+ days.
  12. Set goals and celebrate milestones.

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    Lily deserves a gold star for joining me on most early morning. 

It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s a quick snapshot of observations over the last 3 years. I never set out to take on such an endeavor, but now that I’m here, I suppose we’ll keep going.

Over the next 100 days, I’ll probably complain about the heat and humidity of Texas summers for 90 of them. And for the other 10, I’ll most likely be on a treadmill somewhere.

So bear with me as my twitter feed is 90% running, and the next time you see my wife, make sure to congratulate her for enduring and supporting such nonsense.

Happy Streaking!

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Cartwheels and Comfort Zones

3 Goal Setting Lessons from Gymnastics Class

Last week I had the opportunity to take my daughter to her gymnastics class. For the past 3 months she’s been diligently working to perfect her cartwheels, and as I watched the session, my eyes were opened to some important lessons on goal setting and getting out of our comfort zones. Cartwheels

When you’re 6 years old and you’ve never done a cartwheel before, it’s scary to invert yourself and get both legs in the air. My six year old doesn’t want to get hurt doing something she’s only seen but never done herself. The challenge is wanting to do something significant but being afraid to take actions that move us toward our goals.

We tend to stay in our comfort zones instead of taking steps that move us toward our goals. Sometimes we’re scared of falling, and sometimes we fear what others will think.

There are 3 problems with the status quo.

  • It’s safe, but it keeps you from doing something significant.
  • You’ll never fall, but you’ll never fly.
  • You won’t stand out, but you’ll never see what could be either. 

When you’re 28, 38, or 68, it’s easy to let our desire to stay safe keep us from taking a chance. What if we try something we’ve never done before and we don’t succeed? Staying comfortable is safe. The trade off for staying is safe is that we lose the opportunity to do something truly significant.

Coaches give us courage

An amazing thing happened when the gymnastic coach came over to help. While she was still scared, she began to believe that she could go a little higher and a little further than she could by herself. Her coach instilled courage and was able to spot her to give her confidence.

When we set our goals, who do we surround ourselves with? (Hopefully people that don’t end sentences with the word “with”). Surrounding ourselves with the right coach and community can help us go further than we could by ourselves.

Accountability leads to amazing.

Without accountability, it’s easy to revert back to the old way of doing things. This was apparent when the kids started doing various activities on their own (circuit). The coach couldn’t focus on every athlete, and my 6 year old daughter was smart enough to know when she was being watched – and when she wasn’t.

As I watched her move through the exercises, an interesting thing happened. When the coach with her, she worked harder and took more risks. However, when the coach turned to work with another gymnast and wasn’t watching, she regressed and fell back to doing what was comfortable.

Six year olds know when they’re being watched – and so do 36 year olds. Without accountability, we’ll never accomplish our true potential. Surrounding ourselves with the right people – a coach or a group – can help keep us accountable.

Our car ride home after the class was insightful. Whether she consciously realized it or not, she agreed that she was not pushing herself when her coach wasn’t around. We agreed that she should do her best with or without the coach their, and she should make an effort to move out of her comfort zone and into the cartwheel zone. We’re not there yet, but we’ll get there.

Closer to home

Regardless of what our goal are, we can right them down. We can commit to them. We can structure our days so that we devote time to moving the needle. However, over time we can easily slip back into a mindset of comfort unless we’re self-aware and surround ourselves with the ones that will push us and hold us accountable.

As we get older, we look to stay comfortable. For many different reasons, we’ll never take the actions that we perceive as risky. The result is that we won’t have to worry about skinning our knees or falling in front of others. But we’ll also never have the chance to do something significant. Keeping one foot on the ground is a way to not fall, but it’s certainly not a way to do a cartwheel.

As for me, I got more out of that class than every other young gymnast there. Unless I take the actions that move me out of my comfort zone, I won’t make the progress that moves me closer to my goals.

To my daughter, keeping one foot on the ground is safe. But safe won’t let a 6 year old do a cartwheel. And safe won’t let the rest of us do amazing things. I hope we’ll all find a way to move out of our comfort zones this week!

The Middle – A fog between start and finish

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10×10 Challenge – Day 7 Days 4-7 are usually the toughest.

Yesterday was day 7 of my latest 10×10 challenge. For those of you that don’t know, this running challenge involves running 10 miles a day for 10 straight days. That’s 100 miles over a week and a half. I’ve done 2 of these over the past 2 years, and I thought this was a time in my life that I could go at this again.

I’ve learned a lot over the course of these 10×10 challenges – I’ve worked through personal struggles, job challenges, goals, and a myriad of other thoughts. With today’s post, I want to focus on the middle miles (days 4-7) and how those relate to life.

Why is the middle hard?

For me personally, the first days and the last days are easier than the middle. When I set goals, the start is easy. I can get up at 4:15 a.m. on days 1 and 2.When I hit days 8-10, I can see the finish line, and it’s easier to get out of bed and hit the road.

The challenge usually comes in the murky middle. For me, running 10 miles on days 4-7 is tough. I’m tired. I know I have another week of this madness. I realized that when we set goals and start working towards them, this MIDDLE is the hardest part of accomplishing anything worthwhile.

How do we fight through after the newness wares off?

How do we stay focused on the goal and take concrete steps when the end seems so far away (or maybe nowhere in sight)?

I realized a couple of things during miles 40-70 of the current challenge.

The middle is necessary to get to the end. 

Anything worthwhile has a middle.

The middle is necessary to accomplish anything of substance.

If you go from start to finish with no middle, you may not appreciate what you accomplish.

Right now, I’m in a season that I would call a MIDDLE. My job ended in December and my new adventure starts at the end of the month (February). The middle has been a place of unknown and a wavering between hope and fear.

The lessons I’ve learned about the middle are real. It’s not easy making it through the middle to the place where you can catch a glimpse of the finish line. And many times it is faith and grit that gets us to a place where we can know the end is within our reach.

For me, the end is now in sight. I can see the finish line, and I know I can make it 2 more days – 20 more miles. If you are currently in the middle – between your start and your finish – keep moving forward. Keep your eyes on the goal, and remember that the MIDDLE is what makes the END worth the fight.

 

 

1095 Days and Counting

8F661017-9499-4A82-B2C7-F20D961072EEThere are some things that I’m pretty good at doing on a daily basis:

  • Eating
  • Checking twitter
  • Looking at my phone
  • Eating sweets
  • Checking Facebook
  • Late-night snacking

I’m pretty solid as eating, but as you can see, running did not make the list of things that comes easy for me on a daily basis.

Some folks eat so that they can run, I, however, run so that I am can eat (and I do that very well).

On Saturday, February 16th, 2013, I started on a goal to run at least 2 miles every single day for 1 week. Little did I know that that 1 week would turn into 2, and then into a month…and then a year. 1095 days later and the running streak (#RunStreak) is alive and well. Today starts my 4th year of running every, single day.

Over the last 3 years, I’ve seen a lot of early miles and a few later in the day. My wife, Chelsea, deserves most of the credit as she has put up with my absurd idiosyncrasy. She tolerates my leaving right before dinner or after work to squeeze in a quick run if I’m not able to get it in during the early morning hours.

For the last 60 days, I’ve been joined by our puppy Lily. She’s been a trooper, and we’ve averaged 4-5 miles a day. Today she put in her longest run – 10 miles as I’ve kicked off another round of 10×10 (running 10 miles a day for 10 straight days).

It’s been said that what we are doing here (Running Streak) is not a mark of intelligence, and that is probably true. It is however, a sign of perseverance (and probably a hint of stubbornness – a quality my wife would attest to).

I’ve run at 4 a.m. and 10 p.m. My job requires travel so I’ve had to think strategically to plan my runs. Some are on a treadmill, but most are on the road. I’ve run in Vegas, Albuquerque, Jackson (MS), El Paso, Dallas, Houston, Austin, New Orleans, San Antonio, and many other cities. Some runs have been hot and some have been cold, but most have one thing in common – you have to be intentional in order for it to happen.

Two months ago I lost my job. It was quite a shock, but these daily runs have been therapeutic and helped me work through my emotions. We’ve read the research on how exercise gives us a boost and helps us physiologically and psychologically, but it’s not easy to hit the road in the middle of a struggle. My RunStreak has helped me heal and allowed me to look forward to the possibilities of a new adventure.

As you think about your daily endeavors, what’s one thing that you’d like to do every single day? Exercise. Reading. Prayer. Find an area and challenge yourself to do it every day for a week. Who knows exactly what your 1 week might turn into…