I am not the most athletic…I was never the MVP of my volleyball team when I played in high school, nor was I the one to get a lot of playing time. But I worked hard. I liked – and still do – enjoy exercising. I love weightlifting, pilates, yoga…new things, old things – whatever I am in the mood for. Because of that, my favorite practices were the ones that involved conditioning and weights—the days most players dreaded.
When I decided to quit playing volleyball my senior year because my heart was not as into the game as my body was, I subsequently learned an invaluable lesson from my coach, Tony Joyce, that I have yet to forget. With tears running down my face because I felt like a quitter (and even more of a wuss for crying about it), Coach Joyce told me that I just learned an invaluable lesson. One most people will not learn until they are well into their adult years: learning to leave a situation when you know it is just not right anymore.
Coach Joyce to this day is one of my favorite coaches, even though it has been awhile since I spoke to him. I think about that moment often because it was a defining one for me. It was that moment where I made a decision by myself for myself for the first time. Above all, Coach Joyce supported me on it and encouraged me to continue to make choices based on that ability. I played volleyball since the sixth grade; I put a lot into that program—no, I was not the best but I did my best to contribute to a successful program and that is what mattered. However, I also knew when to throw in the towel.
To this day, I still think about that lesson and I think it is one that everyone should learn, especially in terms of fitness and health. I feel like a lot of people take on a sport or an exercise because they feel that they have to do it for whatever reason…losing weight, because they have always done it, because all their friends or celebrities are doing it etc.
I believe that is the wrong way to approach your health. It should be about happiness, feeling good about yourself and achieving goals for your own want. I am a very goal-oriented person and I have always wanted to improve my cardio. I like short bursts of running, which is why I always preferred playing defense when I played soccer as a kid because my goal was clear-cut: run fast and do not let the other team score. That being said, my endurance was not where I wanted it to be and still is not.
Being inspired by some very close friends of mine, I decided this past spring, to sign up for a half-marathon. I found a training plan that works for me because it does not require running every day, but instead getting the most out of your running when you do. I plan to run in the Kiawah Half-Marathon this December and the more I train for it, the more excited and determined I become.
Currently, I aim to run four days a week; one of them being my “long day”—all of which increases each week. This Sunday my goal is 7 miles and I have increased my “short days” to 2.5-3 miles as of right now. Does this mean I actually run the whole time? Oh no. But I am working on that. In fact, I have improved from running a 12 minute mile to a nine-minute mile since I began running in August. And on top of that, I am learning to pace myself so that I can continue my performance for miles two, three, four and so on….
I still have a very long way to go, but the point is that I am not even halfway to where I see myself being – and yet, I am already super proud of the effort I have put in. On the days I feel like running, I do. On the days I do not, I try to run anyways. I may not do my best but at least I laced up my shoes and gave it a shot. On top of that, I am learning how to transform my diet to where it suits my best performance. I enjoy planning my meals and grocery shopping and knowing that everything I am putting into my body (even when I cheat) is going towards a goal that I have set for myself.
So what does my Coach and days of yore in high school playing volleyball (and quitting) have to do with training for a half-marathon? A lot actually. That lesson I learned was not just about knowing when to leave something, but on a deeper level, was about motivation. I set this goal for myself because it is something I have always wanted to do—so now I am doing it. It feels right even on the days that I do not perform my best. I will continue to do so until that feeling changes. That lesson is important because if more people did what felt right in their hearts, their bodies and their minds, the health of society as a whole would be far improved.
Do not go and spend hundreds of dollars on a Pilates class or hot yoga if you hate it or get bored easily. Then again, if it is what you truly love doing, keep doing it! Try new things. But above all, give it your all. Every single ounce of you. So that way, if a day comes where that feeling of throwing in your sweaty and frayed towel hits you, you can at least say you worked at it every day before that time came.
On a final note, most people say to never look back. Blaze ahead and just focus on what you can do tomorrow to be better. To an extent, I agree with that. But I also believe that looking back is good sometimes. If you are constantly pushing yourself to do better and be better, then the idea of tomorrow is not scary. But the idea of yesterday is. Looking back can be filled with disappointment and unfounded shame, when you feel that you have not given your all…or maybe when you quit something. For me, the idea of chasing yesterday is a good thing: my challenge is looking back and not cringing at my tears, my shortcomings or my flaws.
Never stop improving. There is a saying that goes something like “…the only thing you should focus on is being better than you were yesterday,” and so that is why I say chase yesterday. Chase yesterday so you can overcome it and win; at any point, if you get tired of being on the path that you are on, throw that ratty towel in. So long as you keep on going.