my top 10 of 2011

12 01 2012

The beginning of a new year…always is a great time for setting new goals and resolutions!  However, instead of resolving to do a particular “something” this year (a trap I usually fall into, often abandoning the goal within a week or two), I’ve been reflecting about the past year.  2011 was a year of change for me on so many levels.  The biggest change was my relocation to the other side of the country with my husband, forcing me to rethink a lot of the major life choices I’ve made, such as my career path.  Despite my personal life being in a state of transition, I’m grateful for the continuity that running has provided me over the past 20+ years, since I started running cross-country as a middle school student.

2011 was a big running year for me.  I raced in two ultras – both of (slightly over) 100 miles – along with countless training runs of marathon and beyond distances, on both trails and roads.  As I get older, I find that I become more and more of a “soul runner.”  I’m honestly not a big fan of running with the iPod; instead my training time is a form of meditation and inner contemplation away from the distractions I typically face, working from home as a telecommuter.  It seems like I’ve learned a great deal about life in general through meditative running.  As a result, I thought it would be a fun exercise to compile my “top 10 of 2011” running lessons…things that I’ve learned in the past year that have helped me to complete two 100-milers.  This is also my top 10 list to keep in mind for LIFE in 2012.

1.  There are NO magic solutions for success; avoid falling into the traps of trendy “quick fixes.”  Only purpose, persistence and patience will get you to the finish line…not to mention a hell of a lot of hard work.  Yeah, hard work might be a dirty word in today’s internet-obsessed culture, where anything and everything seems to be available at the touch of a button on the iPhone.  But anything worth doing, worth having, or worth achieving rarely comes easily.

2.  That said, the closest thing to a magic formula for health is: good nutrition, enough sleep, and stress reduction.  Again, avoid the trends or anything extreme that tells you that certain things are always forbidden…eat a balanced, sensible diet and be sure to adequately fuel your activity level.  Make self-care a priority…get that 7-8 hours of sleep every night and you’ll feel better, get less sick, and have adequate time to recover.  Don’t kill yourself with stress.  I find it funny how doctors never seem to ask questions about stress, but in my own experience, I get the sickest (or most injured) during periods of intense personal stress.  Don’t undermine the power of stress over your health.

3.  With setbacks or injuries, treat the cause and not just the symptoms.  Sure, it’s easy to pop a pill to make the pain immediately go away, but what caused that pain in the first place?  The best fixes to problems aren’t always obvious, and sometimes it’s a challenge to go beyond the surface level to discover the real issue at hand, but it’s worth the trouble in the long-term.

4.  Just because you can do something, it doesn’t always mean that you should.  Just because something feels good today doesn’t mean that it’s the best thing for tomorrow.  Unwise choices and habits (like overtraining) tend to be cumulative over a long period of time – as in years – before negative effects are noticed.  Do the right thing for yourself and your body.

5.  Only you are responsible for your own success (or failure).  And only you are able to set the terms for both.  It’s so easy to get caught up in what other people are doing and to compare yourself to the achievements of others.

6.  We are all “an experiment of one.”  What works for someone else – a certain type of shoe, a particular training regimen, a dietary plan – may not work for your own unique body and psychology.  Trust your instincts and listen to your body to discover your own path.  And always remember…many times, the best solutions are often the least sexy!

7.  Don’t base your self-worth on validation or recognition from other folks.  At the end of the day, you answer only to yourself.  Whatever you choose to do in life, do it for YOU.

8.  Let’s all just face it…in ultras and in life…there is a certain inevitability (despite our best efforts) to times that simply suck.  Knowing when to muscle through it or when to throw in the towel is true wisdom.  There is an appropriate time for each.

9.  There is no shame in deciding to take much-needed time for yourself.  Everyone needs time to recover and recharge.  It’s always important to help others, but you can’t do that if you yourself aren’t in top shape.

10.  Balance in all things is key.  Remember that there are always other things in life…keep it in perspective.  Enough said.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my top 10 of 2011, and that you have a wonderful 2012 of adventure and discovery.

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