Saturday, July 18, 2009

Affirmations

You know how sometimes folks (especially women) write down or chant affirmations to themselves to get through the day or the athletic event? Like "believe" or "I can" or "strong."

I always thought that was a little weird. A little new-agey. Like incense and the Crystal Blue store.

So, I was listening to an Endurance Planet podcast yesterday in which the host (Kevin Patrick) was debating whether it was better to be cocky, confident or humble in racing or training. He was wondering whether it was better to be cocky (like the Aussies) in a race or humble. In the course of the broadcast, Kevin talked about ways we psych ourselves up (or down) in racing or training. He suggested keeping a journal of all of the things we say to or about ourselves during the day or while we are exercising to be able to analyze our self-talk. Like "wow, this hill is horrible, I don't know if I can do it" or "I'm too slow to catch that girl" or "I'm too jiggly to take my shirt off" or "I might have to stop to use the bathroom."

Wait, that last one is probably just me.

Anyway, it got me thinking about whether I do that kind of self-talk during a race. I thought no, because I don't need any silly old affirmations.

But it turns out that I do it! I tell myself "that hill is nothing compared to the one out of Mountain Park" or "it's too hot for a shirt, no one who has borne two children has a flat tummy" or "I don't care if I'm jiggly, at least I'm running" or "I can catch that girl" or "my neighborhood is hillier than this" or "you may pass me on the bike, but I'll get you on the run".

Interestingly, while I do engage in a lot of negative self-talk in my regular life (I bag on myself because I eat badly, I procrastinate, I am lazy, I'm not patient, I'm not creative, I'm rigid and fear change), when I'm exercising, I'm only positive. And confident, and self-complimenting.

Maybe it's the endorphins.

Or maybe, it's so completely ridiculous that I run (or bike or swim) at all that I'm inspired by the act of exercising and any progress at all is great. Coming from a youth spent on the couch, anything I do is automatically super. Seriously. As a kid, we used to come home from school and watch TV (with microwave popcorn or some similarly bad-for-you treat, in mass quantities) from 3-7pm, break for dinner, and watch again until bedtime. Exercise was for the crazies. Sports? Didn't do them. Running, forget about it.

And then I got fat when I hit puberty. I think I gained 30 lbs in 7th grade. And at least that many more in 8th grade. And that is when I realized that exercise and moderating the diet was not just for the crazies, it was for me. It made me very sad. Exercise was not for my family, who were blessed with rabbit-like metabolisms, but I have known since that time that I have to exercise or I will get fat. So, I took extra PEs in college, I joined gyms, I made friends with folks who exercised. And the exercise, it makes me better. It makes me feel happier and stronger. It gives me confidence in other stuff in my life.

Sure, I still fall off of the wagon every few years. But then, I get back on and relearn how to ignore the wheezing feeling in my chest and the sweat pouring off of my body and the jiggling of my thighs and tummy. And because I know I've done it before, I am confident that I can do it again.

So, maybe those affirmations aren't so hippy-dippy after all.

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