Though you wouldn’t know it by looking at me today, as a child I was what you would consider an athlete. While I trained in gymnastics, cheerleading, and dance all before the age of ten, I spent the majority of my time and energy at my uncle’s dojang (training hall/gym) where, starting at the age of six, I immersed myself in the Korean martial art of Tae Kwon Do.
To say that I spent the majority of my time at the dojang would be a vast understatement; I fucking lived there. When I wasn’t at school, I was at my uncle’s gym, either practicing or helping to instruct lower level classes.
A typical weekday looked like rushing to get my homework done on the school bus that dropped me off close to the gym then suiting up in my uniform to help instruct the lower level courses before taking my advanced class. A quick hour break for dinner and to complete any unfinished homework while the adult class was in session. Then back on the dojang floor for a two-to-three-hour competition training session. Saturday’s were spent training from early morning to late afternoon or early evening, and I filled my summers with practice, competitions, and co-instructing day camps and night courses.
It was a grueling schedule, but I loved it, and I was dedicated enough in my sport to compete on the national level by age nine allowing me to secure a spot in the Junior Tae Kwon Do Olympics by age ten.
Now, I don’t tell you all this to brag because let’s be honest, all my training and a buck fifty will get me a very disgusting cup of coffee at the neighborhood Seven-Eleven.
The reason I started this post with an introduction to my childhood athletic schedule and accomplishments is due to my next statement:
I’ve never been able to run.
See? Doesn’t knowing that I used to participate in Tae Kwon Do competitively give the sentence above a little more weight than if I was just like:
Hey everyone; my name’s Kelli, and I’ve never been good at running.
But seriously, during all my time training, I could never, ever run. I could give and take a kick to the head, break multiple wood boards using one striking move or another, jump rope for over three minutes at a time, but when it came to my instructor’s command to “go run a mile,” I faltered and then failed. I wouldn’t be a minute into a mile run before I resigned myself to walking as I watched all my teammates breeze past me.
But guess what?!
Yup, you’ve guessed it; I can run now!
Well, kind of.
So, here’s the deal, about a week or so before the new year I decided that one of my “New Year Resolutions” was to run a 5K. Now, this wasn’t some new desire I just woke up with, but something I’ve wanted to do for the past six-or-so years and just never took any action to achieve.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried running here and there over the years, but just like my childhood self, I could never make it past the sixty-second mark. So, like in the past, I reconciled myself to walking and have been an avid walker for the past six years. I walk an hour a day and typically two hours on weekend days.
But now, I’ve finally started training for a 5K. Let me correct that; I just finished the fifth week of my eight-week 5K program, and I’m crushing it!
Now I will say, anything could happen as I still have three weeks left of my training, and of course, the actual 5K which is scheduled for early March. Still, I wanted to take some time to share one of the biggest things I’ve discovered over these past five weeks of running; namely, mind power, or for those unaware of the term, the power thoughts have in shaping your life.
To explain; knowing that I always gave up on my goal to run, I went into my 5K training hyper-focused on my physical self so that I could pinpoint what exactly it was that had me ending all my runs earlier than scheduled. I hoped that in doing this, I would be able to improve whatever physical ailment was stopping me from completion.
What I began to notice, however, was that while running wasn’t exactly pleasant, there was nothing so physically painful that I needed to end my allocated running time early. Still, just like every time before, right before the sixty-second mark, I would find myself thinking “Oh God, I can’t do this,” and I would feel my legs start slowing down and my body wanting to come to a stop.
Noticing this led me to realize that it was my mind giving up long before my body. This realization was a frustrating one because it meant that all these years I “couldn’t run” was not due to my body’s physical inability but the saboteur living inside my head.
Armed with this knowledge, I began taking action to drown out my thoughts of self-doubt. This action looked like me implementing two elements into my routine.
The first was that I began collecting self-motivating quotes and phrases. I read a few of these quotes before starting a training session and when I find myself thinking “you can’t,” I repeat, out loud, one of the motivational phrases. I know, it’s trite; but it gives me a little boost of faith and confidence in myself when the doubt starts to set in.
The second thing I did was craft a music playlist for when I train. This playlist only features songs I find empowering and motivating and which on many occasions I have used to power me through the last minute-or-so of a run.
It was the implementation of these techniques that supported me in completing each scheduled run throughout my program.
So, what does all this mean?
As it pertains to the art of running, not much.
But as it relates to my life, a hell of a lot!
Through training for my upcoming 5K, I have begun to realize just how easily I can be either my enemy or my cheerleader.
For years, I allowed my mind, filled with self-doubt, to control the outcome of my physical accomplishments. Because I told myself I couldn’t run, I couldn’t. But now knowing all this, I can actively choose to use that same power to encourage and support myself to achieve the goals and dreams I have not only in sport but in all areas of my life.
I know that in the grand scheme of things, my little realization is not unique, and if we’re honest, a little late-in-coming at the ripe old age of twenty-five. However, it is a realization that I feel will have a lasting, positive impact on my future.
My experience in conquering my beliefs regarding my inability to run has allowed me to accomplish something I never dreamed possible and has instilled in me a sense of empowerment and self-confidence, as well as a genuine belief that I can achieve anything I set my mind to.
I excitedly await to see how this change in my mind power from negativity and self-doubt towards positivity and self-confidence will influence my future self and accomplishments!
Until next time,