8/20/19: The Fun Begins
Updated: Sep 28, 2019
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I used to think everything that gave me stress dreams made me STRONGER. Now I realize it's much more of a Venn diagram than I thought, and that shaded area gets smaller every year.
Hi! This is Coach Sarah, and this is the Morning Mantra!
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Hi, my name is Sarah Axelrod. I'm a run coach and a lover of poetry, and a person who cares about your well-being. You don't have to be an athlete to be #coachedandloved, and if you need an anchor to hold onto as you move through a tough situation, you've come to the right place.
Today's mantra is: the fun begins.
There is something uniquely, exquisitely terrible about the anticipation of really, really, like REALLY hard work. You’re not doing it yet, but you’re on the edge of it. You know it’s coming. You know enough to know that you are correct to dread it.
I call this the B segment of the EAT - you may or may not be familiar with it. The EAT is a workout we assign our athletes - it stands for Enhanced Anaerobic Threshold, and it’s one of Coach MK’s calling cards. It’s a way of identifying the “no” zones, the places you should never go during a marathon effort. Basically, we have people warm up and then run 6K without stopping, reaching harder and harder effort levels as they go. It’s divided into three segments of 2k each (5 laps), and we call them A, B and C. FOr the A segment, you’re supposed to be working hard but not crazy hard, aiming for a heart rate in the 160s. The B segment, you bump it up, aiming to get your heart rate above 170. The C segment, you are going ALL OUT. The C segment is hellacious, you are supposed to be basically at your max for FIVE LAPS of the track, and that’s a long goddamn way. The C segment is what I think of when I begin to dread this terrible horrible workout.
But the other day, as I completed my first EAT since last summer, I realized something. The C segment is the obviously terrible part. But the B segment is hard in its own SPECIAL way. You’re working - you’d really like to be slowing down! - but you are NOT at the hardest part YET and you know it. You’re breathing hard but you know the worst is yet to come. Hard effort, and ANTICIPATION of harder effort on its way.
When I am in the B section of the EAT, I am trying to hold back. I’m holding back my truly gritty mantras and strategies, I’m holding back the physical AND mental resources I know I will need for that C segment. I’m trying to reserve just a little. But not so much that I take my foot off the gas, because the workout requires that I keep my heart rate up there, that I not let it drop.
Sure, the C segment sucked this time around, but the B segment was the one that really got my attention. The first lap, as I ratcheted my heart rate up from the 160s to the 170s, was hard. Harder than I’d anticipated - it wasn’t supposed to feel this hard YET. Second lap, I was begging to be done. Three more laps, I told myself, but myself’s response was “UNTIL WHAT EXACTLY??” Oh right - three laps until I get to go even harder.
So here I was, counting down until hell got even hotter. Counting down until it was time to REALLY unleash instead of live in this limbo...how was I possibly to convince myself that the C segment was somewhere I wanted to arrive?
Three - More - Laps, I panted - Until - The - Fun - Begins. Until the fun begins. Until the fun begins. What? Where did that come from? Fun?
That’s the thing about that LAST PUSH. You WILL have something in there. You WILL go to ugly places and you WILL come out the other side somehow, and you’re so close you know you have just one more minute in you, just one more. I don’t remember much about pushing my daughter out of my body on the day she was born. I was lucky, because she came four weeks early and she was a TINY BABY, and the pushing was over relatively quickly. What I do remember was that pushing her out was like ALL HANDS ON DECK, PEOPLE, LET’S DO THIS. I had a nurse holding one leg and my husband holding the other and THIS WAS IT and all I had to do was give EVERYTHING as if it was truly the very last moment of the whole process. It was excruciating. My brain went to ugly places, to say nothing of my body. But knowing that it was quite literally the final push, there was something exhilarating about that.
The hours that preceded that final push had crawled by, and I both wanted them to be over and was simultaneously terrified at what awaited me at the end. Those were the hours in which I needed a mantra.
So the mantra. This is the holding pattern - some of us are on the brink of back to school (some of us are back already!) and some of us are staring down an EAT in the next few weeks. When you’re waiting on the edge of something that you KNOW is going to test every limit you have, remember that time will move more quickly once you’re in it. THis place you are in now, this “I’m WORKING but I know i need to hold something back” - THIS is, for my money, the actual hardest part. You’re not almost there. You’re almost almost there. If this feels excruciating, it is. It’s not the part you will look back on with glory and pride - that will be the really gnarly part that’s coming. Right now, let yourself use some of those mental reserves. You will have enough when the fun begins. Be curious about what comes next. WHen the fun begins, it will take you on a ride - the cobwebby corners of your brain that rarely see the light of day, you’re going to get to explore them for a bit. Colorful phrases you never knew you had in you will pop out of the cracks. When the fun begins, everything comes alive in an excruciating way and you get to LEARN some shit about yourself, and how cool is that. But for now, just remember that - when the fun begins you WILL have what it takes. In the meantime - in the lull - you go ahead and count down, whatever it takes to get you there, to your front row seat, when the fun begins.
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You are Coached. You are Loooved, and you ARE winning at life. And if you need MOAR reasons to believe that, follow @morningmantrapod on Instagram.