As I lean into curiosity I am also inspecting what I most often perceive as the “good” parts of my day. I love my daily workout routine and although sometimes I don’t literally hop out of bed at 4:30am, I sincerely do have very few days where I don’t want to train at all.
I believe that intentional movement is an important part of a healthy lifestyle (and integral to my personal mental health). But, I also know that high level, high volume training is a choice I make to fulfill other areas of growth in my life.
So in the spirit of honoring curiosity, I have been checking in during each of my daily training sessions:
I ask myself:
Do I want to do this?
Does this feel good?
Is this serving me?
Am I living my most authentic life?
…Or am I blindly or numbly striving toward something, or arriving?
In the New Oxford American Dictionary, striving is defined as to “make great efforts to achieve or obtain something.” Striving is not bad. In fact, one could argue that my entire existence as an endurance athlete, coach, and blogger is build on a foundation of making great efforts to achieve or obtain something. Striving becomes a problem when we are too busy chasing a “dangling carrot” that we forget to live in the process.
As of today, I have found the answers to the questions above regarding my training to regularly still be YES. I still do want to do my workouts, they feel “good” (I still enjoy pushing hard, without feeling like I am punishing myself). And they are still serving me.
I still believe that training is part of living my most authentic life.
But it was tested on a recent ride.
Roughly ten days ago I set out on an early morning long ride. I had checked the forecast and knew it would be chilly, so I bundled up appropriately. What I neglected to note was that a very heavy, bone-chilling fog was going to set in soon after I embarked.
Call me stubborn (as I truly am), but I didn’t follow my best safety advice and turn around to wait it out. Instead, I rode into the thickness, tensing up each time a car passed me, quietly chanting, “please see me, please see me.” In addition to being afraid and immediately sore in my neck and shoulders, I was also so cold. I spent the first hour of this ride answering all of the questions above with resounding, “NOs.”
I felt exhausted, sad, scared, and lonely. And after the fog burned off and it warmed up to be a beautiful fall day, my mood didn’t improve. That ride was just a slog. I reflected on my desire to keep training and whether or not I was striving toward something beyond having a memorable experience in St. George. Ultimately, I decided to let this be my last long ride of the year if I felt as miserable about the next one. I would honor my need to live now.
I am happy to report that this reflection yielded great results. I realize now that I had to have that struggle to bring myself back to the moment in my rides. And I have been remembering to look around to enjoy the beauty of fall in Wisconsin, to be grateful for my able body and the gift of time, and to have some freed up mental space to think while in nature.
It is true that I lead a busy life. I love to have projects and goals. I love to make time for people. If you are a weekly reader, you might call me totally full of shit. You might think that because I learn and share lessons about myself weekly that I am always striving, seeking out information to arrive at some kind of next level “knowing.” The ironic truth is that all of my efforts are made to learn to be more present in each moment. I do hard things to be able to handle the hard parts of life. I seek out understanding to love better.
But I learn the most in the downtime. In the quiet places. My mind and heart opened to more when I stopped striving to arrive and started living as me. I love to rest—nights at home on the couch with Jamie, going to bed (ridiculously) early, or cozying up on a Sunday to watch football. I schedule a lot of intentional down time into my week to rest and recharge.
You can apply this to all things in life. Do you find yourself thinking, “I will feel better when (insert here)? Are you waiting to live? Do you need to check in to ensure that you are not putting blinders on and striving to arrive?
Here are a few tips that work for me:
- Focus on being present. Ask yourself my above questions often.
- Stay aware of your own evolution, but stop trying to arrive at “figuring it all out.” Stay curious.
- Practice believing in your inner worth, rather than trying to prove something.
- Thoughtfully consider your commitments. Consider how you can free up time and energy to be free to do the things you really want to do with who you want to do it with.
- When you feel like you are heading toward burnout or caught up in the “hustle,” step back and take a break. Reflect. Rest.
- Keep in mind that we will all die someday, and we truly don’t know when that is. You could strive and strive and strive and miss your life.
I still work hard. But rather than doing it because I am trying to get to a finish line, I try to focus on living in the process. And although it is far from always easy or happy, living feels damn good.