Sounds Good

Sometimes I feel like a pug running down the road. Usually it’s when I am running down the road…pretty much literally, feeling that feeling of bulluppp, bulllupppp, bullllyyyppp, bulllluppp…and the wheezing and gasping that comes 500 metres into the trip. Is it any wonder it takes me forever to talk myself into running. Every few months I get motivated to go out for a run, remembering how good I felt after the run, how good I felt to say I went for a run, how good I felt thinking ‘I am a runner’, all the while forgetting how it actually feels while I run…like I am an old pug. No disparity toward pugs; they are adorable, loving and great companions, but along with the doggy gifts they have, they come with some doggy shortcomings as well, and not just short legs. Anywhoo…  Sometimes I feel like I am dealing with those same shortcomings both literally as well as figuratively, in many areas of life.

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This is Fendi (@fendipug on insta), my friend Crystal’s sweet pug. She is young, so running isn’t as hard for her as it is for me.

So last week having done a lot of steps through the week, going for my first bike ride of the season and being in a challenge I didn’t want to just give up on… AND having a busy and somewhat stressful day ahead of me on Friday, I mustered up the mental fortitude to hit the pavement jogging rather than walking. I have always maintained I prefer running over walking because it takes way less time to go the same distance. I didn’t have much time so it seemed a logical choice at the time. After some debate and a couple shiny objects delaying the start, I set out. Five hundred metres down the road, that puggy feeling hit me and I remembered why I hadn’t run in almost two months. I start feeling better at the one km mark and started to think…hmmm, while I am already out here I should go a bit further than 2 km. I have learned to not listen to THAT voice as often, so I did my 2 km and walked a little.

With the run and subsequent shower behind me, I was on top of the world as I set out for the day. I had good energy and felt wonderful and wondered at my lack of motivation to go out to run all the time. That’s when I remembered how I felt running and at which point I pretty much wrote this whole post in my head. I love the idea of running, I love how I feel after running, I love telling people I ran, I love how I feel telling people I ran haha. BUT I don’t really love running, at least not the beginning of the run. Funny, the sermon this weekend was about this very thing; how we love the idea of something but the follow through is not the dream we were dreaming.

There are a lot of other things in life where metaphorically I feel like a pug. Pretty much any new venture is like that. I think it’s a great idea and start out, only to find I am struggling with it, maybe physically I am not so coordinated, mentally not as coordinated (can’t remember the terminology, the words, what I just read or heard) and feeling like I am out of place doing things in a world where everyone else seems coordinated. And then there is that breathing thing. It sometimes feels like I can’t catch my breath as I am trying to learn a whole bunch at once, or like I am drowning in information and don’t know where to go next. That feeling of needing to take a deep breath but getting hit again with a detail I have overlooked. Wanting to just breathe normally but feeling like I need to keep running.

Then it happens, things settle, I know more, I am more comfortable in the journey, and my breathing slows. When I have reached the milestone of the task I struggled with, I feel great. I can say I ran, I can share the experience and it feels good to say, ‘I did it’. And whereas I liked the idea before doing it, not knowing the struggle, I like the feeling of accomplishment after even more…because…I did it despite the struggle. I did it.

I went out for a run today again. It still took some convincing for me to go, but today I did remember how good I felt Friday. I ran about two km again. Then I walked another four so had some extra time to listen to the podcasts I downloaded. The run was a little easier today than Friday, possibly the bike ride this weekend also helped, probably because I ran Friday, and probably because I had a better mindset going out.

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After my run, wearing my cycling jersey and earbuds. 

Sometimes things sound good, they sound like fun but when we are doing them they might not be so much fun. I talk a lot about cycling and how much I love it, and I do, but there are a lot of times, it doesn’t feel like fun in the moment. There are a lot of times it is a struggle, or it just isn’t feeling fun, times when my husband or I will ask one another, ‘Are we having fun yet?’ but we keep going or we start again. The reality is, the big things we do, the things that make us feel like we accomplished something, the things that make our world better, the journeys we take to learn things, to do things, to experience things are not always rainbows and butterflies but without those pug moments, without the bumps in the road and without the rain, the rainbows and butterflies at the end would not be such a blessing. So, I will continue to embrace my inner pug in sports and other life experiences, to experience life more fully through those moments and enjoy the rainbow and butterfly times even more.

 

 

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Hustle and the Long Game

Cycling the mountain highways is a different game than cycling the prairies. We started our cross Canada trip in White Rock, BC a number of years back on the first leg of our trip, ending in Calgary. The mountains came in on day 3 of the trip with the full day of going up. Whenever I am struggling with how difficult something is, especially when out on my bike, my go to thought is, “I cycled the Coquihalla.” For those familiar with that highway, you likely squirmed a little. For those not familiar, it is a pass through (over) the mountains. It is a challenging couple hundred kilometres between Hope and Kamloops. I relate this story because I believe there are a lot of correlations between the cycling trip and our mindset on hustle and the long game in any facet of life.

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Hustle, grind, long game, long road, pushing forward, struggle, What do you think of when you hear the commonly used words describing anything from business, to sport events, to parenting, fitness, health, diet…well pretty much anything? Each word has it’s meaning but really the meanings are as individual as those who define them in their own mind. What vision do you have when you think of hustle, what about long game? Are they mutually exclusive or are they the same thing in a different package. This topic was spurred by a post and comments I read last week. Yeah, speaking of last week, I wasn’t well and thus there is a blog post missing from that week. Anyway, it’s about the long game and I am here hustling to get this post done between the other things I want/need to get done today.

So back to cycling. When your plan is to cycle across Canada in stages because of available/not available vacation time, it is a long game. I won’t get into the things that make it longer (life happens), but will focus on the cycling during a trip. We usually plan for 100 km days, planning to stop in a town for lodging and food at the end of the day so sometimes our distance is longer or shorter. On our last few trips we averaged just over 100 km/day. Let me tell you about the long game when you wake up day 4. I won’t go into details, but there is a morning or two between days two and four that feels really difficult (like maybe I had a stroke in the night, where am I? I think I am going to cry because…well I don’t know). Thinking of the day ahead feels insurmountable. There is a weakness, there is feeling tired and feeling like ‘really, I signed up for this?’ Yeah, it’s tough but you are committed to the long game.

At that point, hustle only presents itself as the push to get up and ready; coffee and breakfast do the rest. Once on the road, everything settles down and as the day goes on, the feeling goes. There is that morning or two that are really hard; the other mornings are, although not as bad, are tough too; but…coffee…and just doing it for the end game.

The hustle on our trips is mostly me. My husband lets me pace as I am weaker. I on the other hand hustle a lot of the time, just to not be a burden in slowing the pace, not having him feel like he could be going way faster if he didn’t have to wait for me and the big one, so he doesn’t think I am a wimp. Of course he still has to wait for me, and go slower but doesn’t always think I am a wimp partly because I try to mitigate it by pushing more. That makes me a better athlete and him…he needs to find someone else to push him. So, hustle comes when I push a little harder to go faster, when I push a little harder to get up the hill, when I say okay to 10 more kilometres, when I want to get off my seat but wait another 5 km before I have us stop; when I do what I need to do to get it done.

The thing I love about doing our trips is there is a myriad of opportunity for hustle (adventure and challenge) and there is more than one long game. There is the daily trip of 100ish kms, there is the whole 13 days of cycling on that leg, and there is the crossing the whole country goal. Each day can be different depending on the terrain, the weather (wind, rain, heat) and how we feel (didn’t eat right, overtrained, dehydrated from previous days). Still at the end of each day there is a feeling of accomplishment as that day’s goal was met. At the end of each trip especially when we drive back home on the roads we traveled, there is a crazy sense of how far we traveled by bike and how steep or long the hill/mountain. We haven’t finished the whole trip but I am sure there will be some of the same things to realize.

The same holds true with so many endeavours in life. Sometimes we look at the long game and don’t even consider it. Sometimes we plan, but don’t continue because things get in the way. Sometimes we are delayed and the constant questioning (doubts) of others brings us down. We might hustle then, or maybe give up. We may spend a lot of time and effort preparing/learning, but let fear halt us from going further on the journey. We may start strong and give up on ‘day 4’ because it is just ‘so hard’. Or maybe we commit, do the daily hustle, get to each daily end game and then get to the shorter end game feeling like that is enough, not reaching for the big dream (the whole country and beyond). Life changes and we move with the changes…this is not that…it’s about pushing through when we know we should, when we have a dream, a vision.

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Each trip we face obstacles and struggles. It would be easy to give up and just tell everyone that, so they quit asking. It would be easier to just sit on the couch. But one doesn’t get anywhere unless one moves. Moving in the right direction is always the answer to getting to the end game. Sometimes it looks like hustle…but not always. For me, hustle is sometimes as simple as reminding myself I cycled the Coquihalla, but it doesn’t mean it’s easy; it’s still a long road with some hustle, but I can do it!

Determined

I have had a reputation of being a bit of a control freak. Okay, I added ‘bit’; I am sure others leave it out of the sentence when they say it. I prefer to think of myself as being determined; it has a nicer ring to it. I am growing, I have and do, let go of things. I don’t let some things bother me as much, I don’t feel like I need to be in charge of everything, I don’t feel like it all has to be done my way. Other things, I still feel that way. I am growing but sometimes it feels like my growth isn’t keeping up with schedule, the procedures, not producing the outcomes at the right times. Not even my growth can follow instructions!

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Although I have been known to be a ‘bit’ of a control freak, I think I am also known as someone who gets things done. I am the manager of certain things. I am not the manager of other things. If I am managing a towel closet and want the towels folded a specific way to help in the management of the towels, then I am doing my job. If procedures are followed, then I don’t have to overhaul that closet weekly. If I don’t have to overhaul that closet weekly I have that time to devote to something else. That may mean managing another closet.

I listen to podcasts regularly and very often highly successful people are interviewed. They often have 7 businesses and 3 charities and they work out and have families. They are not controlling the minutia of each event in the businesses and charities, but as they built their companies one at a time, systems were put in place for employees to follow. They have some control but they have delegated what needs to be done within the systems.

When our kids were young, and I managed the house with kids who are young, we had a lot of rules. If I had to outline them to someone…there were a lot of rules. In fact one time I was talking to someone and she said, “Wow, you have a lot of rules”. That’s when I thought about it and realized we had a lot of rules. The rules didn’t get written down or spouted off or even made at any one time, they evolved with each ‘crisis’ that happened.  “I cleaned up the cat puke last time” and “Why do I have to take out the compost” became: the pet person of the week (weekly rotations) cleans up all pet messes and the sweeper takes out the compost. So many rules, so little conflict, so much security, so much initiative, so little management.

So, back to control. A little can go a long way with systems. I fall so short on this when managing myself. I struggle with my own systems and rules. An example, writing my weekly blog post. If I were a control freak with myself, it would get done earlier in the week, or on a specific day (I actually had that in mind when I committed to one post a week) and a specific time. If I were to make and follow a system, I would block out a specific time to work on and complete it. I would have a backup rule. Despite getting it done later than I plan most weeks, I am determined to get it done and I have been getting a post done a week. Perhaps I need to reevaluate my systems.

If I were more of a control freak I would exercise more. It seems to some I do a lot but there are times I struggle to get my 10,000 steps in for the day. Not always because I don’t have ‘time’, but often because I just don’t want to go for a walk or run. I am determined to get steps in, and to exercise so I sign up for bootcamp, dance class, commit to wallyball and basketball; it is my way to override my lack of drive with my determination.

When spring eventually comes and I will have a chance to ride my bike, I will have to put systems in place. I will find reasons to not go for a ride, I will struggle with motivation. It is all fun and exciting for the first trip out, then the memories of sore seat and the efforts required for a long ride will be realized and the next time will be more difficult to begin as my brain tries to protect my body from doing that again. I will have to get tough with myself because one of the systems I put in place is a small cycling trip coming up soon. I need to have a little experience on the bike for the season to be successful when the time comes.

Whether it is control, determination, management, systems, rules, paths to success, there are many reasons someone may seem like a control freak, and they may just be. I will neither admit to nor deny it, but I will continue to call myself determined while constantly working to be more of a control freak with myself. It is the path to success, in many areas of life, that I am choosing.

 

Cracks In The Pavement

Hours in the hot sun, heat reflecting off the highway asphalt, baking and parched, feeling the strain from the prairie winds, seeing for miles but not seeing relief in sight. There were days out on the dusty trail exactly like that. Sometimes the wind was with us, sometimes not, but the heat was great and the road was long.

Traveling 90-140 km a day by bicycle is not for those who are not weak in spirit. Back before children, I went on a cycling trip with a friend who was a self professed non-athlete. People who knew her doubted her ability to cross the mountains. I knew her well enough to know she was stubborn…hmmm I mean had a strong mind. It doesn’t take a strong body to cross mountain ranges and hot prairies on a bicycle, it takes a strong mind. Life’s endurance competitions and challenges follow the same rules. Whether it’s sports, business, relationships or any other long term goals, a little strength, a little talent, a bit of knowledge helps, but it’s the persistence and resilience that comes from the mind that gets you to the finish line.

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Just like cracks in cement, frost heaving creates cracks in the asphalt. For the cyclist they are an annoyance when they run across the highway. The constant bump each time you hit one is annoying, and you don’t want to hit a wide one, they hurt. In the mountains, they run down the hill. Riding down the hill, you avoid them because the tire can roll into them and cause a disaster, especially at high speeds.

Riding along the shoulder of the road, one can see resilience in the weeds that grow in the cracks. Sometimes it’s greenery but other times there are tiny little flowers blooming. Even the tiniest of cracks can have a weed growing up, sometimes a single little plant. Riding along the shoulder for hours gets a person to thinking and pondering. One can think and ponder on the heat and the distance yet to go, or how painful one’s backside is getting; or one can contemplate the distance one has traveled, envision the destination du jour; dream of the shower and meal at the end of the day. Or… one can get more philosophical and consider the things of weeds and flowers growing in the cracks on the shoulder and on the side of the road, covered in dust and looking a little more haggard than the cyclist with 20 km to go.

The weeds in the cracks are very much like negative thoughts that creep in as we go about our lives. We have a little upset in our day and those negative phrases pop up, making that frost heave more apparent and continuing to grow, creating a bigger crevice. We need to guard against those weeds. When something doesn’t go as planned, look at the positives. Not every crack in the road will turn out to be a positive but we can guard against the weeds of thought that drag us down and discourage us from pushing forward. As we focus on the positives, we are able to be resilient; we are able to have endurance and ride out the storms in life.

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We can learn from the resilient plant. We can guard against the weeds of negative thoughts that crop up. We can emulate the tiny flower that grows up in the sandy spaces of the concrete or pavement. Because they are resilient, they endure, they reach for the sky. We can do so much more with so much more. Reach for the sky.