Walk First, Then Run

As a teenager in Civil Air Patrol I hated running.   I wasn’t good at it, I easily ran out of breath, and I was surrounded by people breaking 5 and 4 minute miles.   Me?  I broke my ankles twice, and sprained each ankle 6 or 7 times.  OK, ok…one fracture may have occurred from tripping over a garbage can lid hidden in the shadows while running away after stealing someone’s Christmas lights.  It still involved running, and the instant karma for stealing was to ride the disabled kid’s bus from Queens to my Brooklyn high school every day through the winter.    My mindset about running held me back from trying for the highest level rank as a CAP cadet, and it caused me to leave a highly competitive summer activity called PJOC early as well.   Would you believe I still have a sore shame spot about this 25 years later?   Anyone else still ruminate on teenage failures? 

Yet as an adult I became curious about running.   In 2015 a friend recommended a program called couch to 5K and I completed it the first time through.  I then completed my first 5K run with Wall Street as a backdrop.  My time was 36:54 and I placed 1,702nd out of 2,258 women.   I didn’t come in last!   In all fairness, it was a walk/run 5K, and because there was a slowdown out the gate these results don’t accurately reflect my run time (not that I’m competitive).    The most important lesson I learned that helped me keep running was that I COULD RUN SLOW.   Nobody told me this when I was a teenager.   In fact when I ran slow as an adult I learned how to pay more attention to my body and adjust my posture and gait to reduce pain.  I could enjoy the scenery, and I could enjoy finding a rhythm in my breath.  When I wanted to push more and my body said no, I (mostly) respected it.   My knees and I came to an agreement about how often we could run (every 3 days) and I learned to not worry about keeping up with the track star friend that was lapping me during our late night french-fry fueled runs on the track off the FDR – the same track some of my teenage humiliation mileage was built up. 

There’s a reason programs like C25K are successful.   When early on the adrenaline of feeling like we’ve made some progress kicks in and we are AMPED up to run longer or push ourselves harder, the program forces us to keep walking intermittently to build physical and mental conditioning so we can run more successfully and be less likely to injure ourselves.  

Slow and steady wins the race, they say?   What is the race?  The race here for most of us is against our own minds, not any competitors.  If you have never heard about our brain buddy dopamine then you obviously haven’t heard the news that you are possibly addicted to substances, sugar, or your smartphone.  You might instead be tickling your dopamine through competitive sports, consensual safe sex with multiple partners, masturbation marathons, coffee, dancing, serial entrepreneurship, or doing compulsive scientific research. 

I’m an indisputable dopamine junky.  I always want to run even when I haven’t walked so I quickly burn bright and can easily burn out.  Yet I’m resilient.  I bounce back, and more often than not these days I do eventually cross the finish line, giving that teenage quitter in me the middle finger.  Needless to say the heyday of my running career began and ended in 2015, but the skills I learned in C25K translate outside of running.   Go slow, alternate running and walking, don’t go too fast too soon nor run for too long until you’ve built strength, resilience.  Whether running or walking I can slow down, manage my breath, listen to my intuition, and adjust my body to reduce and prevent pain.  Oh yeah, and enjoy the adventure. 

The theme for this reflection was illuminated by a series of events.   It started with receiving a coaching call this morning during which we cultivated some seeds of ideas for my group coaching course but it culminated with uninstalling Facebook from my phone.   Have you ever done that?   I suddenly get curious about what other apps I have on my phone, and I also somehow accidentally opened the C25K app I didn’t even know I had.  The app was a perfect metaphor for my struggles with launching my coaching business.   

My coach’s brain was moving fast and I tried to keep up because I had been preparing for our call which got rescheduled twice this week.  Run. Yet, I’ve been super sick the last week, and I’m moving and thinking in slow motion so I spoke the intentional need to slow down in the call.  Walk. We checked in found common threads again and could pick up the pace. Run. After the call I sat for a while and putzed around, eventually deciding to actually “sit” and set a meditation timer for 10 minutes.  Walk.  This led to some ideas surfacing which afterwards I listed out in the bujo.  Felt like a run.  I felt pretty decent and hopeful about these small steps today.    Good job, self.    Triumphant cool-down walk.

Yet, several hours later I decided to try to build on that earlier progress instead of leaving well enough alone.   I engaged in another common step I use to try to accelerate progress – gather more information on process.   So, I looked for youtube videos on group coaching.  It repeated concepts I’ve heard before in a marketing crash course I took several months back such as connect deeply with your why.  Walk. Scope out what the competition is doing and what elements their programs might be missing.  Run. Heck, I didn’t even feel insecure or jealous while doing this!  Create a sign-up landing page.  Easy!  Run faster!  Create free content to offer value to draw people to you who might ultimately want to take your course.    Sprint…Gasp….Screeeeeeeech.   Overwhelm.  Stop. Right. There.  Panting.   Imposter syndrome kicked in and the fragile roots of confidence that had grown earlier in the day had upended.  

I stopped the video and tucked those delicate roots back into the soil of my psyche.  To walk would be to honor my body’s insight that the needed resources, wisdom, and guidance will appear when I use my own creative processes to continue to flesh out my own unique ideas, and that the soil of the universe, of my support systems, would nourish and support the success beneath my feet.  Through walking, my confidence, content, muscles, lungs, skin, mind, heart, and spirit will grow stronger.  Only then, run.

Congratulations!  You are amazing. 

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