After a lifetime of inactivity, I was finally exercising. I was walking the dog twice a day. I was working out at Curves for Women. I was losing weight, had more energy, and I was finally taking care of myself.
I wanted more.
Running did not appeal to me, and I felt too uncoordinated for tennis. My work schedule prevented me from joining a volleyball team, and I couldn’t afford another gym membership. Walking seemed like the cheapest and most flexible form of exercise, yet I needed to move beyond leisurely strolls. I turned to the internet to locate a walking challenge and discovered the Breast Cancer 3-Day. It just so happened that the event was coming to Cleveland for the first time in 2007. Could I go from being a casual walker to completing sixty miles in three days? There was only one way to find out.
Once I registered for the event, I had access to many online resources for participants. First off, I downloaded the training plan. I used MapMyWalk.com to measure potential mileage on my neighborhood streets. When I was out doing errands, I drove home using different routes to identify new places to walk. Following the suggested mileage over the next eight months, I gradually increased my endurance.
While it was fun to explore my local area, I turned to the event message boards to find training walks organized by other participants. Attending these walks not only allowed me to train on varying terrains in new places, they also connected me with other participants. We talked as we walked, so I got helpful hints on where to find quality shoes and tips on packing the gear I would need for the three days. At one of the group walks I met someone in nearby city with whom I could train. I also met my future teammates, the people I ended up camping with overnight during the event.
A few months into my training, I had become an expert at loading up my waist pack with water bottles, snacks and other supplies. I had acquired a hat, fitted walking shoes, comfortable sports bras, wicking t-shirts and new shorts. In addition to being physically prepared, I had to mentally prepare myself, too. I had to fight off all the excuses to train: too hot, too cold, too rainy, too busy. I had to stop thinking, I’m not an athletic person and I’m too out of shape to walk that far. I had to stop comparing myself to others. Instead of worrying about being slower than others, I reminded myself I was becoming faster than I had ever been before. I replaced I can’t with I will.
To help bash away these mental blocks, I turned to others for moral support. I recruited coworkers to walk with me on lunch breaks. I asked my friends to check in on my progress. I turned to my teammates when I had questions or doubts.
I embraced my mistakes and learned from them. Sore thigh muscles taught me I couldn’t skimp on stretching. Nausea on a hot afternoon taught me I had to stay cool and hydrated. Blisters showed me which socks to avoid. Red skin reminded me to always use sunscreen. Instead of giving up, I used my experiences to help myself and others.
By the morning of the event, I was ready. I chose a comfortable pace. This meant that sometimes I walked alone, but I did so without a chorus of negative thoughts in my head. I was tired by the end of day one, but not sore. Day two’s route was the longest, but I completed it without injury. On the morning of day 3, it was sprinkling, but I just put on my poncho and began. I walked fifteen miles in the rain. The weather turned so severe that they had to cancel the closing ceremonies, but nothing could stop me from crossing the finish line.
Walking sixty miles in three days was one of my greatest accomplishments. I tapped into physical and mental reserves I didn’t know I had. But now I know they are there and I remember that whenever I face another daunting challenge.
I am participating in the Bellevue University “Discover Your Value” MOOC. The course includes blog post assignments. These are the instructions for the first prompt , “Reflecting on a Success”:
Reflect on a time when you performed really well – a time when you impressed yourself with your own performance. Whether it was at work or at home, a presentation that was well received, tiling your bathroom, organizing a charity event, or running a marathon, think about what you did to set yourself up for that successful performance. How did you prepare or train for it? What skills did you have at the start? Did you need to learn new skills to succeed? If so, what were they? What research did you complete that contributed to your high performance?