You may have noticed that I crack a lot of jokes about my fitness level and my physical assets (some of which could warrant their own zip code), among other things. That’s partly because I honestly do look like a gimpy badger when I run, and my running ability is fairly inconsequential in the grand scheme of things and it certainly doesn’t define me, so I don’t mind making fun of myself for it. But part of it is because I’m not confident in my fitness abilities.
I was not big into sports growing up.
I played a few seasons of soccer, because I lived in upper-middle class suburbia and that’s just what we do, but I never made it past a rec league and the only thing I was good at was “playing aggressively” (translation: body-slamming people…maybe I should’ve tried rugby).
When I played volleyball for a year in high school, I was a benchwarmer (honestly, the coach told me after try-outs, “You won’t get much playing time, if any, but we’ll let you be on the team as a learning experience if you want.”). I loved the game, but the stress of having someone yell at you (or worse, make your whole team run sprints) for underperforming in practice or losing a game traumatized me. I associated the physical discomfort and pain of sprints with that mixture of fear (of being punished) and shame (for having let down the team), and whether it should have or not, it stuck with me.
For most of the seven years since that season, I focused on my weak spots and my lack of athleticism, doubted my physical abilities, and shied away from workouts that might push me to my limit, workouts that might remind me why I’m only a benchwarmer, workouts that might cause me to fail.
Over the past several months, I have pushed myself harder than ever before in my workouts. Yes, I’m lifting heavier weights and physically challenging myself and making progress in my abilities. But much more than that, I’m doing things that I’m not always sure I can finish. I’m testing myself. I’m finding my limits…and expanding them.
The street outside my front door is on a steep hill about 80 yards long that ends in a cul-de-sac. Earlier in the year, I would occasionally do sprint workouts lumbering running up that hill. I didn’t enjoy those workouts, and they always ended with me dreading whenever I would next have to face a workout like that.
This past Sunday, for the first time in months, I did another sprint workout on that hill.
I didn’t talk myself down, or give in to fear, or worry about how I would perform.
I didn’t focus on how much faster I could be if I were leaner or had longer legs.
I just charged up that mother-lovin’ hill.
And did it again, and again, and again.
I felt strong, I know I was faster than the last time I did it, and, well heck…I actually enjoyed it a little.
I may not be very athletic in a traditional sense. I still wouldn’t recommend anyone ask me to play catch. But I’m an athlete in my own way, and I am pretty dang good at the things I can do.
Running up that hill scared the crap out of me and I did it anyway.
Call it spunk, call it tenacity, call it whatever you’d like, but I’ve got it. I may not have long legs or the leanest body or the strongest stride, but I’ve got what it takes to charge up a hill, and that’s what I’m choosing to focus on.
Because if I can charge that hill, then maybe I can charge even steeper hills.
There’s only one way to find out…
I’ll see yall at the top.