One of the greatest things for me about running at this point in my life is that I get to run with my son. Granted I am outclassed by him at every turn; huffing and puffing like a winded old paint trying to keep up with a thoroughbred. Still, I somehow manage to put the occasional string of words together, amounting to what sounds like a conversation between two walk-talkies.
During our last run together, between my gasps for oxygen, we ended up talking about how it was harmful to wait until the last minute to do the things that are important to us. Why can’t we just wait a day, an hour, whatever length of time would make what we had to do pressing, requiring us to put forth our greatest effort? When the situation is dire we have the catalyst of anxiety to give us the needed kick in the pants, right? Unfortunately, I have had more than my share of personal, painful experience in this area. Whether it was waiting to do an assignment in my Master’s program in Acupuncture, putting off my training until the last possible minute of the day, or simply waiting to write another blog until Sunday afternoon… Not doing that again!
The amount of energy you expend when you wait until the last minute to do something is enormous. Granted the adrenaline, fear of failure, or anxiety-fueled chorus of, “I need to get this done NOW!” running through your head can prove to be a great internal catalyst to get your butt off the couch and actually do the work required. But it simply isn’t efficient, lacks the stamina for the long haul of your life, and ultimately never allows you to see your best effort.
Look at we do when we train our bodies to lose weight with exercise: We stagger our heart rate. What this means is that you train flip flopping between high intensity, high heart rate, and low intensity, low heart rate. Your body is all over the place, burning all kinds of energy and calories, just looking to get itself right and find a bit of stability (a place of consistent effort). Since the whole idea is to burn calories (energy), you do not let your body find its ‘Zen moment.’ The calories and energy are expended at an incredibly high rate and the weight is lost. This works great for people trying to shave off a few pounds, because it takes a great deal of energy for your body to keep bouncing back and forth between high and low heart rates.
But the goal is not (or at least it should not) be to keep training like this indefinitely, keeping your body in some sort of energetic and caloric PTSD. But instead, if your goal is to get to the weight you want and stay there, then you will need to eat and exercise healthfully, and consistently. To maintain your weight through intentionally using your focus and awareness on what you eat, how much you eat, combined with a consistent, balanced exercise program.
Your mind is part of your body, and therefore burns energy the same way. It works most efficiently and at its highest level, over the longest period of time, when it gives consistent energy output. Consistent mindful effort. The great ‘side effect’ of this consistent effort and mindfulness (which is missing when you wait for the external circumstances to stimulate you) is that you can accomplish more of your goals without burning through all of your emotional energy. It may be fine to wait to get that tenacious adrenaline kick of anxiety or fear to get you moving if you’re only responsible for one or two goals. But, when you add more of your goals to the pot, all needing to be done at once, those ‘high octane’ emotions burn out, and the length of time you can sustain your efforts falls off. This is because emotional energy, like physical energy is finite!
There is a bigger question though – a more important consideration not being addressed, lurking a bit, lightly knocking at that door of your self-confidence…
Do you really want outward circumstance to be your master?
When the race date sneaks up on you, the assignment at work has been put off as long as possible, or its two days before ‘weigh in,’ and it is really time to take it all seriously: do you want these external catalysts to dictate when you rise up and put forth your greatest efforts, leaving no personal choice as to when you rally your own energy on your behalf? Or do you want to have choice. True choice. Not choice as to whether to buy skinny jeans or not, but choice as to how you are going to live your life and put forth your efforts, instead of always just reacting to the events laid at your life’s doorstep.
Yes, it will take a good deal of energy up front to plan your efforts, to use your will, to be resilient and non-judgmental of yourself while you develop your consistent and mindful efforts. To use your consistent will to put forth the effort you choose a little at a time. But your choices will be your choices. Your life will be yours.
You are the master of when and where your energy will be expended. When fear and anxiety are not your motivators, you govern when and how much is necessary to do at any given time. And when you make this choice long enough, consistently for yourself, you take your Reality out of the hands of external circumstances, and place your Reality in the thoughts you think, the words you choose, and the intentions behind your actions. The external winds that use to cause your energetic swings can huff and puff at your door, but will ultimately gasp and wither away. The external catalysts that might have seemed scary end up being less important to you than what you decide to put your consistent will, energy, and efforts toward.
By the end of our run, my energy is shot, and my lungs feel like someone took a blowtorch to them. Running and talking at that same time with an extremely talented runner like my son does that to an older, distance-running junkie… But I can tell you this: I chose to plan ahead, to be prepared physically for the effort that would be required, rather than to just ‘show up’ to run with my son and hope for the best. I fixed my intention to be in the best energetic position I could so that I be fully present during our run. And it made all the difference.