Two and a half miles into my four mile run in the 91 degree weather, I pulled back my pace to conserve energy and switched to a light jog, planning to amp it back up once I reached shadier grounds; the sun relentlessly beat down on me with no branches or shadows to blunt its power. At my slower rate, a car passed me by as I momentarily locked eyes with the driver. Instinctively, I created a back-story in my mind and concluded that he had been unimpressed at the slowness of my movement. I found I was mentally defending myself against this make-believe judgment, spewing back that I had run the first two miles at a much faster roll and fully intended to add some sprints at the last stretch. How dare he judge my less than optimal pace? How dare he assume I was a slow runner? The car was miles away by then.
Growing up, I was conditioned by constant feedback, both negative and positive, to gauge how well or poorly I was doing. Grades, piano recitals, play performances, art pieces… all meaningless until after I was told how wonderful or atrocious they were. I developed a need for validation of my efforts, otherwise, they were pointless. Like any other habit picked up as a child, it was hard to unlearn and un-need validation for my hard work, but it had to be done in order to live a happy life and have healthy, non-codependent relationships.
Running, lifting, sweating, changing my body and improving my fitness are all personal efforts of mine. I put in a lot of time, energy and all around hard work in to myself in order to practice what I preach and be the best possible version of me. These things are my own- not in competition with anyone (but myself) and not to impress anybody (but myself… sometimes!). If I shave a rep off of a set or knock a mile off of a run I know I can complete, I am only cheating myself out of my own personal goals. I’ve come to know my body. I know my personal bests… how much I was able to lift the last time… how far and fast I ran the time before (and I’ll be damned if this time I don’t match or break those records!). I need no one to tell me how hard I’m working and need no recognition as to if my workout was a success or not. I am my most honest, informed, and accurate critic and I need no one’s validation to confirm or tell meotherwise!
Old habits die hard. Sometimes they creep back when least expected and manifest in the most odd of ways. I ended the mental argument I had been having between the random driver-by and myself, swearing it must have been partially fueled by the sweltering heat. How silly I had been, giving any weight to the opinion of a man that was most likely just checking out to see if I had huge knockers (which I most certainly don’t… sorry to disappoint, sir). After regaining sense (and sanity), I picked my pace back up once out of the unshaded stretch of road and ended my run with a few interval sprints. As I took a lap around the driveway, I felt the endorphins flooding through my body and I relished in the wonders of “runner’s high.” Ahh… yes, that’s right… after the miles have been logged and the time has been checked, that immeasurable feeling right there that only I can experience? That’s what it’s all really about.