Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Return of the Watch

Last week, I finally dusted off the old Garmin. The stats on the screen were still there from Brother’s marathon—which he ran two months ago. The last time I used it was a month before that. It probably would have been better for my self-esteem if I left it collecting dust, but it was time to know the truth.

I wore the watch for my “long run,” but I didn’t let it dictate the pace. I just wanted to see: how out of shape am I really? Give me a number.

Sorry I asked. The number was embarrassingly slow. I could blame the heat—which is a valid excuse these days—but the truth is I’m still just out of shape. I take comfort that even though my “long runs” are still shorter than what would qualify as a long run to an in-shape Teal, they are twice as long as a month ago. Progress.

A few days later it was time for an actual workout. Use the watch to time things. Set goals and splits. Compare actual times to predicted ones. Celebrate hard work paying off or get a well-deserved kick in the pants.

The plan was a tempo run of four miles. I had a modest goal pace in mind, but no real idea how I’d feel. Considering how slow I had gone a few days before, this could be trouble.

The first mile didn’t feel so terrible, and I hit my pace dead on. Hey, maybe I’m not so out of shape after all! Mile two I slowed slightly, and reality set in. Nope, you can't keep this up. There’s no salvaging this. You are only going to slow more. The debate began at mile 3: to cut the workout short or to push through, even if that meant a slow time?

The devil on one shoulder listed the pros of calling it at three miles: Sometimes, it is better to call it—it’s just an off day, you may not be fully recovered from a previous effort, it may be better to save it for another day. It’s silly to dig yourself deeper into a hole if you just don’t have it.

The angel on the other shoulder fired back with the cons of slacking off: This was my first workout in months. I wasn’t overtired; I was out of shape. I didn’t need to save it for another day. I needed to suffer through for the hope that I’d be able to handle this workout another day. If I start making excuses now, where will that get me? A month from now I’ll be in the same spot. Four slower-than-expected miles is a tougher workout than three miles. And what I needed was a tough workout.

In the end, I ran the fourth mile. And yes, it was slower than I liked.

But, you know what? It was faster than my third.

That's why you wear the watch. To give yourself a kick in the pants when you need it, and then to do something about it.

And that’s why you keep going. To witness progress, even the tiniest bit.

Dream big,

[Photo credit: purplemattfish]

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