It still catches me by surprise, this magic that is inspiration. Reading about the pros and cons of lycra, contemplating using someone’s garden for a toilet while running, and the importance of Vaseline was not where I expected it to be waiting for me.
The other evening, looking for something on my bookshelf to read, I picked up a book my husband had borrowed from a friend; Running Like a Girl, by Alexandra Heminsley.
I’m not a runner, I was briefly for a short period of time when my oldest was a toddler. I ran with a couple of girlfriends and we pushed our babies in prams and chatted. Then I did a long (for me) run one weekend away and hated every moment of it; cold, wet, tired, both my body and brain wanted to quit. I found no enjoyment in doing it, and very little in having even finished it, the “achievement” was hollow and unpleasant. I felt like I’d let myself down, embarrassed myself even, with how poorly I performed. I hadn’t trained enough, I wasn’t good enough, I hadn’t tried hard enough. All my fault.
After that, I just never ran again. Then I was pregnant with my second child, and delighted to have an excuse not to run.
So I didn’t even really want to read this book, it didn’t interest me all that much, having been there and done that. But there was nothing else I hadn’t read, so I gave it a chance and was soon completely hooked. It wasn’t even the actual running really, though I was surprised to find myself thinking I should give it a go again. Maybe it was achievable for me. Was it possible I’d been too hard on myself?
Because here’s what I missed back then and what I learnt from reading this book; even the things we love doing, the stuff that keeps us feeling sane and feeling good about ourselves, even those things suck at times. We lose our passion for a bit, or we have a bad experience once, and we think “no, that’s not for me”! Or at least, that’s what I’d done, maybe you are much wiser!
Alexandra Heminsley was certainly wiser, even after her shitty runs, even after not running for most of a year after her first London Marathon; she picked it up again, she trained again, she gave herself another chance and she continued to learn from her experiences. And to realise how much running gave her.
This is the other thing I took from this book; I need to bring more discipline into my life.
I like to keep things free and easy, flowing, loose. I like to decide in the moment, yes, that is what I want to do now! However, this often means I miss opportunities to get things done, with a family of 5 it takes a bit of scheduling to make things happen and leaving it till the last minute usually means missing out.
So it’s been weeks since I went to yoga. No, months actually. Because I haven’t chosen a time, booked it in, and stuck to it. Now I’m missing the mental clarity and more comfortable body that yoga gives me. Likewise, my meditation practice could benefit from some discipline about fitting 15 measly minutes into my day. I can easily kill that much time on Facebook or Instagram several times a day. Ok, maybe more than several. There’s a bunch of time I could be doing other things, if I just brought a tiny bit of discipline to my days.
Flow is a wonderful thing, as is being flexible, but it can also easily slip into losing time to lesser priorities. Getting caught up doing the busy-work tasks and missing the important ones; the ones that really benefit our wellbeing. Because mostly the things that get sacrificed are the ones that we do for ourselves, to look after our bodies and minds, to replenish our souls.
Something I learnt from parenting is that having even a loose routine makes things work so much better. It actually frees up brain power because we know what we have scheduled and then only need to focus on the other parts of the day. If you have that favourite yoga class booked in weekly, you’ll get the other tasks done that day so you can escape for your hour of soul food.
All of which, I did not expect to learn from a book about running marathons.
Mix it up, try something different, even if you think it’s totally not you. You just never know where that cheeky imp called inspiration might hit you with a lightbulb moment.