Category Archives: Growth and Development

A marathon is much more than 26.2 miles

If you ask a person how long a marathon is, you will get an extremely wide variety of answers. Of those answers, it is absolutely maddening to a full marathoner when someone tells you that they themselves have run a marathon, or their cousin has run a marathon, only to find out that they were referring to a random 5K that they did once. I don’t want to burst your bubble, but a 5K is only 3.1 miles. The “marathon” that these people supposedly ran can range anywhere from a friendly 1 mile charity run to an actual full marathon. I wish that when co-workers, family, friends, and strangers shared with me the tales of their tragedy and triumph, knee pain, and shin splints which resulted from their “marathon” that I could just smile and celebrate with them, but, in fact, I seethe inside. I arrogantly wonder how your 3 mile walk can compare to the 1700 miles I logged in the past 12 months, as if the marathon was my lover and you offended him.

You see, a true full marathon is 26.2 miles in distance, but it is, in fact, much more than that. The marathon is the story of a full season of dedication and preparation, discipline and dedication, fun and labor.

A marathon tells a deeply personal story.

I feel sorry for the people who have signed up for a marathon on a whim, and are just lucky enough to have youth on their side, so they finish this majestic event without giving it the proper training and respect that it deserves. Sure, if you are youthful and you haven’t let your muscles atrophy with disuse, you can stumble your way through this event. You might not be able to walk the next day, and you might curse the moment you were born, but you will receive a medal nonetheless.

To truly appreciate the marathon though, one should get a training plan, set a goal, and persevere through the entire season. The marathon won’t change you unless you fully invite it in. I would venture to assume finishing a marathon without embracing its essence is like the difference between a one night stand and a monogamous blissful marriage. They are incomparable.

As I train this season for my 10th full marathon, I am reminded to respect the distance, lean into process, and know that this journey to the finish line has very little to do with the actual event and everything to do with putting the work in day in and day out. This year, at least for the Pittsburgh Marathon, I am freeing myself from a time goal at the actual event and attempting  to run each training run with the respect that it deserves. My daily and weekly mileage exists for more than an arbitrarily set time by my ego and my comparisons of myself to others, it exists to make me stronger. I have no control over many of the conditions that I will face on race day, but I can determine the degree to which I allow myself to celebrate my trip to the starting line. Even a bad run for me is a good run because I am becoming the person I never dreamed I could be and yet always wanted to be.

I am alive. I am healthy. I am strong. I am fit. I am fierce. I am free.

The marathon, with all of its agony and beauty, has made me a better leader and person, but most importantly it gave birth to my identity as an athlete.

Marathon, you might be 26.2 miles on race day, but my journey has no finish line.

I get asked a lot about my training plans, nutrition, weight loss and maintenance, and running journey. I look forward to sharing with you about this and encouraging you on your path.

 

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Here is Jessica, with her amazing cousin Paul, before she and running hooked up. This photo was taken exactly 1 week before I began my nutrition and fitness journey, and about 4 months before I started run/walking to speed up my fitness journey. The rest is a beautiful love story because running spoke to my soul and no long was about weight.
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Is February the new January?

I am noticing a new trend emerging on social media and throughout the internet where people are shouting from the rooftops the magic of February 1. Many of these people are declaring that their New Year’s resolutions are just now beginning, and their slates are wiped clean from this day forward. We are already on day number 32 of the new year, and it appears that a majority of people have just now shaken the carbohydrate induced coma of celebration.

Is February the new January, or are February 1, March 1, April 1, and beyond just the ameatuer happy hour? Are they the new excuses du jour?

Is February the new January, or have the “resistance” and monster of “self sabotage” just gotten dressed up as grandmother, and all of us Little Red Riding Hoods can’t even recognize that the wolf pack is in the corner laughing?

The truth is, professionals have a bias for action, and results eventually follow action. Success and progress are attracted to motion.

Amateurs, however, spend a lot of time planning, tweaking, dreaming, over analyzing, debating, lollygagging, justifying, and bellyaching, all while expecting results to find them. After all, they deserve results, “likes”, accolades, trophies, and cheers just because they intended to do something and talked about it for a while.

Don’t get me wrong, my life is a series of fresh starts, new mercies, and big vats of grace piled upon grace. I love nothing more than a fresh month, a clean slate, a new virgin monthly calendar just waiting to be devoured and discovered. Calendars and new days are my thing. I have a phone calendar, a wall calendar, a work calendar, and a personal 3 ring binder of calendars, to-do lists, and productivity hacks. All of these are linked together, and all of these track every member of my family, our whereabouts, and the plethora of things that need managed, juggled, and overseen to make our home, church, jobs,  little league sports leagues/extracurriculars, and marathon training plans stay on the rails and moving in the right direction.

The problem I’ve discovered with juggling all of these things is that it is easy to convince myself that the most important things can wait because the urgent is crying out. I am an expert of what I have identified as positive procrastination. It is not procrastination in the traditional sense of putting off work, but positive procrastination is its own animal. Positive procrastination is where you put off your purpose, your destiny, and the most important life changing tasks and habits in favor of something that brings a more immediate gratification or diversion in the short term, but actually robs you of the gains and growth of just diving into the hard stuff head first.

For example, how many of you have already faded out on your January fitness resolutions because you had laundry to do? When it’s cold outside, it’s easier to fold warm laundry, even if you hate it, then to go out into the cold and log some miles. Laundry keeps you in the comfortable confines of your home (if you are so blessed to own the machinery) and away from the cruel world. In the face of getting a college education, working out, going to the grocery store to buy healthy fresh ingredients so you don’t eat Little Caesars one more night,  laundry sounds like the equivilient of a carnival cruise. After all, those who keep up on laudnry are in the running for sainthood. It appears to be the crowning achievement of the working mother.

We relish in the “how does she do it?” narritive. She works from sun up to sun down and yet her family is robed in luxurious, soft, clean and fragrant linens ornately folded and stacked in color coded piles waiting with eager anticipation for their return to the dressers and closets.

Now, laundry, in and of itself is necessary, and of course evil, thus a necessary evil. Should you keep up on your laundry? By all means. I shudder to think of this household of 4 sweaty humans and all of their piles upon piles of clothes if I decided to abdicate that responsibility. In fact, I just had an argument with my 11-year-old who is now wearing up to 4 different outfits a day. If you thought having boys would preclude you from this nonsense, think again. The desire for swag is real!

However, laundry (or insert other appropriate form of positive procrastination that makes you feel angelic and accomplished and loved and worthy) is not the single most important part of your day.  Taking care of you is. Spending time in prayer and devotion is. Taking care of your loved ones is. Discovering and living out your purpose is. You must prioritize destiny over doldrums, your daydreams will become realities.

You are the missing link between the person you WANT to be and WISH you could be and the person that you are frustrated with right now. What would your future self want you to do today?

What do you want to have accomplished by February 28 so that on March 1 you don’t have to post cute meme’s and selfies of March 1 being when resolutions really start. March 1 is the new January, you’ll be tempted to say.

So, whatever you call them, intentions, resolutions, goals, one words, focus points, targets, etc (See, even the SEMANTICS of life change will distract some of us enough to keep us from actually doing anything. We will just argue in a comment section about why we do or do not set resolutions and why they do or do not work, all the while we are slipping further and further behind in the journey to become our highest and best selves.)

Whatever it is that you want to term them or define them as, just start moving towards destiny today. Make a month-long streak of something you want to do. Try to form a new habit to replace an old habit. Try to visualize yourself on February 28 celebrating whatever accomplishment you have set out for and don’t let month after month after month in 2017 slip by. (Hopefully said celebration will be done with clean clothes on because laundry, although a distraction when inappropriately prioritized, is at some point a necessity. You win some. You lose some.)

Create a vision. Make it plain. Write it down. Do something right this second to move on it. Ready….Set….Go!

Early morning date with myself, some amazing podcasts, the stair master, and my weight/strength training routine. Wednesdays are for cross training. The resolution crowds have dwindled too, giving me my pick of weight benches. When it comes to working out, sometimes the early bird doesn’t get the worm because there are swarms of others looking for their piece too.

“Ceilings, Values, and How to be anything you want to be”

I am nothing if not a personal growth and development junkie. Even as a child, I asked for books on topics that even some hard working professionals have to force themselves to read.  For whatever reason, I distinctly remember in 1998 waiting with baited breath for the latest John Maxwell title “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” to be published so I could get my hands on it. It still, to this day, rocks my world. I definitely recommend that if you have not yet read the book, you owe it to yourself and everyone around you to do so.

The memory of receiving that specific book at that time is so vivid to me because my dad was a member of Maxwell’s VHS and cassette tape club much of my childhood and to me there was no one smarter, determined, or loved by others than my dad was. I know those words expose my age even though my youthful glow does not.

VHS and Cassettes! What excuse do we have now with the capabilities of all the audio files and knowledge in the world in the palm of our hands?

All of that being said, the principal that stands out most to me is

Law #1: The Law of the Lid – Leadership Ability Determines a Person’s Level of Effectiveness. To reach the highest level of effectiveness, you have to raise your leadership lid.

Essentially, you are your own worst enemy or biggest asset.

What are you doing right now, today, at this very moment, at this very hour (outside of reading my amazing words of inspiration and gleaning from my deep wells of knowledge) to improve upon yourself so that you can go further?

We love to think that the things that hold us back are outside of ourselves. This way we can blame people, places, and things for our inability to produce rather than take a cold hard look in the mirror.

Like children, sometimes we can’t move beyond the slight discomforts of action and execution to gain the bigger prize of accomplishment and achievement.

My sons would often rather lose a privilege and be disciplined then to admit their mistakes. They have more invested in the arguments, nitpicking, and faultfinding than they do in just getting their rear in gear and just do what I have asked them. “I can’t put the leg of the recliner down. I’m not the one who put it up.” “I can’t take the dog to the bathroom. I did it last time.” “It’s ______ fault I have poop on my shoe. He didn’t scoop it off the ground.” (Never mind the fact that you could have just watched where you were walking, especially since you already knew that he didn’t clean it up! Instead of letting me know it needs cleaned up, or just cleaning it up himself, it is much more fun to drag poop into the house to prove some epic point and tattle.)

I have amazing sons, but this competitive and argumentative list of excuses  could go on for eternity when all of the disagreements and conflicts just boil down to the fact that no one wants to accept responsibility and just move forward. Even when I say, “You aren’t in trouble. I just need to know”, the human experience dictates that self-preservation is preferable to self-awareness.

At the end of the day what does this mean to you and me?

We need to:

  • Immediately stop telling ourselves false narratives. While other people, places, situations, scenarios, and things inform our daily life and decisions, they are not in control of them and they do not hold the keys to our success and destiny.
  • Identify where the ceiling is. What is truly holding you down? Once you identify your ceiling, the things that you once thought were ceilings will become floors to your next level of personal growth and development.
  • Establish personal responsibility and growth as a core value from which you make all of your decisions. Core values are constant. They are not descriptions of the work we do or the strategies we employ, they are just simply the basic elements of every day of our lives.

In 2010 when I started my fitness and weight loss journey, physical health and being in shape started to become a core value of who I am.

  • I don’t run. I am a runner.
  • I don’t just fit in exercise. I am a physically fit person.

See how that wording shifts the conversation?

If you just say, “I run”, you can easily dismiss the act of running if you don’t fit into your day. However, if “I am a runner”, it is the essence of who I am and I make it happen. I don’t just “mother” my children. I am their mother. There is actually a big difference. Anyone can “mother/nurture” them in a pinch or for a moment in time (School teachers. Babysitters. Grandparents.), but nobody else in this world can be their mother. It flows from my essence.

To begin exploring your own values and begin taking the limits off what you are capable of, think about your life and all of its components and begin rating them.

  1. Things I value very much: These are the things that are your very ESSENCE. An example for me is my physical fitness. Most people don’t value this as much as I do and therefore make excuses about why they can’t or won’t engage in daily exercise.
  2. Things I value: An example of this for me is financial gain. I do value financial gain and I want to be a wise steward of my family’s income and spend with frugality, however, money is not a top priority for me. I don’t value it enough to chase it over something I value very much.
  3. Things I don’t value very much: An example of this for me is a jam packed extracurricular social schedule. Every aspect of my daily life and work is to be surrounded by people and in relational and social settings, as well as run like wild, dragging kids between sporting events, hangouts, and practices full of even more people to socialize with. Because of this, I oftentimes neglect getting into social settings that aren’t work/ministry/leadership/parenting related because I value a little silence here and there. This can be a slippery slope because I know I need my relational cup filled instead of always being the one pouring, so I’m working on balance, but the point is, you most likely won’t find me at a RAVE until 2-3AM every Friday and Saturday craving a party.

I will continue to write about personal development, growth, and life changing transformation, as it is my sweet spot, I have experience in and with it, and I think it is fun to be encouraged and challenged. That said, Are there any particular topics or avenues in this space you would want me to cover?