Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What's the harm in believing?

Aloha folks, my apologies for having been MIA this last week.  It's been a crazy time for me with a lot of ups and downs.  As a result, I've been experiencing a bit of blogger's block with a lot of things on my mind that I haven't been able to string together into meaningful posts.  But I will catch up with all your blogs soon - and I look forward to your inspirations!

Now - a recent topic that has been on my mind:

Many folks have told me that marathon training is just as much, if not more about building up your mental capacity as it is building up your physical capacity.  In short, our bodies are already capable of running 26.2 miles or even more - and we just have to train our minds to handle it.
I've struggled many times throughout my life with thinking realistically versus thinking optimistically or pessimistically.  The lines can be blurry.  However, in general I am great at thinking positively for other people, but have a very difficult time thinking positively for myself.  Why is it so hard to do this?

I love this.

I've been paying attention to many recent instances in which people have said they have to think positively about their challenges in order to get through them.  This applies to any situation - injuries, career, relationships, etc., etc.

When I type out that "thinking positively can help" it sounds ridiculously obvious.  But what I've been pondering is the opposite consideration - and that is when thinking positively means putting yourself at risk for greater disappointment.  Which is better or worse?  Is it better or worse to have low expectations and then set yourself up for pleasant surprises?  Or is it better or worse to think positively but then set yourself up for a potential letdown?
Much has been written and said about self-affirmations, methods of attracting different types of energy, and self-fulfilling prophesies.  Call these things scientific, psychological, kinetic, religious, spiritual, or any combination thereof.  But the ultimate question is...

What is the harm in believing?
Switching gears, let's talk about my training from this past week.
  • After taking a week off of running and really, really focusing on muscle stretching and foam-rolling, my wonky hip has shown some improvement.  I ran a total of 20 miles last week with almost no hip pain, including a 12-mile training run last Sunday.  Unfortunately, after doing a 3-mile run yesterday morning, I am experiencing a little bit of a setback today.  However, I am still encouraged by the fact that things appear to be trending in the right direction. 
  • Excluding my half-marathon races, my 12-mile training run this past Sunday is the longest training run I've ever done.  The thought of doing the 15+ mile runs on the training schedule used to daunt me to no end, but I'm finally starting to think that they may be achievable after all.
  • Amidst all this, I almost overlooked the fact that my knees have also been holding up very well over the last several weeks, too.  This is a huge victory for me.  After struggling with so much stubborn knee pain in the past, I don't want to lose sight of this as something to be celebrated!

Some thoughts that are both related and unrelated to my training:
  • I watched the Dream Team documentary last week and was captivated.  Back in the Jordan era, I was a huge Bulls fan and remembered the thrill behind the Dream Team when it happened.  This documentary is fantastic - such great coverage of player personalities and behind-the-scenes footage.  Magic Johnson is so personable and likable, Charles Barkley steals the show with never owning an unexpressed thought, and Michael Jordan's competitiveness continues to bring the stage to new heights.  This documentary is going into the DVR vault.

  • The 1992 Mens Olympic Basketball Team, aka "The Dream Team."

  • I just heard about the inaugural BTN Big 10K race on July 28.  Being a loyal alumnus of the University of Illinois (and with Adam being a loyal alumnus of Penn State), this race intrigues me.  For various reasons I don't need to and shouldn't sign up for any more races this year, but this one is tempting.  I'm not a fan of the hot dogs they are giving to the runners at the post race party, but the custom-selected race shirt is cool and it's always fun to do things that involve representing my alma mater.  Food for thought (but still no hot dogs).
  • Speaking of Big Ten schools, I'm headed to Ohio State University next month for a White House Initiative on Asian and Pacific Islanders.  I was planning to be in Columbus just for the day, but a change of scenery is always nice and it would be fun to go running through the OSU campus.  Would it be bad to stay an extra night with that being the primary motivation for doing so?
  • I am itching to go on a quick vacation someplace.  I always prefer to travel to places that are off the beaten path, but I haven't been to Disney or to Vegas in a few years and it would be fun to make a jaunt to either.  This is partially driven by the fact that Adam is in Anaheim this week on business, and I am wishing more than anything that I could join him there.  I want to go to Disneyland, plus visit my dear friends Ed and Myhien and their daughter Kai, who live nearby.  Sigh.
  • If I ever become fabulously wealthy, the first thing I want is the ability to travel at the drop of a hat.


  1. Boo to hips! Mine is still achy over 7 months after the hip flexor injury. Fish oil seems to be taking some of the achy ness away.

    As crazy as it sounds I really believe that believing you can is half the battle for a marathon. Sure, the long runs prepare you for being on your feet for such a long time and distance, but you can easily psych yourself out mentally even if your body is still good to go. I'm more and more convinced that "being happy" or enjoying the runs is also a way to stay injury free. :) Might not be 100% true though. Lol

    You are training for Chicago marathon?

    1. Boo to hip pain indeed! That is so frustrating that your hip is still achy after 7 months, but glad to hear that fish oil seems to be helping! I tried krill oil for a little while without noticeable results, but I'll have to try fish oil per your suggestion!

      Great advice on "being happy" and enjoying the runs to help stay injury free. I definitely walk the line sometimes of thinking of my running as "work" and something that HAS to get done - and that in itself can spin things the wrong direction, I am sure.

      I am indeed training for the Chicago Marathon! It's been a dream of mine for a good ten years to run Chicago, so this year I'm finally going for it!!!!!

  2. I've always been of the school that if you don't expect much then you'll be pleasantly surprised. I don't necessarily think negative thoughts, but I don't get my hopes up too high. I also think having A, B, and C goals is a good strategy. Of course you aim for A but if you only hit C or B you won't be disappointed.

    As for marathon training, revel in the fact that this will be the FIRST TIME you've ever run those distances. This will be the FIRST TIME you amaze yourself with what you can do. Will it be perfect? No. But it will be a unique experience.

    1. I like the idea of having tiered goals! It helps to not think of a single goal because the tendency is to think that if you achieve it you're successful, but if you don't you're a failure. Tiered goals takes some of that pressure away!

      Great insight on FIRST TIME perspective - and you're right, it won't be perfect but it certainly will be unique! It helps a lot to remind ourselves that it won't be perfect, too. It reminds me of wedding planning - most people want things to be perfect but they never are, but it's still an awesome experience!

  3. Congrats on your knee feeling good and getting to the point that the long runs on your schedule do not daunt you! Go, Emily, Go!

    I think there are times in life when you want to set your expectations low - seeing movies in the theater, that good things will happen at work (ha ha, I have gotten burned)... but I do think that people who tend to have a negative outlook on things (the always low expectations people) and are overly cynical are just not fun to be around. For each long run and each race I like to look back at my training and say "I know I can do this and I know I can do it strong." And strong means something different for everyone - for me it just might mean getting through!

    And I think there is a difference between high and low expectations, and just going in not knowing what is going to happen. Sometimes when I have "low expectations" of something I have to do, I make it worse for myself.

    1. Thanks so much, Kim!!!!!!!!

      Great advice, as always!!!! You are so right about those instances in when you do want to set your expectations low. The movies and work are great examples and sadly I have gotten burned many times, too. But you are so right about cynicism, as well as how being strong means something different for everyone. That is SO TRUE. I struggle with comparing myself to others, but need to keep reminding myself that we are all unique and that it doesn't matter what anyone else is doing!

  4. Great post! I have mixed thoughts on high vs. low expectations. I am a big believer in low expectations when it comes to my time goals. I always aim low so that I will be satisfied with my performance or pleasantly surprised. But I think it is really important to tell yourself, "I can do this." Is that a high expectation? I don't know. I guess it depends on the task. I know I couldn't have completed either of my marathons (or any race for that matter) without some positive thinking.*

    1. Thanks, Amy! I think it's a great mix to go easy on the time goals, but just focus on getting the job done. It is so important to just tell ourselves "I can do this" - that is the foundation by which I've been able to get myself to cross the finish line, too! I don't think it's a high expectation - I think it's a way to keep ourselves going when things are very tough!

  5. I think there is a difference between "setting yourself up to fail" and believing in yourself. For me, having low expectations means letting myself off the hook too easily as soon as things get tough. Running far is hard. You have to BELIEVE to do it and do it well. And still, sometimes it sucks :)

    I have friends running that 10k - looks like it'll be a fun race!

    1. Oh my gosh, you are so right about the "setting yourself up to fail" and believing in yourself. I've seen people go out and try to run a marathon on little or no training, but then get frustrated when they can't finish. THAT is setting yourself up to fail!!!

      And you are also so right about how running far is hard, that even when you believe in yourself to do it and to do it well that sometimes it still sucks big time. (I think this is why we're often asked why we still push ourselves to run when it does suck on so many occasions, no?)