Never be Ashamed of a Walk in the Woods

connie's companion

After a summer of relative inactivity, three hill repeats out of the suggested ten on the One Mile Lake circuit had my legs burning. On the fourth, I thought, maybe this is actually the fifth but immediately pounced on that lie and insisted-every time you try to trick yourself into doing less than what you set out to do, you will have to run one more repeat! There’s no slacking off here-get going, lazybones. Suddenly I had a very clear idea of exactly how many I had done. I also felt that familiar heavy cloaked sensation of running with the burden of self reproach.

Struggling into the sixth ascent, I added a bit more weight to my load by noting the slightness of the incline and the shortness of the distance. See, laggard? This is what slothfulness causes-you can barely do a third of what you used to do. One more now, screamed my inner critic when I briefly considered the possibility that I’d done more than I’d thought. I turned around and pattered back to the bottom, anticipating poorer and poorer performances.

The second time I started the sixth repeat, I saw that two people would meet me just as I was beginning the seventh and I contemplated resting until they had passed but then decided that would be cheating.

I set my game face to “determined” and charged up the hill for the seventh (really ninth) time, passing the walkers and greeting them. One said, “Good for you-sorry to interrupt your workout” and the other said something like, “We should be ashamed at our pace.” My mind retaliated instantly, supplying me with the retort, “Never be ashamed of a walk in the woods!” At almost the same instant, I wondered why I had forgotten to apply the same sort of validation to my own efforts and when I did, the encumbrance of negativity dissipated from the last three efforts.

connie sobchak image

Instead of critiquing, I complimented; rather than being disheartened by my aching legs, I encouraged myself to be innervated by them and I finished strong. Now, some people might be motivated by self criticism but I’m not one of them. Too many times, the harsh words I use on myself (which I would never use on others) have instigated nothing but shame, frustration and feelings of futility. Somewhere along my journey, I made a conscious effort to change my self talk to gratitude (I’m pretty sure Oprah was my inspiration) and with practice, I shut down that deflating troll. The other day, the troll roused itself and gained some ground until I heard it speak in someone else’s words.

So what were the phrases that shrivelled the beast? Thank you, legs, for getting me this far. Hurray, for you, heart, for doing such a great job. Yay, I’m sweating-the shower will feel even better. We’re so lucky to have this trail. How incredible the light looks on those moss covered limbs. Every step you take, you’re getting stronger. Positive affirmations work for me and I just needed a reminder that I have a choice of voicing my dissent or voicing my approval.