I ran a half marathon on Saturday, my first in over a year. I didn’t train for it a bit, simply relying on the fact that I’ve been in excellent shape and have maintained my level of fitness. I made it, in fact it was a personal best my more than 10 minutes, but it hurt. In fact, I was only averaging about six running miles a week over the last couple of months – my longest run being last week, nine miles. This kind of jump in mileage is typically frowned upon as too much too soon. I was fairly confident that I’d be OK though.
On finishing Saturday I would typically go for a short ride, 10-18 miles, but I was tired and needed a nap. I slept for almost three hours afterwards. After dinner my wife and I took the kids to see Rise Of The Guardians (absolutely fantastic by the way – one of the rare movies that I think is worth the money, almost $50 after popcorn and flavored water). After the movie we all crashed.
Yesterday after cooking breakfast I pretty much took the rest of the day off and relaxed until I went bowling at 6 because it rained most of the day. I was still quite stiff but managed to shake out the cobwebs enough to perform, albeit sub-par.
This morning I still felt about like I did yesterday, sore, but liveable… Until I took my 30 minute spin on the trainer. I am a true believer when it comes to active recovery. I define that as a slow speed, high cadence spin on my bike. On the road that translates to about 17 mph but on my trainer it’s a little faster – 22-24 mph give or take in the big ring, 4th gear (52/17) with a cadence around 100 rpm and as high as 110.
I won’t say all of the stiffness is gone, because I’d be a liar, but I feel a whole lot better now than when I woke up. Try it, you’ll like it. Ideally, the sooner after a run that I ride, the better I feel, but sometimes immediately after just isn’t possible.
I don’t have anything against perfection, or striving for it, but no matter how well I complete something I can always look back in hindsight and Monday morning quarterback myself to death. I wasn’t always like this, being overly critical of my actions (and more importantly my thoughts) was a learned response to a young adulthood of debauchery followed a long, hard path to a decent life, or in more Biblical terms, salvation. To explain this in a manner that makes sense to the casual observer would be difficult were it not for my recovery from alcoholism because the before and after differences are so stark. I went from an utter burnout to a productive member of society in the space of a few years. To do that required a complete transformation of my character and a great deal of soul-searching with a friend who had already made it out of the abyss. Along the way we would talk about how things were going in my life and I’d tell him what I thought about it – he would then filter my thoughts through his experience and offer different ways to look at situations – views that were impossible for me to see at my current level of thinking… Before long, after I’d make a mistake in judgement and discussed it, I would look back on the experience and rather than learn from it and move on, I’d mentally “beat myself up” for making the wrong choice. This mental lashing would continue for days until I realized what I was doing and had to discuss that breakdown. Before long, I became my own worst enemy… That’s where “progress, not perfection” comes in.
Unfortunately I am an intelligent person, I am not wise. Wise people learn from the mistakes of others, intelligent people learn from their own and learning from my mistakes took practice. As new situations would pop up in my life, a sign of progress, I would treat them in the manner that I was used to treating any old problem, at my current ability (or level of thinking). When I would make an error in judgement, I would always slip into beating myself up over the mistake before finally calling my mentor and discussing it… However as I went through life making my mistakes as we all do, kicking my own ass for making the mistake in the first place, a miracle happened. The period in which I had to kick my own ass grew shorter and shorter – I began to recognize the process starting and counteracting it before I got my brain wrapped up in the quagmire of ass-kickery, if you will. Shortly after that, I began applying the principles used to correct my mistakes to life’s decisions, thus avoiding many of the mistakes altogether. I ceased being my own most feared critic and worst enemy. In fact, in the circles I run, we have a tidy little quip about this phenomenon: “If anyone else had treated me the way I treated myself, I’d have kicked the sh!t out of him”…
Here’s the trick: It’s a well-known fact of life that you can’t solve a problem with the same thinking that created it in the first place. If we understand human nature, we know that we humans follow patterns – in other words, as described earlier, we fall back on the “thinking” that created the mess in the first place. If we’re ever to outgrow this, we have to change the entire thought process. Eventually, with practice, I got to a point where I could raise the bar on my current level of thinking by applying a set of principles to daily problems.
That gets us to the definition of “practice“: “Perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency”.
Practice may very well make perfect, but I’ll settle for progress. The way I am, when I reach perfect I’ll relax and fall back into “screwed”.
Reading this, it may seem like child’s play, but to me, living through it, the notion was pretty profound.