Workout of the Day

13.1

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I went to bed Saturday night planning to spend the next day babysitting some kiddos. I woke up Sunday morning to find myself with the opportunity to run my first half marathon.

It wasn’t something I had intentionally trained for, or even spent the previous days or weeks preparing for in any way. But when I was handed the bib, I was thinking, “Yeah, I can probably do that.”

For me, that moment signaled a remarkable change in how I think about myself and my limitations. Writing this post makes me uncomfortable because it has all the trappings of the humble-brag, but I think there are some lessons to be learned here.

What stands out to me most, upon reflection, is this:

What kind of story am I telling myself about who I am?

Those who have known me a long time probably wouldn’t be surprised to hear me characterize myself as a bookworm, someone whose ideal day consisted of hanging out on the couch with a good book and a cup of coffee.

At least, that’s the story I have been telling myself for the past ten years about who I am. A bookworm, a writer, an English teacher. And for some reason, in the process of mentally writing my narrative, I have conceptualized myself as an extraordinarily flat character, living in a world where to be focused on improving your mind and improving your body are mutually exclusive endeavors.

We go through life, we build definitions for ourselves. It’s necessary; we need framework, we need to know what we stand for. But those definitions can come with limitations, especially if we’re not thoughtful about how we apply them to ourselves.

The archetype is useful because it is clearly defined, easily identified: a distilled concept. In storytelling we use archetypes because they are easy, and because they fit into a dramatic narrative arc in a way that works. It makes a great story: the hero triumphs against all odds.

The thing about the archetypal hero is that usually they are not usually very complex. They have to be simple, so each person who hears the story can paint themselves into the role. They are limited, clearly drawn within certain boundaries.

It’s fun to hear stories of people who faced incredible challenges and managed to overcome them. Those people are remarkable and deserve recognition. But for most of us, that story starts and ends with the idea that they are somehow unique, a mythical character who surmounted monsters and demons and more to achieve their dreams.

That definitely makes for a better story.

Most of us, though, are not archetypes with a linear hero’s journey. We are complex people with complex, busy lives; the sum of many parts, stories that cannot be told in the span of a book because there are many beginnings and endings and little moments in between. We don’t climb one giant mountain, we climb little ones every day--and a lot of the time, that’s enough to knock us flat on our backs.

If we want to be inspired to truly change, we don’t need to hear about epic struggles and insurmountable odds. We need to hear stories about typical people making little changes that pay off in big ways.

So here’s my story now: a teacher with a busy life made a few changes. They’re not really dramatic, so they’re not that interesting.

I chose to spend my Sundays running with friends who were training for a half marathon even though I wasn’t, simply because I thought it would be fun to spend time with them and get a little better at running. I chose to give up my evenings during the week so I can get to classes at the gym, even though most nights it would be so much easier to just go home and relax. I chose to devote parts of my weekend to meal preparation so I can eat healthfully during the week.

And then I went and ran my first half marathon.

It’s not that big of a mountain, and the challenges were not that difficult. But there’s a part of me, the part that’s still listening to the old story I used to tell myself, that’s absolutely gobsmacked. This doesn’t fit the archetype I created, I find myself thinking. How did I get here? When the hell did I decide I could run 6 miles, let alone 13?

If you live inside a story that’s limited by the definitions you create, you might also find that you’ve already decided what you’re capable of.

My story tells me who I am and where I came from. It sets up premises about what I stand for and what I want to achieve. It also tells me a lot about where I’m going to go, especially if I believe it.

Which makes me a lot more careful when I ask myself that question: What kind of story am I telling myself? And, Have I already decided where it will end up?

-Joy Sprimont


3/16/17

  • Front squat + split jerk - 5x(3+1)

  • 12 min EMOM

    • Min 1 - 2 rope ascents

    • Min 2 - 10 ring dips

    • Min 3 - 2 squat cleans + 1 jerk (AHAP)