Declines and Inclines

I’m writing from “Hotlanta” Georgia! We’re here for the Luke Combs and Eric Church charity concert at Mercedes Benz Stadium on Sunday night. We’re just strolling around The Battery area today, perhaps even getting a little Christmas shopping done. No plan, just a quick little escape exploring a new town before the concert!

I'm a big Braves fan, and Christmas fan, had to take the pic despite the tree not being lit yet!

I’ve been running again over the past few weeks. Might seem like a small feat, but I’ve committed to running three times per week in preparation for the Tough Mudder in early December. A couple years ago I ran a 15k and the process of training was actually my favorite part. Honestly the first few runs typically knock me out of making this part of my weekly workout routine. Running simply to run isn’t a love of mine. Yet running with a goal in mind stimulates my interest and enhances my willingness to run through pain (literally). The last week of October through November I committed to the following running schedule:

3 runs each week, must be on different days:

Week 1: Run 1 mile, 2 miles and 3 miles

Week 2: Run 2 miles, 3 miles and 4 miles

Week 3: Run 3 miles, 4 miles and 5 miles

Week 4: Run 4 miles, 5 miles and 6 miles

Week 5: Run 5 miles, 6 miles and 7 miles

I’m in week 3 now and the next couple definitely scare me! I already ran my five mile run for the week. I forgot how tough five miles is without much training and I was a little proud of myself for the feat. The great thing about running for me is a floating feeling I get after a few miles, commonly known as the “runner’s high.” I start to get a sensation of numbing, in a good way. I seemingly start floating through the air, yet my feet are still hitting the ground and body aches subside. This sensation typically happens after the first few miles and extends until I finish. I also like the challenge of going a little further than the time prior, which is why I built this training schedule to ensure I’m progressing.

Running gives me time to think and reflect. Some of my best blog ideas have come while on runs or hikes. I give my mind a chance to breath, a chance to separate from the daily routine by getting outside in nature. I’ve often said this and still believe it- I feel God most in nature and listening to music. This is when I’m most spiritually moved, often times emotionally stimulated. When I run and hike, I’m often wearing my headphones and jamming out to music, so naturally I enter a more creative space due to experiencing nature and music simultaneously. I suppose running is working out my body, my mind and my spirit all at once, which is killer time management if you ask me!

One of my favorite trails in AZ- Pinnacle Peak!

I’m not living in the same place that I was 2 years ago when I was training for my 15k. I’m further north and regardless of which way I’m headed, I’m always heading downhill or uphill. Unfortunately I start downhill when I leave the neighborhood because the other way is a major road I wouldn’t dare attempt crossing. I cruise along swiftly and feel pretty darn good for the start of each run. I typically run down the same path and turn around at exactly half of my overall distance goal, ensuring the round trip equals my commitment for the run. What I’m really noticing is the mental shift that’s been happening on my runs, which I think can correlate to life as well…

The first week my runs were pretty short and pretty easy regardless of a decline or incline. Yet now that I’m running 3, 4 and 5 miles, I’m noticing how much of a struggle the uphill is on my way back home. I’ve noticed myself spending the first 2+ miles dreading the way back up. I then turn around and attempt to stay mentally tough while climbing the hefty incline home. I get it done but I admittedly struggle. I realized that I’m not even grateful for the decline because I’m too busy fearing what’s to come at the turnaround. I’m focused on the incline the entire run; but why?

I find it interesting how a simple “down and back run” correlates so well to the ebbs and flows of life. I can honestly say that when things are good, I don’t spend enough time being present or being grateful. I find myself taking the best times for granted. I do this by being on my phone, for instance (distracted). I also do this by not being present because I’m too busy being anxious or worried about some future pain, outcome or event. I’m willing to bet the uphill trot home wouldn’t be as bad if I hadn’t spent the entire 20 minutes downhill dreading it! I’m also willing to bet I’d enjoy the much, much easier decline if I was present and grateful instead of allowing my mind to focus on my uphill return. I realize how much this resonates with me in life. I realize I need to practice more gratitude for what matters most. I need to be grateful for the here and now, whether it’s easy going or a hard time. Gratitude for today, gratitude for the process, gratitude for each step, gratitude for the declines (easier times) as well as the inclines (harder ones).

The uphill climb is brutal, regardless. I look at an analogy of my uphills as opportunities to sculpt and shed parts of myself. We all go through “valleys” – those tough times that we can either complain about the entire time or lean in and use these times to better ourselves. Running the uphill is harder, so it’s actually doing more for my training than heading downhill. I simply needed a perspective shift- the uphill battles are necessary and important to my growth, whether via a run or life in general. Sometimes these clips are exhausting, but that’s what builds strength!

Lean in and push through- that's how we grow!

I’ve had plenty of “valleys” in my life. What I’ve learned is how many people avoid, bury and ignore the pain of these times- myself included over the years. I’m now trying to embrace right where I am in life as I continue SURRENDERING to God each day. I’m embracing that control is an illusion. I’m embracing the valleys (that inevitably come) as learning opportunities. I’m embracing that God will not give me more than I can handle with Him. I guess I’m trying to “lean in” on my uphill runs, realizing that they are good for me if I have the right mindset as I take each step. I’m also trying to have more JOY on the “downhill runs” – those easier times where things are going well.

I have to admit something to you, which is kind of funny! I thought about driving my car a few miles down the road where the path leads to start my runs. Doing so would allow me to start the trail going uphill and then work my way back down. I could get the hard part out of the way first and have the easier downhill part to finish. I then realized I’m holding myself back from the opportunity to grow through this process. I decided instead to keep doing what I’ve been doing. I’m going to intentionally practice gratitude to start my run, while being present and not dreading my way back. I’m then going to try embracing the climb home, realizing it’s good for my body as well as my mind at this point to battle through the challenge. I’m committed to running my path just like it is, and using it to make me stronger mentally and physically!

I’m grateful for the little lessons life continues to give me. Who would’ve thought training for The Tough Mudder would be a good reminder to stay present, practice gratitude, and embrace a challenge when presented with one. Perhaps we can all be more grateful and present each moment. Perhaps we can be extra grateful when things are going well, and still grateful for “the little things” when times are tough. Perhaps we can lean into the opportunities this life gives us to grow, which often correlate with challenge and adversity. Perhaps we can take this life step by step, consciously allowing the lessons to shape and mold us over time.

Here’s to keeping my run downhill first and uphill back! Here’s to a renewed mindset about my training regiment and life itself. Here’s to living with no regrets, surrendering daily and continuing to push myself to be the good kind of crazy! Here’s to me signing off and going to enjoy Atlanta and a heck of a country music concert tomorrow night!

Much Love and Blessings!

For more pics and to follow my journey you can also follow me on IG: @Surrender_Project

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