I ordered a book last week called “The Brave Athlete: Calm the F*ck Down and Rise to the Occasion”. I had seen several people mention it on various Facebook groups, and Triathlete Magazine featured it in their latest issue. I read the preview and thought it was funny and could be motivational. I mean, there’s profanity in a book about Sports Psychology! What’s not to like?
I started reading it before bed the last few nights. I’m only 2 chapters in so far…so this is not a review. This book is not what I expected. Yes, there is profanity. Yes, it is about Sports Psychology.
But there is more. So much more.
The first chapter is about the physiology of how your brain works (many big words). I’m a college educated girl and I like to think that I know things, but I’m also 47 and have come to the realization that there are certain things that I don’t give a crap about…and knowing the names and functions of all the parts of the Limbic System counts among that list. It is highly unlikely that I will need that knowledge in my current job as a food service manager, so I didn’t bother to commit those terms to memory. In spite of my apathy about brain stem terminology, is interesting to know how your brain functions and how much your fight or flight response (your Limbic System) contributes to all the mind games that are playing while you are training or racing or lying in bed at 5am knowing you should, but not wanting to get up and go run.
Once you get through that, you get to the good stuff. Chapter 2 “I Wish I Felt More Like an Athlete”
This is where the book is not what I expected. Instead of inspirational stories and profanity laced examples of athletes who have overcome their own personal mind games, this book is also a workbook of sorts. There are questions that you need to answer about yourself and how you view yourself as a an athlete. I wasn’t expecting this, but being the dutiful wanna-be I am, I grabbed a pen and started answering some questions. And in doing so…I had a major epiphany.
I haven’t been posting on this blog. I have blamed in on all sorts of things. My work schedule. Depression. Apathy. Last night, while seeing my responses to the questions and statements in the book last night, I realized the true reason I haven’t been writing.
Ever since I finished Ironman, I have felt like a fraud.
We got back from Florida and almost immediately I was on a plane to train for a new job. I was still so tired. I did work out the 2 weeks I was away for work, but my runs felt so hard. I got back the day before Thanksgiving and then there was the whirlwind of the new job, longer hours, holidays and kids out of school. Looking back at my calendar I did work out, but obviously it wasn’t at my pre IM levels. As the months went by I did the bare minimum. I managed to PR a half-marathon in April, but that was only because my friend had a really bad day and decided to run with me instead of up at the front where she would normally be. I got a tattoo. I half-assed trained. I started to gain weight. Then more weight. Then more. In August, I managed to pull IM Ohio 70.3 out of my ass somehow. In October, I managed to cross the finish line at Marine Corps Marathon. Then came winter again, and more weight.
As I type this all out, I realize that finishing a 70.3 and finishing a marathon are all significant accomplishments. I should have been proud, and I’m sure I was in the moment. My inner dialogue was so much different. I was constantly critical of myself for not doing better, for not training more consistently, for not improving.
Because my inner 7th grader is constantly comparing herself to others, I saw friends out there training all the time, while I would sleep in and skip workouts. I saw others having fun during their training, while I would show up grumbling and complaining, struggling to finish what would have been (subjectively) easy the year before. I diminished this huge accomplishment (Ironman) because in the year following it, I knew I couldn’t replicate the effort…while I watched the other people I went to Florida with crossing finish line after finish line.
For the last year I blamed all this on depression, apathy, my work schedule, and lack of discipline. I realized last night that this whole time the depression, apathy and lack of discipline were all because I have felt like a fraud. Why would I post on a blog that strives to show that big girls can do great things? Especially because I could only do them for a split second and then went right back to where I started at. Total fraud.
But I am not a fraud. I may not be as physically fit as I was in November of 2015, but I am not a fraud.
I have completed an Ironman. I have the pictures and the finisher medal and a scar on my elbow to prove it, and I am not a fraud.
I may not be as fast as
everyone anyone else in the
running group, but I belong there, and I am not a fraud.
I may not be able to ride 50 miles to Muncie for waffle fries at Chik-fil-A right now, but I belong on that bike, and I am not a fraud.
This morning I woke up and went to my weekly session with my trainer. As I walked from my car to meet her, and reminded myself that my Self-Schema* (p 45) needed to act more mature. I strapped on my Alter Ego* (p 50) and proceeded to have my ass kicked for an hour.
There were other women there. Tiny women with toned arms, and tan lean legs that looked like they belonged. My Alter Ego and I were red faced, dripping with sweat, doing some of the most un-graceful looking Burpee Pull Ups ever seen. We smiled at them and knew that we belonged there too.
We are not a fraud.
*This is not a paid endorsement. I’m only 2 chapters in. For all I know, the entire rest of the book could suck. But I have a suspicion that it won’t. Get. This. Book.