What is Your Recovery Plan?

Mylena Sutton

Last year, I started running with increasing consistency. Frankly, I started running because I wanted to make exercise a regular thing in my life…and I thought running would be both free/cheap and easy. I’ve hit the consistency part, but I couldn’t have been more wrong about the free/cheap and easy part. Maaaaaaaaaan, running is the most expensive thing that I do that’s not related to my work. For starters, before I began running, I bought ONE pair of sneakers every 2 – 3 years….now, I’m buying them every 3 – 4 months!

Despite my present joy, it took me a while to get into the flow of running. Frankly, I was doing it for quite some time before I started to enjoy it.

I learned so many things the hard and expensive way. First, let’s talk about sports bras. Actually, let’s not. Just know that I realized that those things you pull over your head from Target won’t work, and I’m still salty about $50 bras when I have like $17 worth of boobs. Then, despite being an esthetician, I didn’t take my own advice and figured out that sun damage, sunburn, sun sensitivity are real! Black does crack and burn!! Then, I bought too many pairs of pricey running pants without anticipating that I’d lose weight and became the “constantly hiking ‘em up” queen. Another time, I nearly killed myself (I went on a run and didn’t eat enough beforehand or take enough water and got light-headed).

I felt stupid every time I learned a new lesson. I felt like I was wasting money. I also thought that I’d waited until too late in life to start to exercise because of some of the body issues I was experiencing. I even went to the doctor because I thought I had lung issues. My doctor was like, “You’re not dying. You just need to develop more endurance.” After that appointment, I felt even more stupid because I’d wasted a co-pay. In my mind, running was just supposed to happen, immediately and beautifully. Where in the world did I get that???? Seriously, I expected no learning curve after I got fitted for running shoes (Side note: “getting fitted” is how they start hustling you out of your money with running….and when I say it’s just the beginning, believe me). My expectations were so wrong. What goals have you given up on because of unrealistic expectations?

Then, one day, as I started my run, I told myself that I was just going to focus on noticing my body, i.e., paying attention to my breathing, whether anything hurt, how my shoes fit, etc…I was going to be mindful, rather than critical, of myself. That day was the first day that I actually made my goal, which was to run around the park (3.7 miles) without stopping. Later, as I thought about that accomplishment, it occurred to me that I’d improved so much, thanks to trial, error, and refusing to quit. It also occurred to me that the reason a thing is called a goal is because you can’t do it when you start. As a matter of fact, if you can do the thing when you start, you need a new goal!

But I couldn’t ignore the fact that I always felt bad about mistakes and lessons learned (probably a little bit of perfectionism going on there). Mistakes, however, are what makes us human; it’s just life. So, I decided that I needed to stop with the recurring self-condemnation because it was killing my confidence. Then, I came up with a strategy!!! I started writing “recovery notes”. I started writing notes to myself wherein I wrote about each and every running lesson or screw-up. I did so in detail and included why I thought it happened. I also wrote about how to prevent it from happening again. Sometimes, I realized that I didn’t know how to prevent certain problems from happening again, but I came to value simply acknowledging where I had knowledge gaps. The recovery notes were doing it for me! Everything from noticing how I felt while running to how I managed (or failed to manage) food choices during social events became a recovery note. Essentially, I wanted to stop recurring mistakes and overcome myself, including my propensity to beat myself up when there was no really good reason to. Either consciously do better or accept yourself as you are. The recovery notes helped me to see my progress and kept me from the temptation of repeating things that I knew wouldn’t work (kinda how it is when you look for your keys in the same place over and over again). I got so into it that I even wrote a recovery note about guy I dated….only God knows how much I didn’t need to do him again!

Writing the notes became an opportunity. Soon, I was responding to mistakes with, “Because I expected to win, I can’t wait until I get home to sort this out. Losing ain’t what I do.” In the time between that first recovery note and now, I’ve learned to celebrate my wins, I stopped talking to Brian, and I’m up to 10 miles. How might your perspective change if you studied your problems rather than beating yourself up about them?

So, girlfriend, start writing your recovery notes….they’ll help you to encourage yourself.

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