I hate running, but a few times a year I decide to be a runner. I update my cardio playlist, stretch my legs, and tell myself it’s going to be fun this time. And it is, for the first few minutes. Then at some point around mile three, I have to stop and walk. I turn into a sweaty, grunty, red-faced monster. An angry tomato in running shoes, floundering down the sidewalk.
There’s a woman down the street who sits in a lawn chair on her porch when the weather’s nice. Some days I wave when I pass her, and some days she waves back. Last time I went running, I barely made it two miles before I had to catch my breath. I felt defeated and mad at myself. But as I passed the woman in the lawn chair, she called out from her porch, “Enjoy your walk!”
It hadn’t occurred to me that I walking. In my mind, I was just not running.
Running gets too hard after a while, but walking I can handle. So what if I’m not burning as many calories as quickly? When I’m walking, I can look around and appreciate the work my body is doing. Slowing my pace allows me to breathe and makes me stronger for my next run. It seems like a better use of my resources than running until I’m angry and then slamming on the brakes.
There’s nothing wrong with stopping to walk. In fact, I’ve decided to formalize it, alternating between running and walking while I’m still a beginner. I’m not lowering my expectations as much as I’m changing the plan. It feels doable.
I’m fumbling my way through a couple of projects at work right now, and doing things I’m not naturally good at. It’s been challenging, because I’m internally competitive. I want to be excellent at my job all the time. I want to be fast and reliable, no matter what I’m working on. But that’s not sustainable. I get tired, and my brain hurts.
As I stretch myself and learn new skills, I’m also learning to show myself a little more grace. After a sprint, I need to breathe. Reflect on what's working and what's not. Relax my muscles, and build up my energy for next time.
To get there, I’m trying to create moments of rest in my work. Most of the time, that means adjusting my pace and setting realistic deadlines. Sometimes it’s a day off, a long lunch, or leaving my computer at the office over the weekend. Sometimes it's reading. Maybe it’s going from a stressful and difficult project to one that’s more in my comfort zone. Or it could be a debrief, where I can listen to feedback and articulate what I learned.
In those places, I slow down and enjoy the walk.