A race over too soon

This week in one of my Facebook groups the posts have been filled with pictures and memories. A woman who’d been with us in many training sessions died after a brief bout with pancreatic cancer.

fleet feet running
Lynn Hutchins Edwards

Her friends reflected on her ever-present smile and the fun she brought to even the most mundane workouts. In fact, sometimes they missed the turns they were supposed to take because they were having so much fun. She trained with the training groups sponsored by our local running store and she served as a mentor for other training programs. She was always ready to encourage someone else, trying to seduce them into loving running as much as she did.

I spent some time looking at the pictures they posted and yes, she was smiling in every one. She was strong and she was fit, but she wasn’t petite. Still, she was a runner.

As I looked at her beaming face, I thought about how many women keep themselves from such joy simply because they don’t think they’re the right size. They’re afraid of what someone might think. Their fear of what doesn’t matter (what other people might think) keeps them from doing things that really do matter.

When I bought my first tri suit the saleswoman warned me, “it’s going to show every bulge and you just have to step out anyway.” She was right, it does. But she was also right in that I did. Now I’m training for my seventh triathlon. More than that, I have the joy (okay, and sometimes the agony) of all of those races. I didn’t let the fact that my body wasn’t perfect keep me from a perfectly good time.

Lynn was average size with a bigger-than-average heart. And she was a runner.

Thank God for that, for through her running she blessed us all.

You go, girl.


Before you make your New Year’s Resolutions

According to University of Scranton Professor John Norcross, who studies such things, by June 60% of us will have abandoned our New Year’s resolutions.

Cheery thought, isn’t it?

A lot of things contribute to our failures. We make goals that are too big and too broad. I will never eat sugar again for the rest of my life. (There’s a reason people in recovery talk about taking it one day at a time. Forever is a big bite to take on at once.) They are too much of a leap from where we are. I will start running and do a marathon in a month. They are too vague. I will get into shape.

Good goals are SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound.) If I make a resolution to give up brussels sprouts that’s not relevant because I never eat brussels sprouts anyway.  If you’re into such things, here’s a worksheet.

But there’s another reason we drop out before reaching our goals. We define what we’re going to do but we never address the mess inside our head. It’s like trying to drive with the brake on. It’s hard to succeed if there’s a voice in your head telling you that you’ve always been a failure. (Here’s more specific information on dealing with the critical voices in your head.)

fitness motivationAs a mentor with the No Boundaries program sponsored by Fleet Feet (as well as in my own journey) I’ve seen how much our heads can get in the way of our feet. That’s why I created MindRight/BodyFit, a weekly podcast or PDF addressing an issue that can get in the way of beginning or maintaining a fitness program. You can read more about it (and even sign up!) here.


The beginning of a new year is a great time to set goals for living in healthier ways. Just don’t forget to take care of the unhealthy stuff between your ears.

My Best Workout Ever

It’s early yet, but it may well turn out to be the best possible training session for my upcoming triathlon. It wasn’t a series of laps and drills in the pool, as important as those are. It wasn’t a run or a bike ride or even a brick workout (biking followed immediately by running), as necessary as all of those are. 

My pivotal workout was this: I played. In the pool. With a six year old. 

We raced. We jumped in the pool about a thousand times, mostly jumping together to create the biggest splash. I hurled his sixty-pound self in the air and into the water. I spent a lot of time treading water while waiting for him to jump or to swim to me or for my turn up the ladder. We had splash fights.

I didn’t count laps or do warm-ups or concentrate on form. I played. In the water. With a six year old.

Later that day when I went to the lap pool for an official practice, something was different. Something big. A week ago I felt awkward but now I moved through the water as if I belonged there. I felt more confident.

I’d reconnected with my inner fish. I’d reconnected with the girl who used to spend hours in the pool. Not racing. Playing. My body remembered what it was like to swim for the sake of swimming, swimming to get from the Marco Polo game to the slide, swimming just because I could.

As adults, we spend lots of time working. We work at our jobs. We work on our golf games or running times or tennis strokes. We work on the house or the yard. We work on ourselves. I’ve done all those things and even enjoyed most of the doing of them.

But sometimes when we are so strongly focused on work we forget the magic of play. I will sometimes give a client an assignment to try something new. Maybe it’s a new way of thinking or of reacting or a new tool for channeling emotions or dealing with stress. “I don’t want you to work on it,” I tell them, sometimes to their surprise. “Play around with it.”

When we play, we’re more relaxed. We’re focused on the moment of the thing, not some goal we have to accomplish. We play at this thing until we’re ready to play at something else. In the pool with my six year old buddy, I didn’t have a quota of jumps that had to be made before I could call it a day. We just jumped until we grew tired of it then moved on to something else. It didn’t mean that we had failed or done the jumps wrong or not lived up to our potential.

Allow yourself some time this weekend to play. If you run, for once leave the watch at home and just enjoy being outside and seeing the things you see. If you’re trying to make changes in your life, play around with what it feels like to go a day or an afternoon as the person you want to be. You don’t have to make a lifetime commitment. Just play with it.

There are time for goals and to-do lists. But there is also a time for play.

Who knows? That time may wind up being the time that makes all the difference.

I went running

I had a bit of a break today at lunchtime so I grabbed the dogs and went running. Tuesday’s not a normal running day since I work out at the gym on Tuesdays. But today I needed to run.

Like you, I have been heartsick over the tragedy in Boston. I have all of the feelings that come hand in hand with tragedy like this. But with this one, there’s another layer.

While I know people who’ve run Boston, more than likely I never will. I’m still looking for that elusive first marathon to to hang on my wall. But I’m a runner all the same.

A marathoner on NPR said it well today. “Marathons are about the best of the human spirit. Total strangers cheer you on and give you orange slices and tell you they’re proud of you.” I love to do races because of that spirit and energy. When people tell me, at the end of a training program, “I don’t need to do the race because I’ve already run the distance” I tell them that they’re missing the best part.

Like you, I’m heartsick over this new Boston Massacre. I didn’t quite know what to do with it all so I went running. I ran to honor all of those who were there yesterday. I ran because when we feel a little lost we go back to those places that feel most like home.

I think that’s why Peter announced he was going fishing after the resurrection. Sure, Jesus was alive but it was probably still very confusing, even if less sad. Besides, Peter knew he’d let Jesus down when it mattered most, and that air had not been cleared between them. So he went fishing.

And  I went running. I packed the dogs into the car and took them to one of the places they love best, the trail around Salem Lake. We ran between the perfect combination of water on one side and woods on the other. Deep still waters. Tall, deeply rooted trees with the first vulnerable leaves of spring. Clouds drifting away, leaving behind a warm blue sky.

The dogs grinned and sniffed and grinned some more. They’ll sleep better tonight for having exercised their full dogginess. Perhaps I will too. For there was healing in the running and healing in the creation and healing in hearing all of the stories on the radio, today not stories of mayhem and confusion but stories of compassion and caring.

ImageThe marathon is about the best of the human spirit, she said, and it was so yesterday as well. Restaurants offered whatever they had, free of charge if you didn’t have your wallet on you. A “pet hotel” offered to keep the pets of stranded people. People opened their homes to complete strangers. A man somewhere in the south called his tax preparer and said he wanted to donate $100 of his return to injured marathoners. 

As more stories emerge, our hearts will break again and again. If we are wise, we’ll care for our hearts by doing whatever it is that we do… running, fishing, caring for one another, allowing our broken hearts to open to the world.

We weren’t able to stop the bombs from going off.

But that bomber cannot stop our tide of love.


Running with Eeyore

ImageI think I’m running alone. But as I start my run, I realize that he’s there again. Eeyore.

“You can never do this,” he mournfully observes as my legs struggle through a warm-up. “This isn’t working out.”

By now I’ve learned that it takes me a good two miles to get warmed up. Still, he doesn’t stop. “You just don’t have it today. You should stop.” It’s hard enough to get warmed up without having to haul a stubborn, sad donkey along behind me. But he’s still there.

“You don’t even look like a runner. Just a few blocks and you’re struggling. You’ll never run all that way. Might as well give up now.”

If there’s one thing I’ve learned though my time of running, it’s to ignore Eeyore. His voice will eventually fade. And on those days when it doesn’t I run anyway, taking comfort that even today I’ve lapped everyone who is still on the couch. I’ve learned not to give Eeyore a vote on my run.

Maybe your voice isn’t Eeyore. And maybe it isn’t about running. Maybe your voice is Mom or Dad or your third grade teacher telling you that you’re always a screw-up. Or you’ll never do anything right. Or be as smart or as successful as your brother. Maybe it’s the voice of a wounded part of you that never got past that wounded experience and now warns you that things will never work out, that the other shoe will always drop.

We all have voices in our head. We all have different tapes of messages we’ve absorbed. While we don’t always have a choice about when those tapes start playing, we do have a choice as to how much we listen to them and how much weight we give to them.

One of the first tasks is to identify whose voice it is. Where did that message come from? If you don’t know, that’s okay. But it can be powerful to correctly name the source. Sometimes I’ll ask clients to make the voice into a cartoon character, like I did with Eeyore. When we do that, the voice loses some of its power.

We can also make a choice as to which voices we listen to in our heads. We can choose to allow empowering voices drown out the voices of fear or self-doubt. For example, lately I’ve been thinking about a man named Lewis Ludlum. Lewis was in our church and was himself a minister. (Lewis was such  passionate believer in equality for women he asked that I be one of his pallbearers, and I was.) As I grew up and began writing, Lewis began coming up with projects I could do. I remember a note he sent to me outlining one of those projects. “You can do it,” he said. “We need what you have to offer.”

You can do it. We need what you have to offer. Now that’s a powerful and empowering tape.

Occasionally those negative voices are so powerful they screen out or dismiss the positive ones and so we genuinely don’t remember receiving them. In those cases, we can become our own best advocates. What are the messages that can empower you today?

I’m not a track star and in races I’m generally aiming to finish the race before they start taking down the finish line. If I try to tell myself that I’m going to run like the wind, I’m not going to be able to get anywhere because Eeyore will be laughing too hard. But if I tell myself, “I can do this… all I have to do is take the next step…” That’s a tape that I can play louder than Eeyore can complain.

What about you? Who are you listening to?

A Worthless Walk

As I ran around the track this morning  I was joined by a class of kids from the high school up the hill. At least, that’s what  I assumed they were. They shuffled and strolled around the track while their teacher stood silently at one end, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they were ducking behind the tennis courts to take a short cut.  I am normally so supportive of anyone moving in any way, but I have to tell you: the day the doctor first let me walk around that track after five months of being non-weightbearing,  I walked faster than most of those kids.

Maybe because it was nearly the end of May but the teacher seemed to be checked out. There were no shouts of encouragement, no words of prodding. Just silent waiting. It was all I could not to revert to coach mode and start yelling at them myself.

As I watched them endure the torture of a lap or two around the track, I felt very sad. I felt sad for a group of kids who were so oblivious to such a fine morning and who were so disconnected from their bodies. But mainly I felt sad because they didn’t have anyone to push them to do better. They didn’t have it on the track. I wondered if they had it anywhere.  I knew what my own  running coaches and mentors meant to me. Three and a half years ago I could barely shuffle around the track. Last Saturday I ran ten miles. Between there and here I had people who pushed me to keep going, to take one more step, to do the things that my mind was convinced was impossible.

The late Wake Forest basketball coach Skip Prosser was found of using the quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Our chief want in life is someone who shall make us do what we can.” We all need people in our lives who will push us. If we have been open to growing as we grow up, we internalize those people. Eventually we are able to find inside our own selves that voice, that push, that word of encouragement.

Recently  I saw a tweet from the “life is good” folks: “You can give up, give in or give it all you’ve got.” We all need that part of ourselves that’s able to say, “Come on – give it all you’ve got.”

I was sad because those kids wasted their walk this morning. And I was sad because I didn’t know how many of them would also waste their walk through this life, shining less brightly than they might have done, doing less than they could have done, being less than they were created to be.

What about you?

(Not quite) Ready for My Closeup

So two mornings a week I’m helping with a training program sponsored by our local YMCA and run by Fleet Feet sports. I’ve helped with this program before, helping people move from being inactive to completing a 5K race, and I love it.

This time is a little different. One difference is that we’re meeting in the morning. Another difference is that one day a week, the TV cameras are there. Morning show personalities from our local TV station are participating in a weight loss challenge, and one of the things that they’re doing is participating in our program.

On the day of our initial information meeting, I came dressed in my running clothes. Before the meeting I’d been across the street, doing speed work on the track. I was sweaty. My hair, dirty before the run, now had the benefit of being frizzy and sweat soaked as well.

After the presentation ended a couple of us were talking together about how much we did not want to be on TV. The words were no more out of our mouths before a microphone (and camera) was in my face. “Would you share your story?” the reporter asked.

I took comfort in the hope that they would not use it. But after a day or two I started getting messages on my Facebook wall: “Saw you on TV!”


My first thought was to be embarrassed. I knew I looked a fright (and it wasn’t even Halloween yet!) But then I kept thinking…

When a football player is interviewed after a game, the last thing on his mind is how his hair looks. I’ve never known of a player who ducked an interview because he hadn’t washed his hair yet. It doesn’t matter. It’s not the point.

We who are women are often focused on the wrong things. We focus on all that is wrong with our bodies instead of all that is right. How we look is always the trump card that carries more weight (no pun intended) than everything else. A few years ago I could not move my left leg, and now I run. And I was worried about my hair?

I realized that I just needed to get over it. When I run or work out, my hair does get messed up. And it doesn’t matter. The point isn’t how good I look. The point is profound gratitude that I can move, that I can run. My body is doing what it’s supposed to do.

If I’m booked for a TV interview, I’ll do the hair and make-up routine. But if you catch me on the run, you’re going to catch me as I am. And that’s perfectly fine by me.