5 minute read.
What do these three things have in common?
These are all events that are going on in my life right now, or they happened recently in one way or another, either directly to me or to people in my family. Let’s talk about what each one of them mean, and what you can learn from them.
A. Track Meets
I get to watch my sons and daughters run in high school as well as college track and field right now. It’s thrilling to watch them because they are so fast. There is nothing quite like the feeling of watching your own flesh and blood tearing it up on a track. They make me really proud that I am their father. It also brings back a lot of memories when I was in track and field.
My high school track coach always used to tell me, track and field has rules that you can easily apply to life. However, he didn’t tell me what those lessons actually were. I had to find out for myself by doing it.Sounds a lot like doing powerful presentations and public speaking! You have to actually do it to get better at it.
Although it annoyed me most of the time to have my coach yell at me from the sidelines during a race, it actually helped me push harder and I ended up doing better than if no one was there at all. From my perspective being a lifelong runner, here are the biggest life lessons I’ve learned from being in track and field.
1. If you think you are working hard, you can always work harder.
No matter what kind of crazy workout my coach put me through, there was always a purpose. He always reminded me that I was 10 times more capable of doing what I thought I was currently able to do.
I didn’t even realize how much I could run or jump on command during a practice. I didn’t realize how fast I could sprint when I was beyond exhaustion. That’s what track and field teaches you — that you are much more capable of things you didn’t realize you could do.
2. The more effort you put into your work, the easier it gets.
When you’re running through the woods, on the track, or in the street, the pain always seems to ease up at some point. The initial pain of running turns into a runner’s high and at this point, it actually seems like it will be more painful to stop than to just keep going. In my experience, as I built up my level of fitness, runner’s high was not always guaranteed, but it did happen quite often if I pushed myself past a certain distance, usually 8-9 miles.
Starting out, you set goals for yourself like “OK, I’ll run to the next intersection,” but then you push the goal more and more as you handle more and more. The more you run, the more you don’t want to stop. It becomes a progression. You learn that progress on anything worthwhile takes one step at a time, instead of looking ahead at how much further you have to run before it’s over.
3. Preparation is your friend.
Preparation is always the key to success. It’s not just about stretching and warming up. It’s about dressing for unpredictable weather, and also preparing yourself mentally for a rough road ahead. As anyone knows in the Midwest United States, you could be running in rain, hail, snow, sleet, fog, 95 degrees with 100 percent humidity, or -20 degrees with windchill (if you are an outdoor winter runner). This gives special meaning to “dress for success.”
4. You’re not going to die.
Have you ever ran a race so hard that when you crossed that finish line, you thought you were going to die? No matter how much you don’t want to push yourself past that point of pain and exhaustion, your coach and teammates expect you to put in the effort. Why? Because they know you expect them to do the same.
But you also expect it from yourself. I mean, what’s the point of running a race if you don’t give it your all? You know it’s going to hurt like hell, but you do it anyway. You can’t let the anxiety get to you. When the time comes, you have laser focus and you just do it. Then within a minute, it’s over and you find that it wasn’t as bad as you initially thought. That’s for sprinters, throwers, jumpers, and short distance runners.
With distance runners it lasts a bit longer, but if you invested in proper training, you make sure you are conditioned to meet the challenge and then you just learn to strategically run within a certain number of laps. The “wall” as we like to call it, happens in the last lap and also the last stretch before the finish line. You will most likely hit the wall if you put 100 percent effort and sprint in the last part of your race.
5. Your teammates have your back.
Nothing builds teamwork and camaraderie like being in a running sport, and having your friends go through the exact same thing. You come to realize sooner or later that they know EXACTLY what you are going through, because they are going through the same thing!
Whether they jump, sprint, vault, throw, or run long distance, everybody has their own specialty, and it’s thrilling to watch them improve and meet or exceed their goals. But no matter what discipline you choose for yourself, everybody just wants their teammate to succeed.
My teammates were always there for me, cheering me on during my races. I was there for them as well. If your sport means something to you, you develop a deep kinship with your teammates. It was obvious that we were all in it together. It’s an unspoken understanding.
B. Getting Sick
If you live with more than a few people in your home, then you know exactly what it’s like to get sick and then have it passed on to everyone in the house. This is most likely caused by germ-spreading factories called school children.
But we actually pick up load of sick germs everywhere we go, such as supermarkets, restaurants, stores, and all kinds of other public places. We like to call that “the gift that keeps on giving the whole year.” Unfortunately, yucky cold viruses and nasty bacteria are alive and well not just in winter, but during spring and fall as well. Summer colds aren’t as common, but they happen.
Add allergies to this mix, and it can make a person feel truly miserable. Getting sick and then trying to perform in a particular sport can be devastating to your immune system, and feels really sucky if you try to stick it out! Otherwise, all you can do is wait, rest, and take advantage of your mom’s awesome chicken soup.
The lesson here? Know when to give it your all, and also know when to back off and let yourself get over being sick. Give yourself some time to heal and be kind to your body.
C. Runaway Weenies
You may be asking yourself right about now, what does “Runaway Weenies” mean?? I don’t blame you for:
1) Thinking I am a HUGE WEIRDO for writing that.
2) Being really confused by the term “Runaway Weenies.”
Let me explain.
This was the name of a fun school project that my 12 year old daughter was doing for seventh grade social studies. As part of a group project, she had to think up a slogan as well as write and record a 30 second radio commercial for a fictional brand of hot dog called “Runaway Weenies.”
I have to admit, I was a bit taken back when my daughter asked me to help her with this school project. She didn’t know what to do. So I helped her write a slogan, which meant coming up with a short memorable tagline after the brand name. We came up with “Runaway Weenies. So good you’ll have to catch ’em before they’re gone.”
Then she recorded her voice for a 30 second commercial spot, and we dubbed in some appropriate upbeat background music with a little audio editing software called Audacity. It sounded pretty good! We were both happy with the finished product, and her social studies teacher loved it.
I am so glad I worked with my daughter on this project, because:
1) It was fun!
2) It was a great way to connect on an intellectual and creative level with my daughter, which is kind of rare these days.
The lesson for this one is take advantage of rare opportunities when you can get them!
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