Author: Alex

Hi. I'm Alex (aka zippy). I work as a executive coach for senior leaders who are technical experts and want to lead human teams with meaning, value, and exceptional results.

Unexpected Joys of Running

Monster Inc.
image courtesy of Pixar

Sully and Mike Wizowski were right.  There’s more energy in laughter.

This past Sunday, I ran the Ashland Half Marathon.  The plan was to leave the garmin at home and run in a tutu and fairy wings,  1. It was so close to Halloween and 2. To remind myself that I was doing this one for fun.  Somewhere, maybe 15 yards past the start line, I started making plans to ditch the wings which were flapping all around.

And then I ran past a group of spectators.  The youngest were toddlers.  I was unprepared for their un-containable excitement.  There were squeals and smiles and exclamations – “mom, look there’s a fairy!”  Wow!  You can’t get that from from two cups of coffee!  And it was contagious – I smiled.  All the runners around me smiled – and we kept running.

13.1 (hilly) miles.  It never stopped.  The squeals, the excitement, the smiles.  They came from toddlers most readily, but there were no shortages from parents and grandparents. Each and every time it happened – I smiled wider and felt a surge of energy.  The wings kept flapping and bumping my arms, but there was no way I could ditch them, anymore.  I was hooked on this and I was actually having a blast  – running a half marathon.

When the race was done, I waited in line for my complimentary massage. It was such a hilly course, my quads were burning and my hamstrings were tight, as expected.  But for the first time, I was aware of sore muscles where I’ve never felt sore.  My cheeks.  The muscles in my cheeks were actually tight and ached from smiling for 13.1 miles.

I accomplished my race goal for Sunday – “have fun.”  And as an added bonus, powered by laughter and joy, I also set a new half marathon PR.  Go figure.

I may re-examine my perspective on endurance and trying hard.

Alex running in a tutu
this is why my cheek muscles ached.

Up hill

InspirationI have one rule for running up hill.

I never ask myself how I’m feeling when I am running up a hill.  My answer is never positive.  And worse – listening to my answer creates an opening for more negative thoughts and almost always spirals right down into ” I don’t think I can do this – maybe I should quit.”   It’s so much harder to run up a hill when I’m telling myself I can’t do it.

Running up hills, like the one on Green Street in Ashland’s Half Marathon, is just hard.  The energy requirement creates enormous physical stress on the body.  This physical stress triggers our hormones and becomes mental stress or a negative perspective.  The fact is that the hill will always be easier to climb if you tell yourself that you can do it.  (think little engine that could – “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”)  The second fact is that there will always be hills – so it’s best to have a strategy before you are halfway up and thinking about quitting.

Here’s some good news.  If you happen to find yourself without a strategy tomorrow, while running up Green Street – we have added affirmations on the course for you.  So one step at a time – you can conquer the Green Street Monster.  If you find yourself running next to a woman dressed as a fairy muttering “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” – say hi.  That’s me!

Good luck tomorrow to all the runners!

Step 1. Commit

commit buttonI’m an advocate of thoughtful goal setting & planning.

Everyday I work with business  leaders to help them identify and develop meaningful and achievable goals.   This is the core of my  professional success.  I know this like I know the sun will come up later this morning.

And yet…here I am (again).  I’ve started another massive challenge just by clicking on a submit button.  Before giving myself the chance to think through the goal, potential plans to reach my goal, or even what the first step might be, I have committed.   I have “taken a flyer.”  I am now registered for the 2014 USA Triathlon National Championships – Olympic Distance.

It’s not the first time.  I have no doubt that it won’t be the last.  And I am even more sure that at some point during this challenge I will utter my signature phrase, “it seemed like a good idea at the time.”

I don’t advocate “the flyer” with my clients, but it’s often an effective way for me to start a new personal challenge.  As a thinker, it moves me into action without the distraction of research, analysis, deliberation, etc.  It’s a move from the gut with a lot of faith that the details will come together once I’ve made the commitment.

inTent is where I will capture and share my experiences of all of the elements related to taking on this bold/audacious goal.  Welcome to the tent.