Every year around my birthday I get a little quiet and think about what I’m doing and where I’m going. I’m pretty sure I’m going to look back on my 36th year as one of the most challenging in my life. I knew I was going to be making a “few" changes this past year. What I didn’t know is that NOTHING was going to work out the way I thought it was going to.
I always think about goats during my annual “quiet birthday reflection time.” I’ve always been somewhat fixated on having goats. What I thought would be a liner path to goat ownership has proved to be quite an interesting journey. As it turns out you can’t have goats in the middle of town or in a building with no yard. Maybe I’m not meant to have goats? Let’s not be ridiculous, the goats are a serious life goal. Going into last year I recognized that something in my life had to change in order to move the needle towards the goat goal.
I could go down a rabbit-hole of life and business decisions that got me here but instead I’ll say this: I LOVE what I do. I think of my job as the same as the person that works at an amusement park. The one that ushers you onto the rollercoaster, checks your seatbelt for safety and then smiles and waves as you take off towards the long ascent into fun… that’s me! To know the fitness industry is also to know that it’s extremely hard one to make a living in. This industry is famous for long hours and little return, hence the needing to make a change.
I know enough about myself to know that I’ll never be successful doing something that I’m not crazy passionate about. My passion for fitness comes from knowledge, from the many years of studying exactly how fitness can literally change your mental and physical health outcome into old age. On the other hand, my bicycle is all heart. The feeling of staring down a new adventure feeds my soul. I’m also passionate about this old building we own, I absolutely love our community and I saw an opportunity to make something special. I decided to pull together all of the resources I could find and start an ambitious project.
I was scared and I was alone walking into unchartered territory. When we started the fitness business it was my husband and I together, now his career has taken him to a different path. It’s one thing to be crazy passionate about something, it’s another thing to mold that passion into a functioning business. No one mentions how much you have to give up when you make a big change in life. For a few months I had to set my fitness routine on a shelf, my workouts were literally trimming 1,600 sq. feet of barn tin into 2x2 ft. squares. I had to give up extracurricular reading and my little craft projects. I simply didn’t have the energy. Everything I had went into keeping my family together and finishing this project.
I’m going to address how many times I was told NO during this last year. I could write an entire book about being told no; banks, insurance agencies, bicycle companies, parts suppliers, window contractors, contractors in general love to tell me no. I have always considered myself a pretty resilient individual but the constant stream of being told no really made me question my sanity and almost broke me. Instead I learned to pivot. I learned that behind every “no” is a better solution to the problem that you were trying to solve.
Now that all of the reclaimed barn tin has settled into a perfect grid on the ceiling, I can say things worked out exactly how they were supposed to. I came out with a whole new understanding of myself. So buried in these words I guess my point to this story is this: Don’t be scared and absolutely don’t give up if you have a goal. It’s hard to sit and look at your life and assess what’s working and what is not working. It’s even harder to take steps to change what’s not working. Be brave and take that step anyway. It’s going to be near impossible to keep going when it gets hard. Keep marching and when you fall, you get back up and you march.
I’ve often said it to my clients; “Sometimes in life fitness just can’t be a priority and it will be okay.” These last six-ish months I’ve had the pleasure of living my words, and it wasn’t exactly fun. As I played general contractor on our second floor I felt like I could actually feel my hard earned fitness leaving my body. Sure I could sneak in a 10 minute workout here and there but it was nothing like what my body and mind were used to. Then came “Dirty Kanza” season, a season I absolutely love but also a season known for the complete lack of balance. My actual thoughts included, "my arm strength is decreasing by the day.” I worked so hard to do a pull-up… was I going to lose all my progress?!?
In times of stress I try to separate myself into two parts, my emotions and then my rational being. My emotions where a wreck, a big part of why I workout is my brain. Without the usual stimulus of sweat, burpees and barbells my brain resembles a hamster running laps in a cage. When my emotions start running laps I entertain them for a bit but then try to force my rational self to talk them back down.
My first concern was loosing my strength, as silly as that sounds. When we opened the gym I had zero strength and so I set goals for myself. Goals I had to work really really hard to meet. I’m not a natural “athlete”, so I had to spend several years of my life working to get stronger. It was a huge undertaking and something I’m proud of. My emotions felt like my progress and hard work were slipping through the cracks as the days ticked by.
Here comes rational Tara… Okay emotions, let’s just accept that we are going to lose some strength. Is it really that big of a deal? You have spent literal years building the strength, do you really think it’s all doing to disappear over a few weeks/months? Come on Tara, you’re smarter than this. If you can only do three pull-ups instead of four is the impact on your life really that big of a deal? Can you still go to the park and play on the monkey bars with your kids? Yes, yes you can, so no, loosing a small amount of strength isn’t that big of a deal.
Then I was concerned about the loss of momentum. I don’t care much for motivation, it’s fleeting and finicky. Momentum on the other hand, momentum is huge and when it starts to waiver you can get in hot water with your fitness regime real fast. Knowing how much momentum mattered made me stressed. A huge fear was coming out of the remodel and on the other side finding a life that didn’t have time for fitness? That’s a downward spiral that can go straight to the pits of “What have I gotten myself into” really fast, not exactly a productive thought pattern.
Step back emotional Tara and let’s talk about stress. Exercise IS stress. It’s a good stress, but we know that all stress has an accumulating affect. There were a lot of stressors going on; the remodel, preparing for a huge bike adventure, amplified marriage and child stress because I was stretched so thin, financial stress as I just kept writing checks, and the stress of having so many things be out of my control. My rational mind knew it was a terrible time to put a huge amount of additional voluntary [exercise] stress on my body. There are a slew of negative things that happen when your body is stressed; among them being decreased hormone regulation and a decreased ability for your body to heal itself. These two factors increase the likelihood of sickness and injury, which were definitely not on my list of things to do. Rational Tara knew that the key was to get up and move as much as possible and accept that it wasn’t a great time to try to make huge progress in the gym.
I also want to take a moment to talk about “false starts” or as I like to think of it, a little guy named Murphy and his law. Murphy is not an emotion, he’s real, and we are friends. His law states that if anything can go wrong it will. Murphy’s Law seems to be amplified when things aren’t quite going the way you pictured them in your head.
There are weeks when I think I have everything lined up and worked out and have a solid plan for getting in some serious gym time. Only to be knocked straight on my butt by Murphy. For example, this spring I got hit by a car (weeks before I felt normal) and last month I contracted some weird vector-borne disease (days before I recovered). These are extreme examples but the misery of being completely sidelined taught me something. It helped me deal with more regularly occurring roadblocks like my husband’s job/schedule and my children, both of which have a way of bulldozing my best laid plans.
With this in mind I keep Murphy in my rational thoughts and plan for him to show up at the worst time. If I know beforehand that the day is going to be chaotic I’ll sneak in a workout with the 5:30 group. If that doesn’t work I’ll try to at least sneak in a 10 or 15 minute session throughout the day. If my kids mess up my schedule I’ll take them to the park and partake in a completely unstructured “workout” instead of sitting and watching them run around. Sometimes there’s nothing I can do, so I take a deep breath and try not to dwell on it. After all, tomorrow is a new day!
I will close with that, tomorrow is a new day! Like a mantra. Take a deep breath, clear you mind and set the intention/ goal for the next day. No matter what your last week(s), month(s), or year(s) have looked like… tomorrow is a new day. It’s never too late to try again. In my head we have all linked arms and are now signing, “Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I love ya Tomorrow!”
Thanks for reading,
What a day. I came for an adventure and Dirty Kanza certainly didn’t disappoint.
Coming off a rough spring as far as life stress, terrible weather and then getting hit by a car at the peak of my training... My goal of the day was to stay present and focused in the moment and not freak out about the enormity of the task at hand. I turned off all my apps and tracking devices and focused on being grateful for the experience; I got to spend a whole day doing something that I love!
Here’s a recap of my day, along with all of my rookie mistakes:
Mile 1 - 64: It was an absolutely beautiful morning! I felt fantastic other than the fatigue in my shoulders from using my new Camelbak for the first time (mistake #1). Cinnamon was having issues using her gears, she was jumping around like crazy and at one point the chain got completely stuck and I couldn’t pedal. I knew going into the event that her chain was on its last leg but the shop recommended not replacing it until after the race (possibility mistake #2). Anyway, I found the five gears I was able to use and kept rolling.
Mile 64 - 100: The pain caused by my Camelbak escalated and we strapped it to my bike to save my shoulders. It was getting hot quick and I was worried about staying hydrated. I used a different type of hydration tablet, it ended up being pretty tasty and we kept moving up and over "some" big hills. When I could breathe and raise my head up enough to look around the views were absolutely breathtaking. Going downhill was the fastest I’ve ever gone on a bicycle. This section was challenging, beautiful, exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time.
Mile 100 - 120. The wheels totally fell off. When we stopped for water at mile 100 I dropped another one of my "new" tablets in my water, well this one tasted like a warm sack of vomit (mistake #3). I stopped drinking because every time I took a sip I threw up in my mouth a bit. The heat and the hills kept coming, there were zonked-out cyclist everywhere... sitting under trees, laying in the shade in the ditch, hiding out in old barns. My mental game when in the 🚽. I kept pushing, wanting to test my limit but also distinctly aware of crossing the threshold into having a heatstroke. I started having to walk up the big hills. I LOVE to climb but the climbing was jacking up my heart rate too much I wasn't recovering well.
Mile 120 - 140. We FINALLY roll into the water stop at mile 120. We were way later than we wanted to be. After taking a quick stock of the situation my training partners and I realized that we had to change strategy. We sent CJ off so he could finish the thing. CT was working on fixing a flat and I was focused on bringing myself back from the mental and physical trashcan I had been occupying for the last 20 miles. I ate a bag of frosted animal cookies (lifesaver!) and perked back up. CT tried two tubes with no luck. I decided I still had a little fight in me and went for a solo cannonball run for the checkpoint at mile 151.
I shot off like a rocket and get to mile 125 before I realize that I don’t have the route (mistake #4) the sun is going down and I have no lights (mistake #5) or my glasses (mistake #6). There were two people ahead of me and hoping that they were more equipped I turned up my music and absolutely smashed the pedals. I latched on to them and they were so nice to me. I will probably never see them again but I want them to know that I love them and appreciated this kindness so so much. They kept trying to make pleasant conversation with me but I was mostly nonverbal at this point, crying and riding my bike at the same time.
We got to mile 140 when the sun had set and everything was turning into a blur for me. I can’t see at night. As they all turned on their lights I realized it was irresponsible for me to continue. I didn’t want to risk falling and ruining the summer for my family... so I stopped.
I am disappointed but at peace. At the rider’s meeting Jim said to find your limit and I feel like I accomplished that goal. I learned a lot, mostly that I still have a lot to learn. It was an amazing day and I can't wait to get back out there. :-)