Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Plateau Insight

The perfect run
Yesterday I ran the perfect run. It was cool, sunny and dry. The skies were blue and there was wind, but not too much. The fall colors and smells, the leftover Halloween decorations and the wonderful fresh outdoor air made this run an unique experience. My mind was focused on enjoying the eleven-mile run; enjoying the beautiful sights of water while passing over the bridges; enjoying the birds singing their fall songs. I think people could have seen a faint smile on my face while I plowed my way though the streets. I was so happy just to run.

When I got home I was so psyched that I decided that I would do another eleven-mile run the next day. This time the focus would not be on the perfection of the run. It would be focused on pushing my body beyond the threshold of comfort. One of the things I learned over the nine months of running that to get to new levels you have to go beyond what feels comfortable; you got to stretch and then afterwards recover. So, knowing that my legs would be tired from the day before and wearing shoes that would be very comfortable but also a bit heavier, I knew that the second day would be a challenge and the eleven miles would be more comparable with the 13 miles I will run in two weeks.

The perfect challenge
This morning I put on my running shoes and took off. My legs were kinda painful and not very enthusiastic. I told myself "yeah, I knew that was going to happen. Now I can show my character and persistence in wanting to move beyond the boundaries". Normally after circa 2 miles I feel warmed up and running starts to become really comfortable, but this was not the case today. It was only after ca. five miles that my legs started to enjoy the challenge. My mind did not have the same problem. I was just enjoying the ride. Breathing the sea air, making up beliefs about how good I was taking care of myself and how happy I was to run this distance today again.

For people who have not read my earlier blogs about plateaus, you might want to grab back to the articles “Stuck, Unstuck, Restuck” and “11 Miles! Yay!” before continuing this article.

While running I was thinking about two conversations I had with friends this week. They both are trying to loose weight and both feel they have plateau-ed. In one of the conversations my friend says “ four days a week I get up at 5am to work out and I have not lost any weight”. She was clearly disappointed and seemed almost ready to give up.

I also remembered a conversation with my good friend Jenny about writing, in which she gave me a different picture to explain the critic in us that keeps us from bringing out our most authentic thoughts. She said that we could look at the critic as a guard that protects the well of inspirational thoughts and that we have to convince the critic that we have the right to use this resource for our purposes.

During my run, I scrambled all these bits of thoughts together and came to some new clarity around plateaus.
  1. A plateau is not a plateau, but a situation perceived by the plateau-er as a plateau
  2. We call something a plateau when what is, does not represent what we wanted it to be while we have tried to get what we want. For example, after five weeks of running I should be faster or run longer then I am doing. After being on a diet for six weeks I should have lost six to twelve pounds, but instead I am the same weight as when I started.
  3. A plateau is a lie detector. A plateau is a place created by you so you can re-evaluate your goals and wants. A place to look at your motivations and get a better understanding in yourself than you had before. This means you are not plateau-ed, but you have toe opportunity to reach into yourself and find a new way to reach the next level (compare it with computer games. A plateau is a level where you gain as much skill as is needed to get to a new level).
Plateau is a lie-detector? What do you mean?
Both my friends say they want to loose weight. But is that their true motivation? What about wanting to be healthy? If they would feel healthy and fit and would not loose all the weight they have as goal to loose, would they be OK with that? Is it just about losing weight, or is it for example about a new lifestyle that fits better with their body? Less stress in a lifestyle could also lead to loosing weight. So, what about looking at all these different possibilities and create a new clarity about beliefs, wants and motivations and continue per suing the goals from that new place.

I figured out that I had my nine-mile plateau because I was not sure that longer runs were going to fit in my lifestyle. I thought that it might be better to just stick to the 10K’s and only do this half marathon once and then stop this craziness. Then during my plateau period, when I started to look at my beliefs and motivations, I found a deeper understanding of why I was doing what I was doing, and I decided that I really wanted to continue to run longer distances. That was when I broke my plateau.

So, what do you think about seeing a plateau as a lie-detector? When you hit a plateau it shows you that is time to soul search. Your beliefs and motivations are not lining up with other wants you are having and because of that you are not moving closer to your goal. The plateau is pointing out that it is time to re-evaluate your beliefs and motivations so you can get on to the next level.

In the end I needed five more minutes to finish the second eleven-mile run in two days. My legs are clearly tired and feel painful enough not to want to leave this couch, and at the same time I am so happy I reached this new level of competence which already is enriching my life in many new ways. I am looking forward to my next plateau...

1 comment:

  1. Hey Iris, congratulations on the breakthroughs and the plateaus.
    It's interesting to think about how "plateau" has taken on a negative connotation in our culture of constant striving. Something to get through, beyond, past instead of a place to relax a bit and relish the success of having gotten there. And maybe more important, a place that is in itself worthy of exploration and awareness, not just the next jumping off point for more striving. When asked about 'progressive' musicians and pushing the boundaries of harmony, etc., Chet Atkins is said to have said something like: "Yeah, they're looking for it. I've found it." And Chet sure made a lot of good, joyful music from his plateau. But living on his plateau didn't mean he stopped exploring - he also said "Once you become predictable, no one's interested anymore."


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