One of my most common recurring dreams involves being back in school, usually college, and I’m approaching the end of the semester. I realize that there’s a class final coming up, but I never went to class all semester. I am completely unprepared for the final, no papers have been written. This kind of anxiety dream is not uncommon for most people. Being unprepared is only one level of anxiety. For me, going deeper, it leads to one of my biggest fears, that I will be discovered as a fraud with no idea what I’m doing.
I had a dose of that old anxiety today on my morning run. Now that it’s cold again, I’m out in the same gear that I first put on last December, without the ski goggles or fleece hat. I was reminded of those first times I ventured out into the cold, going a mile, maybe a bit more. Back in those days, I used the goggles for a couple reasons. The first was that I really was new to being outside in the cold. I went a bit overboard on the gear, but at the time, I wanted to make sure I had no excuses to not get out there. I discovered a secondary benefit to the goggles though, which was anonymity. With a completely covered face, I could go out on the road and no one would know who I was. I’m not sure how realistic this was, as it’s a small town. But I liked hiding my face away as I got used to going outside on the road, in tights.
The weather warmed, I got more comfortable being seen in public, and the doughboy year one project started to form.
Today I’m back in the cold weather gear, and I noticed myself falling back into an old habit: walking when anyone saw me.
Let me explain. When I first started running, I followed Couch-to-5K, which alternates between intervals of run-walk-run-walk, building up to a steady run. When I would be out “running,” I’d slow to a walk when a car was coming by. This is the opposite of most people’s instincts, where the presence of a witness makes you more likely to speed up and look good at what you’re doing. But for me, the instinct was far different. I felt like a fraud out on the road, as if a driver would think “look at the big fat guy out running. Who’s he kidding?”
I’m not saying this is a good attitude, but it’s the truth. Today on my run, I was doing a run-walk method, more like Galloway’s recommendations, my version of speedwork/intervals. I found myself doing the same thing as I did last winter: walk when I saw a car, speed up when they passed.
The habit was so ingrained in me, even if the mentality that started it was not as strong as it used to be. I no longer feel like a fraud being out there, but I have to admit that I tackled the incongruity of the image of a guy my size in endurance sports by adopting the uniform and title of the DOUGHBOY. It’s my way of acknowledging that I don’t look like the usual competitor, but I’m here too.
Sometimes attitudes have to change before behaviors. Sometimes behaviors have to be changed first before the attitude can really change for good. Addicts in recovery call that “fake it til you make it.”
Whichever comes first, I can see the changes, and there are many more yet to come. They don’t come instantly, and they don’t take hold overnight. But by seeing the evidence, I grow in confidence that long-term change is indeed happening.
30 days left until the Disney Half. Countdown is on…