Showing Anxiety Who's Boss

Written by: Andrew Ware
March 6, 2023

My Goals Meet My Anxiety

Have you ever felt like you needed to prove something to yourself?

  • You set a goal for yourself…

  • Put in a bunch of work towards that goal…

  • Now you want a glimmer of hope that all this work you put into this thing is putting you down a good path to hopefully achieve said goal.

In our lives, we can put in a lot of work that we hope is making us better or making a difference in our mental, emotional, spiritual, or even physical lives. When it comes down to it, we just want to know that the “hard work” of self-care (or rather intentional self-care) is worth it. 

Some of you may know that I am on a path of training for the 2023 Shamrock Half Marathon. When I reinvigorated my running life in 2019, I wanted to prove to myself (that’s right, myself, and no one else) that I could be in better shape. I would often get winded playing with my kids and doing simple tasks would feel extraneous. I was by no means in trouble in terms of my physical health, though. My doctors continued to give me decent reports on physicals, but I didn’t feel like I was living into my full image of who I was created to be. 

So, I got serious about running again, and in doing so I set my sights on getting back into fitness to care for myself. I never knew the full potential of what I could do, but it had to be better than where I was. 

Queue up my goal for Shamrock:

I want to run 13.1 miles in less than 1 hour and 35 minutes.

I know this is not an easy goal, but the work I have been putting in is proving that there might be something there in terms of accomplishing this goal. 

In what became a final “tune-up” race, on February 25 I ran a 12-mile race. Kind of an odd distance for runners to race, but it was part of a distance series by the major local run club here in Hampton Roads (Tidewater Striders) to help runners get ready for their big spring races (including the Shamrock Marathon Weekend races). 

I had been getting a bit anxious and nervous because my last 2 training cycles (basically all of 2022) were plagued with a variety of injuries and illnesses (including a few sprained ankles, a broken elbow, and COVID and Flu…to name a few). This training cycle, though, has been quite different. Don’t get me wrong, it has had ups and downs, but mostly has been filled with ups. That alone has been refreshing! All this led to an awesome time in this 12-mile test of fitness (1:27 or 7:15/mile) and got me thinking about anxiety and the role it plays in how we view accomplishing goals while we are still on a journey. 

Setting and Achieving Goals

Usually, when we set goals, we work towards them, and oftentimes without much fanfare, we get closer to the opportunity to fulfill that goal still filled with anxiety or stress about whether the prep and practice have actually led us to achieve the goal we have set. However, sometimes we get these opportunities to test ourselves in the midst of the preparation. In this instance, I surpassed my wildest dreams, and it actually got me rethinking if my goal needed to be raised (or lowered in this case). It let the air out on some of my stress and made me feel better about my fitness. 

However, if I have learned anything from an adult life of living with anxiety it is that this either does not always happen (that is the opportunity to ease anxiety goes poorly) or sometimes, even when we do well, we simply revert back to our same anxious state despite knowing the work we have accomplished and what we are capable of.

Anxiety has always been something that has been tricky for me to manage. I have lived most of my life undiagnosed and unmedicated. I have struggled to admit to others, and even worse to myself, that I needed help and I have tried to be better about when I am feeling anxious about a certain situation or event. 

Of course, this bleeds into my running journey, but it also rears itself in many familial and vocational goals I have set for myself as well. I will often struggle along, sometimes hitting goals, and sometimes falling short.

An Inner Dialogue

What if we were more attuned along the way to reaching our goals? What if we found opportunities to put ourselves against our preparations? Would it really help us? How could we be better attuned? Personally, do I need to race every weekend to prove to myself that the work I put in week-in and week-out is actually making a difference toward my ultimate goals?

Well, unfortunately, I do not know

(I know not the answer you were probably looking for)

Instead, I think it is, like I often say, an opportunity to listen to ourselves in the midst of that anxiety. Is my anxiousness teaching me something about how my brain functions? Are my mental capacities an insight into how I handle stress (hint: I am not very good at this one yet)?

Now, I am sure you thought you were going to get a regular race recap where I talk about how I felt at mile 9 when I began to surge into my final stretch and began my kick. You may have thought I would talk about my pacing splits or the hydration strategy that got me to the finish line. Maybe you want to hear if I went flat out from start to finish or had a pacing strategy. I could go through all of those logistics, but at the end of the day it was the joy of crossing the finish line, proving to myself that my body could accomplish what I had set out to do that gave me the biggest serotonin boost. 

However, my thoughts when that beautiful and wonderful serotonin dissipated, was a question of worth and ability. This is a question my coach is quite adept at answering at this point of our relationship, and one to which I already knew most of his answers. Yet, there were still the inherent questions I asked.

To be clear, I definitely celebrated and was overjoyed, but it was those anxious thoughts that crept in that I had sought to silence. Those are the hardest voices to ignore in our lives the ones that tell you even when you do something that you have more to prove because you need to show others how strong you are. Instead of trying to please others though, I am trying to live in the space of being in tune with myself.

My anxiety is telling me something. What though?

Is it telling me I am feeling conceited? Is it telling me I am caring too much about what others think about me? Is it telling me that I am trying too hard and hurting myself even if I am trying to make myself better?

Anxiety is a bitch…that is clear

(Apologies for the language, but they are my feelings sometimes)

However, it is there, and even with medication (though I can definitely feel it “even me out”), it is always right there on the precipice of my imagination, questioning who I am.

I am inviting us to learn more about ourselves, not to push away the anxiety that we think is a troublemaker, but to learn to live with the ways our brain is wired.

My coach, Ryan Carroll (big shout-out to him here), does such a great job with this as he coaches and offers insight to many of us in our run club. He helps us to not let anxious thoughts win over us. Celebrate accomplishments and, even on your tough days, be reminded of how far we have come. 

The anxiety will be there, and it will probably bring you back to earth, but it is not the ultimate determiner of your abilities. Go out and rock this world, and I will go out and rock this half marathon in a couple of weeks. 

Your Turn: I would love to hear your thoughts:

  • How do you keep intrusive thoughts from drowning out your abilities?

Reflect and leave a comment on your own thoughts around these questions or the idea of celebrating accomplishments

Author

  • Andrew Ware

    My vision as the RunninRev is to build community and faith relationships through running and self-care. I have become an advocate in the church for clergy care, and helping clergy prevent or recover from burnout. I see my primary outreach to the community as building these communal structures through running and having fun together on the run.

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