Track intervals are once again part of my running routine. I have a love/hate relationship with intervals.
I would much rather do speedwork at the track than a slow long run.
Both are considered “quality workouts” by runners, building speed and endurance, respectively. Both involve prior mental preparation, gathering fortitude before attempting a demanding task. Both involve pain, or at least discomfort.
The discomfort of the long run is lower intensity, but longer-lasting; the pain of running intervals is sharp, it will take your breath away. It is, thankfully, over quickly, like ripping off a Band-Aid.
I will never forget the first time I ran intervals with several running friends.
One woman in our group, 18 years my senior, beat me in every race we ran together.
I shared with her my surprise that she worked out at the track.
“Laurie,” she told me “you have to work at getting faster.” Except she spoke with a German accent, so “work” sounded like “verk“.
She became my first running mentor.
I have had plenty of strong women mentors over the years.
When I first began teaching chemistry at the school I retired from (after a 30+-year career), I had spent the previous eight years at home with my young children and working part-time as a waitress.
I was focused on potty training, not quantum mechanics, molecular structure, and stoichiometry. A lot of the professional instruction I received in college was stuck in the cobwebs in dusty, long-buried recesses of my mind.
Luckily, in rooms adjacent to mine, there resided a math teacher, a physics teacher, and another chemistry teacher, all experienced, no-nonsense, well-loved and respected women who generously shared their hard-earned wisdom with a young, inexperienced, and insecure teacher.
I asked them so many questions, I am sure they rolled their eyes (inwardly) when I walked into their rooms after school.
Sometimes I needed concrete answers to practical questions; sometimes I just needed a teacher I admired to reassure me I was on the right track, handling delicate situations the proper way.
Now, as an older woman myself, I appreciate the courage, the audacity it must have taken for these women to help me.
In a culture that values youth, beauty, and the next new thing, it is easy to lose your confidence as you get older. Tasks that once seemed simple, like driving or paying the bills on time, now cause me to question my ability to complete them competently.
When I suffer from self-doubt, my initial response is to become diffident, timid, reticent.
I need reassurance that it’s OK to be bold.
Even at my age.
Especially at my age.
What is the difference between living a life of anxiety and angst in our later years and living one of confidence, fortitude, and, dare I say it, sass?
I have some thoughts.
Loving the quirky, passionate, feisty, intrepid, vibrant, badass person you are is step number one in aging with confidence.
Wear bold colors, try sporting a scarf, heck, get some skinny jeans, if that’s who you are. Or maybe you are a caftan person, or you like beige, or lace, or even leather. Now is the time to do it. Express yourself.
We must have the insight and courage to accept and appreciate ourselves exactly as we are, impatience, wrinkles, crankiness, thin hair and all.
This is the time when we know who we are. Or at least, we should.
Appreciate the unique personality that makes you you.
Bring the unflattering comparisons of yourself to others or even to a younger version of you to a stop. Now.
When we are 14 and envy the “cool kids“, who always seem to wear fashionable clothes, sport flattering haircuts, and have a social life jam-packed with hilarious hijinks, it’s understandable; we haven’t had the chance to learn to know (and love) ourselves yet.
Teenagers are still figuring out their values, learning how to be the person they are meant to be.
When we do it after mid-life, it’s regrettable.
This is the time in our lives when we can look inside for answers (or maybe to a Higher Power, if you are so inclined.) We don’t need a guru, “cool kid“, or other external authority to tell us how to live.
We have the knowledge; we need the courage to look within.
Be brave enough to suck at something new.
This is not a phrase I invented (unfortunately). I got it from social media, but I love it.
There is so much to love in this simple eight-word concept- boldness, getting out of a rut, trying novel activities, and learning, learning, learning.
Now is the time in our lives where we can take the risk of failure without personally feeling like a failure if we don’t succeed (at first).
We have a whole lifetime of successes behind us that we can look back on to give us confidence.
Now is the time to take that drawing class, accept new volunteer opportunities, learn French. If you find it’s not for you, so what? Try something else.
Or maybe, maybe you could become a mentor.
There are plenty of faint-hearted, twitchy, insecure, self-doubting younger people who need your wisdom and experience.
I know. I was one of them.
You can find the places I link up here.