Friday, July 3, 2015

Fitness Self Esteem.

Us at Ryan's Run 2015

A few weeks ago, I took the kids with me to do a 5K organized by a group of friends from Zachary's school. The race--called "Ryan's Run"-- was put together in memory of my friend Katie's son whose untimely death came after a painful struggle with mental illness. The proceeds all went to the Central Night Shelter for Men where Katie serves as the director. Walking distance from Grady, Central Night Shelter has helped countless numbers of my patients. Thanks to Katie, not only do I have an inside track to helping my patients but also a wonderful place for my family to go and volunteer.

Yeah, so Ryan's Run would raise a substantial amount for a place that has looked out for some of my most vulnerable patients but especially it would shed light on the often silent pain endured by those who fight with mental health issues. My point in saying all this is simple: It was important that we were there.

Very important.

So when I got the kids up that morning, even though they were grumbling about being sleepy and it being earrrrrrly--I wasn't taking no for an answer. No, ma'am. No, sir.

With Katie and the guests at CNS. 

Anyways. So the race was awesome and super well attended. The sky was extra blue and the laughs extra light. I got to run right beside Katie and reflect on her boy and even wave at a few of the guys from the shelter who'd come to cheer her on from the street. And truly, it was special and amazing and as beautiful as it all sounds.

Yes, it was.

And although I loved that day and that race, that actually isn't the point of this post. That said, the point is related to it since it comes from  something that I noticed that day. It's  been lingering in my head ever since.


So, check it: The kids and I get down to the race which started up at the Georgia State Capitol just a few blocks away from Grady. We parked at the hospital to keep things easy and trucked it on over for the 8 o'clock gun. Like I said, the sky was a technicolor blue and there was even this nice and unseasonably cool breeze to boot. So yeah, everything was cool--literally and figuratively.

As we walked over, the kids began to make some small talk.

"Mom? How far is the race again?" Zachary asked.

"It's a 5K. Which is 3.1 miles."

"THREE MILES?!" Isaiah exclaimed. "How far is the fun run?"

"I think that's only a mile."

"Well. I'm only doing the fun run." Isaiah folded his arms and started shuffling his feet.

"I think you guys can totally make it 3 miles. You don't have to run fast, son. And besides, you ran cross country, Isaiah. This will be easy for you."

"Okay, I'll try. But 3 grown up miles seems really far for a kid to run."

"Not my kids." I looked over my shoulder and smiled at him. Which didn't exactly make him feel any different but that was okay, too.

Zachary was mostly tuned out during this exchange but finally chimed in."Hey Mom? Who else will be there?"I named a few people from his school including some of his mates from his grade level. And that seemed to be enough to make him content. Or, at least, cool enough for him to not have anything more to say.


So anyways,  we get to the race and say all of our hellos to friends and other parents. We aask the predictable questions about summer plans, camps, and the like. And while we were standing there, Zack sees a couple of his buddies from 2nd grade and notifies me that he's going to go and run with them. I nod and watched him scurry off. And again, this was cool, too, since Ryan's Run was totally a family affair and everyone in that crowd was like an auntie or an uncle to my kids.


So the "ready, set, go!" gets yelled and we all take off. And by "take off" I mean that some of us started running at our regular pace while others lit out as soon as they had the green light to do so. And you know what? Zachary Manning was in that latter group.


You know what else? That dude ran next to a few kids and adults that run fast on a regular basis. And let me tell you--that boy jumped right in there and ran all 3.1 of those miles in under 26 minutes. He sure as hell did.


I admit that I trotted pretty slowly. Time wasn't really something I was thinking about for this race but I also knew in my head that I hadn't been doing much training either. That said, Zachary had never run a full 5K or much of anything close to that in his life. Does he run and exercise a lot? Sure. But had he run a 5K before June 15? Nope. That didn't stop him from knocking out those three sub-8 1/2 minute miles like it wasn't nothing, though.

No, it did not.

Interestingly, Isaiah--the one who actually has run distance before--found the big race daunting. The whole adults-running-next-to-him thing made him question his ability. That and the fact that it was an official 5K.


This. This is exactly what I'm reflecting on today--this whole idea of what I like to refer to as "fitness self esteem."

Yes. That.

Now. Let me explain. See, fitness self esteem is separate from regular self esteem although the two can and often do intertwine. Just because you have a  high regular self esteem doesn't mean that it's that way across the board. You could think super highly of yourself in most settings but still have an abysmal fitness self esteem.

Confused yet? Please. Stay with me, I'm going somewhere and am trying to unpack this.

Okay. So check it. My son Zachary? That kid has a super high fitness self esteem. That is, he has every belief in what his mind and body can come together to achieve. He doesn't waste much time factoring in the reasons why he couldn't or shouldn't be able to do things. And because of that, he goes extra hard at most things with the idea that success is attainable. Which translates to--you guessed it--success.


Me? Admittedly, I don't have a naturally high fitness self esteem. Nope. I think I decided a long time ago that my body wasn't really that athletic and that most things that I can do are simply because I've pushed myself. But the truth is, I probably don't nudge my body even close to what it is really capable of doing. Mostly because I've convinced myself of some false limit.


Now see. . .that Zack? When he showed up at Ryan's Run, it never even occurred to him that he couldn't run those 3 miles. All he knows is that he's--to quote him--"an active kid." That's enough to keep him believing that he's in the running to actually win whatever contest he enters.


What that means is that he attacks physical things with a different zeal. He pushes himself and doesn't hit the pressure release valve when the going gets tough. You know why? Because he gets it that his real limit lies somewhere beyond the point where most people choose to give up. Yup.

Still with me? Cool.

Man. When I first started running, I was super intimidated by it. Hearing someone even utter the words 5K or any K for that matter gave me butterflies. But even now that I've done 7 half marathons, three ten milers and a bunch more "Ks" since then, I recognize that I am still plagued with a sometimes shaky fitness self esteem when it comes to running. Which totally holds me back from some probably achievable goals as a runner.


I get that someone reading this is like, "So what? Why not just get out there and have fun! You're doing plenty, woman!" I get that. But I see all of this as a life metaphor, you know? I do.

But more on that in a moment.

Okay, so one of my running partners is a Tuskegee sorority sister of mine named Valen M. When I run with Valen, I try not to be intimidated but I so am. It's like she finds a way to get inside of my head to kick my low fitness self esteem straight in the butt. She tells me exactly what my body can do, demands more of me and then holds me to her standard. And no. She's not like a trainer or anything like that. Instead, she's just a friend who happens to have this really high fitness self esteem. Even though I always feel a little scared to run with Valen,  I always leave feeling totally badass.


With my  super strong sissy, Valen

There was this one day that Valen and I were running through Candler Park and we turned the corner going toward the big hill in front of Mary Lin Elementary School. And she looked at me and said, "No walking. At all." Yeah. She did and that was that. And when I almost, almost, almost got to the last few feet toward the top of that hill, I threw my hands up and started to walk.

"I have to catch my breath!" I huffed.

"You could have caught your breath in 60 more seconds, Kim! Trust your body! Come on!"

And you know? She was right. I wasn't dying. I was just tired. And. . I don't know. . . .just accepting of this idea that at my very, very, very best all I can run is a 10 minute and twenty second mile over a long distance. I also told myself that hills like that one can get almost tackled but not totally. And if they do even get quasi-tackled? It's still not to my full physical capacity. But my Zachary? Chile please. He would have gone balls to the wall and taken that hill, chopped it up, melted it down and put it around his neck as a finisher's medal.


I have this other very good friend and fellow running mate named Frieda J. (aka Free-Free.)  We've run a bunch of things together. And that Free-Free? Man. She's another person with a high fitness self esteem.


Case in point:

Like, tomorrow a bunch of us are signed up to run the Peachtree Road Race--this huge 10K that goes up Peachtree Road in Atlanta on the 4th of July each year. This year, Free-Free keeps saying that she wants us to run a sub-60 minute 10K. And seriously, like every other text message she sends me says that (followed by a bunch of emoticons.) But every time she does, I respond by telling her "no way" or coming back with some sort of snappy reply that lets her know that sub-60 isn't in the cards for me.

My super speedy Boston marathoner friend, Julie E.

And yes, if you are one of those speedy-racer runners who is snickering at this as a goal, then all I can say is good for you. But for me, that just isn't something that I can see right now. It just isn't.


And okay, part of it is that I have not really been training so well. But mostly, I think it's something else. My body is strong and able to do so much. The more I think about this concept of fitness self esteem and Zachary's sub-26 minute 5K, the more  I take pause.


I mean seriously . . .  COULD my body run 6.2 nine-minute-and-some-change miles tomorrow? You know? Probably. I mean. . . if my mind allowed me to push through some discomfort. . . .sure. I know I could. But I guess someway somehow it has gotten into my head that doing that just isn't in me. And now I've guzzled down my own Kool-Aid on the subject.


So. Here is the REAL question: If it isn't your fitness self esteem that could use a boost, what then is it? And in what areas are you the equivalent of a Boston Marathoner? See, for me? When it comes to writing or teaching or public speaking? Shoooot. I'm like Meb Keflezighi, man. Fast, furious and expecting to be the one to bust through the ribbon every time. And even when I don't? I still see myself as a Boston qualifier the whole way.

That Isaiah? He thinks that no one has a more analytical mind than he does. If something is broken, he holds out his hand, sure that just placing the non-working item there will surely lead to it getting fixed. By him. And guess what? It almost always does. Is it because all of our broken items just didn't really require much? Or is it really because Isaiah goes into problem-solving with a tenacity that exceeds that of most others?

So what are you a total boss at where you feel like you're in the zone? And more importantly, where have you thrown down speed breakers because you've convinced yourself that you just have to catch your breath?


Sure. There are the obvious physical differences between some us. Of course. But really. . . are people who run 8 minute and lower per-mile speeds or who do crazy Cross Fit routines or who run first place in the Boston like Meb K. just wired differently than me? My vote is mostly no. I see plus-sized men and women flying by me in half marathons all the time.  Folks who, like the bumble bee and his wings that shouldn't aerodynamically work, believe that they can fly. And so they do.

There is a huge mind portion to fitness self esteem--and esteem in many other things--that has to be dealt with head on if you want to achieve full potential.

Pun intended. Ah hem.

So me? As for the sub-60 minute 10K tomorrow, well. . .let's just say I'm still a work in progress. Both mentally and physically. But I will let this idea marinate in my head some more and start doing the work to tackle my fitness self esteem. Because there is a such thing. At least I think there is.

Which again, is nothing more than a parallel to all the complexities of self image, right?

Yeah, man. That's all I got.

Happy day-before-the-Peachtree-Road-Race.  What's your fitness self esteem stopping you from doing? And what other areas are you being held back in because of limits you've mentally set?

Post Peachtree Road Race follow up:

So. . . did Free-Free run a sub-60 10K on July 4? Didn't you see that text from her? Damn right she did.


  1. I am not going to bring this post down by answering your fitness self esteem question, but I did sign up for a 5K in September. I just actually haven't been cleared to train for it yet. I know I can at least walk that far. Anyway, I hope your Peachtree celebration isn't being hampered by the rain we are getting just north of you.

  2. I had a recent conversation with a marathoner. He said, "why don't you run a marathon with me?" I said, "cuz I don't want to." He said, "You could probably do it without even training. It's all mental." I said, "I know I could. I just don't have the desire to run a marathon." I guess Dr. Manning would call that a high fitness self esteem. LOL!

    1. Coop did you know I had a whole paragraph about you but it was getting so long I took it out! LOL! Yes, woman--you PERSONIFY high fitness self esteem!

    2. great post...great motivation...I suck really suck @ fitness self esteem...BUT
      My favorite scripture is : "I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength" HMMMMMM too late to get in shape at 47?? I think not....THANKS

      My very 1st trip to Atlanta last week. Driving the freeway in our rental I see GRADY HOSPITAL...
      I got sooooo excited and shouted "oohhh Grady" I couldn't quite explain it to my travel companion/bestie because she doesn't read blogs....I don't even think she knows what a blog IS.

      I said a quiet thank you GOD for all you do for your patients, students and fellow healthcare workers and readers like ME

      Dee in San Diego

  3. health is in want of every human being


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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