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There's no shame in struggling through a run
Just because you're struggling, doesn't mean you're weak. It's means you're pushing yourself, and that's a good thing. - photo by Kim Cowart
For the longest time, I opted for the orange light hand weights, the itty-bitty weights that offered little in the way of resistance and almost nothing in the way of a challenge. It wasnt because I couldnt lift anything heavier I just didnt want anyone to see me struggle.

Back then, struggle was synonymous with weakness. The strained look on my face was an indication of how unfit I was. In my mind, my arms screamed Olive Oyl while I longed to be Popeye, but I was scared to tackle the weights that would get me there. I didnt want other gym-goers to worry, or worse, judge me by the pained look in my face. So I opted for what was easy.

I can hear Dr. Phil in my head right now. Hows that been workin for ya? Um, not very well, thank you. Sick of letting my concern over what others thought of me dictate my own choices and progress, one day I picked up the heavy yellow weights. And I kept picking them up. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month. You get the idea. And wouldnt you know it, those Olive Oyl arms didnt quite turn all Popeye on me, but they sure did look good. Strong. Defined. Muscular.

Taking on a challenge can be daunting, especially when others are watching. Whether were taking a new job, position, hobby or sport, so many of us are afraid to look weak. Thats why its so hard to get out of that comfort zone. Its comfortable, like rainy Saturday afternoon movie-fest comfortable. Like home-from-a-long-vacation-first-day-in-my-own-bed comfortable. Its a good place to be until its not.

Every year I have a mantra, a creed I try to live by for at least 365 days a phrase that helps shape my daily decisions, big or small. This years mantra is Go get it. I doubt there will be T-shirts made with my mantra or people rushing tattoo parlors to have this emblazoned on their biceps, but as simple as it is, it really has changed the choices I make.

Rather than stewing over how hard a task is or the potential embarrassment I may suffer if I struggle, or worse, fail, I take a deep breath, a big step forward and just Go get it. Its tough to push out concern over what others think. Its hard not to stress over the massiveness of a project, but I can honestly say that Ive succeeded more often than Ive failed this year.

Ive put myself out in the ring for people to throw tomatoes or roses. But Im tired of sitting on the sidelines gripped with the fear of failure. I dont want to be held hostage by my perception of what others think of me. Getting hit with tomatoes hurts, but its sure better than regretting never having stepped into the ring at all and wondering what could have been.

Paula Radcliffe, one of the greatest female distance runners of all time, has achieved tremendous success. Winning multiple NYC Marathons and holding the world record marathon time of 2:17:18, she is the best of the best. The one goal she never achieved, however, is winning an Olympic medal. In 2004, not only did she not win, she didnt even finish. Sidelined with stomach issues, she quit at mile 18. Determined not to end her Olympic career on a low note, she came back in 2008 only to finish 23rd. Devastated, angry and embarrassed, sure. But a fear of failing never held her back from trying. Even after the Olympics she continued running and winning multiple marathons.

Fail is a four-letter word. But so is quit. Struggle is not. When I see someone struggle in a weight class or in spin class, I dont think weak. I think that person is pushing their bodies as hard and far as they can, and that earns my respect.

Were all good at something, but none of us is good at everything. And well never get good at that one thing until we tackle it. Just like muscles need resistance to work against to build strength, we need to stretch ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally to grow. Whether weve dreamed of running a half-marathon, wanted to go back to college to finish up that degree, open a new business or write a book, we have to aim high to climb high. We have to drop those little orange weights and grab the big yellow weights if we want to see a change.
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