Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Being True to One's Self

No matter how hard we try to plan and control the events of our lives, and no matter how good we get at managing things, there are always surprises in store for us.

I was reminded of that again tonight as I ran in a 5K race that I had trained for with a little running club I had joined.

I am in my late 40s, and I am also overweight. So, when I embarked upon this training plan for running I was especially concerned that I work carefully to build up a base and not go too fast and get myself injured and have to stop, just when I was so motivated to get going.

My sister, the marathoner, suggested that Jeff Galloway's run/walk program might be a good approach for me.

I have been delighted to use this method. The walk breaks help protect from overdoing it, and Jeff Galloway is really great, in his book on using this method to train for your first half marathon, at explaining all the ins and outs of his system.

I have been experimenting in my running club, and, well, to make a long story short, I have been adjusting my training as needed, and I had come up with a plan to use in the 5K based on what I have been learning about my body in the past 10 weeks, and my fitness needs at this present time.

The strategy I was going to use for the race, was that I was going to use run a minute/walk a minute for the first 10 minutes, and then proceed to run 2 minutes/ walk a minute for the rest of the race. I had learned that people over 40, especially who are getting back into fitness after many years of neglect, take a longer time to warm up. Learning of this, and adding the ten minute warm-up period has been fantastic and has enabled me to train in a smart way for my body.

I knew ahead of time, because I have run 5K races in the past, that when I started my race this slowly, there would be a stream of people running ahead of me. I knew that this could psyche me out and make me want to run faster or abandon my plan. So, I practiced visualizing the start of the race a couple of times this week. I pictured myself at the starting line. I pictured everyone taking off. I pictured myself running very slowly and the streams of people flowing around me and ahead of me.

So, when it happened exactly the way I had pictured it, I said to myself, "You knew this would happen; just stick to the plan. You know this plan is right for you."

As I ran along, that little sentence became a kind of mantra. When I was more or less alone toward the back of the pack, I had to give myself little pep talks: "It doesn't matter where everyone else is. All that matters is that you stay the course that is right for you."

In the moment that I heard myself say those words, the race, as a race often does, became a metaphor of my life. I realized that absolutely nothing anyone else was doing really mattered. What mattered was following my path and sticking to what I knew was right.

There had been a moment, however, at the beginning of the race that I had not envisioned. As I set my little watch to beep at 1 minute intervals, and the first "beep" sounded, telling me that it was time to walk a minute, I had forgotten that there would be no one else walking at this point. It was the beginning of the race! No one walks at the beginning of the race! They run until they are tired, and then they take a little break. No one takes a break when they are fresh!

So, when the time came to start walking, I suddenly realized that I would be the only one walking. This is going to look really stupid, I thought. I briefly considered just keeping on running for appearance's sake, but I can't tell you how thoughtfully I have been working on my training and how right it is for me to do the run a minute/walk a minute thing at this point in my training and racing.

I overcame the temptation to keep running, and stuck with the plan. I stopped and began to walk. I heard someone, someone I didn't know at all, behind me say "Already?"

Perhaps they weren't talking to me at all. It sounded like it, but it could have been any kind of conversational coincidence.

But I just knew that I had to do the plan. That the plan was right for me, and that if I followed it, I would be okay, and that it absolutely could not matter what it looked like to anyone else.

What does this have to do with my singing? Well, just everything. Here I am, 47 years old and still taking singing lessons and trying to get it. I still don't have a set of songs to call my own. And now ... now after years of thinking I was mezzo, I have come to believe I am actually an undeveloped dramatic soprano, and now, now I am embarking on a journey to develop all my high notes and learn about the songs in this category.

Do I need explain more? I just stay my course and do the work I have to do, that I must do. I don't worry about what anyone thinks, or even what I think. I follow my plan and I don't give up. We will see where it leads.


  1. Brava Diva.

    You keep right on keepin' on.


  2. I can't tell you how excited I am to have discovered your blog - I'm 26 years old, living in London, and in recent weeks have decided that singing is my path too. I've given up a lot, and I hope that one day I can make a career out of it, but I'm only at the very beginning of the journey right now!

    And I've set up my own blog too! It's to document my experiences - you can find it here

    It's so nice to read about you, and realise that there are other people out there taking the same steps, facing the same hurdles and going through the same emotions. I'm just about to start my day at the office, but when I get home I'm going to read your blog from start to finish.

    I'm looking forwards to hearing how you're getting on. And good luck with it!

    Kate :)

  3. Yay! Congrats on the race! Whoot Whoot!
    I love it: "I realized that absolutely nothing anyone else was doing really mattered. What mattered was following my path and sticking to what I knew was right."

    So, so true. What a great post! :)

  4. Thanks for your comments, dear friends. I can't wait to run with you guys, VeganDiva.

    Kate, welcome to the blog. I was happy to read that you are liking my blog. Of course, from having read my stuff here, you know that I understand why you have to sing!! I'll check your blog too. In fact, I'm going over there right now :)

  5. I just discovered your blog after seeing your comment on Susan Eichorn-Young's blog. Your story (and blog!) is so similar to mine, except for the running part. I've written about passion, and being true, and proper form for singing, etc. I too am a mom in my early 40s. I'm in central NJ and I started studying voice 2 years ago at Westminster.
    Off I go to read yours from the beginning. :)

  6. Susan, thanks for taking the time to let me know who you are and that you're interested in reading what I have here. One of the reasons I started this blog was that I hoped to find kindred spirits. It's quite a coincidence that I'm going to be staying in Princeton next week and taking a class at Westminster (as you read in another blog post)