Category: Exercise

On being a competitive person: the ugly truth

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For a long time, I’ve thought of myself as someone who doesn’t like participating in team sports. But it had been so many years since I’d even attempted a team sport that I couldn’t remember why. And I love watching my children play team sports, and have observed the wonderful potential for camaraderie and intensive learning. So … this spring, when the opportunity arose to join a women’s soccer team, I signed up without hesitation.

At first, I thought the difficulty was going to be the fact that I hadn’t played organized soccer since the age of ten. But I’ve been watching a lot of excellent soccer over the past few years, and I’m physically fit, and a quick learner — and our team welcomes beginners. So that hasn’t been an issue. 
What I realized after last night’s game is that there is another difficulty, one I’d forgotten, and it’s the reason I don’t like team sports.
Actually, I do like team sports. I love playing on a team. The problem is that I’m not always a fabulous team player. The problem, in other words, is me. Team sports don’t like me. 
For years, I suppressed my competitive nature, and only began embracing it again when I took up running and signed up for races. Wow, this is actually fun, thought I; and wondered why on earth I’d suppressed such an essential part of myself. In fact, I embraced my competitive nature so thoroughly that I forgot what I’d disliked about it in the first place — and let’s just say there was good reason for that suppression.
Here’s why: Because competition brings out an adrenalin-fuelled intensity in my personality that can be extremely unpleasant. Nope, it’s worse than that. It can be ugly.
In individual competition, there’s no problem: the only one I’m being hard on is myself, and for reasons probably best discussed with a therapist, being hard on myself brings out my best effort. But on a team, competitive intensity, handled badly, just sucks. Basically, I’m transferring expectations about my own level of intensity to everyone around me. What I seem to demand of myself, and therefore of teammates, is maximum effort — forget being there for fun, apparently I just want to win. Honestly, if this team sports thing is going to work out, I need to figure out how to dial this aspect of my personality down, and fast. Also, I need to shut up. There’s nothing wrong with having high expectations for myself; but in a team setting, positive feedback is the only feedback worth giving.
(And I need to get off the field without complaint when I’m subbed out! Good grief. It was one little moment in Sunday’s game, but honestly, in that moment I behaved like an ass.) 
You know, on the surface, it was a good game on Sunday evening — we won for the first time this season, and I scored the only goal of the game, and it was a very nice goal, put together with the help of excellent teamwork. But I came home feeling yucky. Realizing that I’d let my competitive nature take over; realizing that I wanted too badly to win and was willing to fight inappropriately toward that end.
So I guess my question is: Can I change? Can I, ahem, mature? Can I become a good teammate?
In some ways, I hate how the learning never seems to end. In other ways, I’m glad for it. Life has a way of shaving off my hubris, and keeping me humble. Ugh. It’s no fun being kept humble, even if it’s good medicine.
But I’m hopeful. It’s not all bad news. I really like being coached and getting feedback and criticism on my play — probably shaped by years of appreciating the writer/editor relationship, which is based on necessary criticism and mutual trust. And I really want to keep playing on a team, and improving — everything. Skills, fitness, but especially attitude. Especially that. I’ll report back.

The weekend in suppers

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date-night dinner

Sorry, folks. I have not got back into doing my “week in suppers” feature. With soccer almost every night, we’re eating early, and that means a rushed and thrown-together meal. Quick sides, lately, include asparagus oven-roasted with salt and olive oil, and spinach salads with homemade dressings. Seasonal happiness. But nothing very special.

However, Kevin and I had an at-home date on Saturday. He sourced the ingredients, and I was the chef. And it was really good. Seared tuna steaks served atop smashed, roasted potatoes, topped with a reduced red wine sauce with capers and scallions. Plus the stand-by of the asparagus mentioned above, also roasted with portobello mushrooms.

Seriously yummy. Kevin made us a couple of martinis. And we watched a funny/sweet movie, completely chosen at random, called Adventureland. I’d recommend it.

:::

Yesterday I ate a banana for supper. Not recommended. I played a soccer game from 4-5:30, then raced home to shower and wash the blood off my knee (seriously; I was playing against a rough defender), and pretty myself up in order to bike to another reading. The banana was all I had time for until arriving home, nearly 10pm, when I devoured Saturday night’s leftovers. I love leftovers.

I also managed to bake four loaves of bread yesterday, and make and freeze six meal’s worth of turkey stock. Productive! Which is good because Saturday was most unproductive. I felt myself melting into a anxious stasis. General exhaustion. On Friday afternoon, racing to squeeze in one last errand, I found myself fantasizing about just stopping. Standing still, refusing to go on with the tasks before me. Of course, that wasn’t an option. Instead, I kept up the momentum, and biked off to pick up the kids from school for swim lessons.

Worst outing ever. (Maybe I should have just stopped everything …)

It was so hot! Everyone was so grumpy! The complaining! The epic whining! And to top it off, we had one kid bleeding from a pedal injury before we’d even reached our destination. And I hadn’t brought bandages. Let’s just sum up this adventure by stating for the record: Everyone survived!

Parenthood is not the most romantic occupation. If anyone’s trying to tell you otherwise.

:::

On the plate for this week …

:: I’m in Burlington tomorrow morning at Books & Brunch. Readings start at 9:30am.

:: Wednesday evening, I’m looking forward to hearing my former boss, Noah Richler, talk about his new book What We Talk About When We Talk About War. Here’s the invite on Facebook. Join me? Starts at 7pm, at the Laurier Centre for Military and Strategic Disarmament Studies (now that’s a mouthful).

:::

One last thing to note. Another lovely blog review of The Juliet Stories, this time from a fellow red-headed mama. Read on.

Weekend report from the soccer/birthday trenches

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almost eleven

I want nothing more than to write a big fat juicy post about our weekend. But I’m on a tight deadline. So here’s the quick and dirty version.

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tournament

Soccer girl played six games in a tournament this weekend. Kev took the the first two days, and I went yesterday. That way we could manage to run errands, do some gardening, and not have to drag the other kids along. Her team finished with a bronze medal and a lot of happy faces.

Yesterday our eldest turned eleven. It was a good party, from what I hear. My great regret is that I spent virtually the entire day not with my eleven-year-old. AppleApple and I were off early for the tournament, and home later than expected. The party was already in full swing. I had just enough time to download photos from the various cameras I’m testing out before changing into soccer gear myself.

Off to play in the pouring rain! On a weird field with a wide strip of mulch and grass seed sweeping across it! Against a team of 19-year-old girls who had a coach and a full line of subs! (My team is, well, my age-ish, and had two subs.) I was tentative and terrified for the first ten minutes, but finally got my foot on the ball, and then it got better. There’s nothing like playing a new sport to make you feel out of shape, but I quickly figured out that I would recover from the sprints; thankfully, I have endurance. I badly need better ball-handling skills. And to hold my body differently against the big contact players. (I felt very very small, let me tell you.) But it was really fun.

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eleven for real

And then I came home and spent some time snuggling my big eleven-year-old boy, who was feeling kind of sad that I’d missed his whole day. Me too. In fact, that feels like most my days right now — rushed and hurried and squeezed. Am I running on adrenalin? Will I wear myself out? What am I missing???

Onward.

Party night

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party night

My thoughts are all over the place on this Monday morning. I’m wondering: should I blog our week in suppers? Skip over that and write about my weekend of solo parenting? Share news about upcoming events and unexpected Juliet feedback?

Last night, I set my alarm for swimming. I woke at 2am. I’d been dreaming about sleeping (again!). I decided to turn off the alarm and really sleep. I have three early mornings planned this week; given that I also have two evening readings, self-preservation starts to come into play. It was a little easier to turn off the alarm given that yesterday, late afternoon, I ran 12 pain-free kilometres, keeping up a good pace and plotting my return to distance running. That counts as my first real distance run since my injury in January. It’s short, as far as distance runs go, but it was a blast. Next week … 14 km??

Uh. Where was I? Oh yes, self-preserving.

Tonight, I’m ferrying children from dance to soccer practice while Kevin has an early soccer game. Tomorrow, I’m at the Starlight in Waterloo (come, too!), from 7pm onward. Readings start at 7:45. And on Wednesday I’m headed to Toronto for an event at Type Books called the “Short Story Shindig” with Heather Birrell and Daniel Griffin, and hosted by Kerry Clare; 7pm (come, too!). This is all very exciting, but doesn’t go terrifically well with excessive early morning exercise.

As I said to Kevin this morning, “This isn’t the year of the triathlon. This is the year of The Juliet Stories.” (Which may be the first time I’ve admitted that, even to myself. I really really liked the year of the triathlon. I felt so hard-core. Sharing my book feels less focused, less goal-oriented. Maybe I need to start thinking of readings as races. They definitely affect me in similar ways — I’m nervous before, wired and happy during, and it takes me a little while to come down afterward.)

So. Slightly less focus on exercise, slightly more focus on evening events.

Now. Let me tell you all about my weekend with my kids. We had so much fun! Why can’t we have this much fun all the time? Is it because I’m usually trying to get too many other things accomplished? That can’t be entirely it, because we seemed to accomplish quite a lot, even while finding time to relax. Our weekend included …

:: watching Modern Family on Friday night while sharing an entire bag of Cheetos (which were utterly disgusting, may I just add)

:: trampoline ninja jumping (everyone!)

:: a bike trip to the grocery store for picnic and party supplies, followed by a picnic in the park

:: reading outside while two girls rode giggling past me on scooters and bikes too small for them

:: hanging laundry on the line, baking bread

:: playing on electronic devices; taking lots of photos

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personal pizzas for party night (the one with the olives, asparagus, and eggplant? yes, that’s mine)

:: “Party Night,” wherein we had homemade personal pizzas and punch with ginger ale while watching a movie, then gorged on episodes of Modern Family while simultaneously gorging on boxed cereal and utterly disgusting candy; the rules for Party Night go like this: everyone gets to choose one treat from the grocery store (under $4), and we stay up as late as we want; oddly, three of four children chose boxed cereal (Corn Pops, Frosted Flakes, and Froot Loops, for the record). We have never felt so collectively gross. I blame the milk. Maybe the sugar too. It was surprisingly easy to herd the children off to bed at a not entirely unreasonable hour (9:30ish) …

:: … though AppleApple and I got distracted searching for my old Grade One piano book in the basement, which we never found, but we did find one of my old and relatively simple classical piano books, and ended up staying up for another hour playing songs. The Wild Horseman. The Happy Farmer. One of Muzio Clemente’s simple Sonatinas (she’s learning it!). Minuets from the Anna Magdalena Bach notebook). Bliss!

:: sleeping in

::  making and delivering, on bicycle, invitations for an 11th birthday party (a week from today!)

:: more bike riding and trampolining and laundry hanging; hey, whatever makes us happy

Mother’s day was capped off by the return of Dad, and supper out at all-you-can-eat sushi with my mom, too.

And that is plenty for one blog post. Never got to the unexpected and lovely Juliet feedback. Well. More tomorrow.

Get up and fly

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flying

On this morning’s run, my friend and I were talking about exercising. About how exercise keeps us balanced, mentally. Yet when we most need to move, to sweat, to feel alive in our bodies is often when we are least in the mood for it. Mental strength underpins physical strength; and we don’t always feel strong or motivated or inspired. I still find it unpleasant, every morning, when the alarm goes off early. I feel resistant to leaving my warm bed and the sweet state of sleep. Every single morning. There hasn’t been one morning when I’ve greeted the alarm by leaping up with joy in my heart. But I do it. And within minutes I’ve gathered my clothes, I’m brushing my teeth, and I’m already beyond the yucky feeling of I don’t want to. I’m ready to go.

What’s the lesson here? Establish a habit. Make a routine that runs counter to your immediate instinct. I’ve never once regretted getting up early to exercise. Yet somehow my mind forgets that every morning. But that’s okay. Because my habits and routine remind me. Other tips for exercising regularly, even when you don’t feel like it: Meet someone — makes it harder to change your plan last-minute. Set out your clothes the night before. Get up and go. Don’t think about it, just do it.

Okay, enough with the motivational messaging.

Today is the day I dreamed of yesterday. The kids left for school with minimal complaining. Lots of kisses from the two youngest. Hugs from the two oldest. Quick nap. Cup of coffee. Finishing the last of the interviews for this article. Sitting and dreaming. Quiet house.

Have I told you that next week is a writing week? It will be my first writing week in this new office space. It will be my first attempt to dig into the new book. I may not update here on the blog quite as often; then again, I may need to blog more often, who knows.

Here are four things that are making me happy this morning.

One is the status update of a writer friend I know only on Facebook: “A must read. I simply can’t stop underlining this book!” with a link to The Juliet Stories. (Wish I could peek in her copy to see what she’s been drawn to.)

Two is a book review by my friend Nath, who didn’t tell me she’d decided to blog about The Juliet Stories. I love hearing her thoughts. Maybe we’ll even talk about it someday while we’re driving to spin class together (or biking outside together–soon!).

Three is an invitation from the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival to do a writing workshop with high school students, and to meet students, on two different occasions.

Four is doing interviews for this freelance piece. I think of myself as shy, but I’ve been really enjoying interviewing people. Maybe this relates back to my original thought o’ the day: don’t automatically trust your immediate instinct. Why would I think of myself as shy? I enjoy talking to be people, and do it regularly. In high school, I was genuinely shy. But that’s more than half my life ago. Time to update the mental self-image.

Thoughts on a holiday Friday

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Stasis and momentum.

Slept in this morning. Did not enjoy it. Wondered: should I be setting my alarm and rising at 5am every morning?

Have meant to go for a run all day. I am finally dressed in running gear. Still feeling resistant. Why? Because I know it will be hard. “Get your head right”: something the spin instructor says, for which I am occasionally resentful. I don’t want to. Why don’t I want to, when I know it will make me feel better?

Because it’s hard. Because I’ve been hanging around all day, taking the day off, a little holiday, relaxing. Put all of those into quotation marks. “Hanging around.” I’m lousy at hanging around! “Relaxing.” I’ve cleaned both bathrooms and vacuumed! How to relax? Maybe I’ve forgotten? Maybe relaxing feels like stasis to me. Or I’ve mixed the two up in my head.

And I crave momentum.

In my head, I’m lying on a picnic blanket in the sunshine surrounded by my children. In reality I’d be digging up the weeds. (Plus, it’s too chilly out there, despite the sunshine, for picnics.) Okay, in reality, I’m heading out for a run in the cool sunshine. I don’t know if it counts as relaxing, but I’m doing it. Right now.

:::

P.S. I’m back from that run. I feel amazing! (As predicted). It was hard! (Also as predicted). But I ran 7.5km in 34 minutes flat. Here’s what I heard a kid in the park ask his dad as I ran past: “How fast is she going?!”

I had a happy fantasy around the sixth kilometre. I thought that I would like to take a year, some while in the future, and train five or six hours a day — and run an ultramarathon. It wouldn’t serve any particular purpose. I’d do it just because I want to. (Is that a good reason to do something?)

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