All posts by Brian

Gifts Make Me Uncomfortable

My birthday was a little less than a week ago. I figure it’s a good time to talk about gifts. We give gifts for various occasions and no particular occasion at all.

I enjoy giving gifts. Seeing the joy and appreciation on a family member or friends face is fantastic. Giving anonymously feels good too, though, even when you’ll never know whether it was even appreciated.

So, given that I enjoy giving gifts, it’s odd how uncomfortable I am with receiving gifts. I know that the person giving me the gift likely gets the same kind of pleasure I do from the act of giving, but it doesn’t make it easier for me to accept gifts. And I’m not talking about any particular gift or any particular gift giver. It’s pretty consistent for most gifts.

I don’t know when it started or what did it. But nearly every time someone gives me something outside of an exchange, it makes me uncomfortable.

I know gift giving isn’t usually reciprocal, at least not on the occasions I have in mind. On my birthday, in this culture and my family traditions, I’m not expected to give gifts to guests. I receive birthday presents. But even on Christmas when it is usually expected to be a gift exchange, I’m uncomfortable receiving.

I can’t really explain the exact feelings. Sometimes I feel a little guilty when receiving a gift. Sometimes it’s because I feel like I should reciprocate, even when the occasion doesn’t call for it.

And sometimes it’s not so much guilt. I actually feel indebted. I know there’s no expectation in most of the cases. I still feel like I owe them some sort of debt. Sometimes even on Christmas when I have reciprocated, regardless of comparative monetary values.

It also makes me feel a little like the way I feel about asking for help. I don’t like to ask for help, even though I like helping people, and I know other people feel the same way about helping me. But I’m working on becoming better at asking for and accepting help.

I read a book on gratitude last year that was sort of an academic look at the history of gratitude in different cultures throughout history. In some cultures, gifts have been used to put another into your debt. Gifts have been used to signify power structures as well, with gifts flowing in either direction. And in other cultures gifts nearly always require reciprocation.

So perhaps it’s partially an inborn trait. Or if you accept the idea of genetic memory, maybe that explains at least some of it.

I just know that gifts have made me uncomfortable for a long time. But like I’ve been doing with asking for and accepting help, I’ve also been working on my feelings about accepting gifts.

They’re related too. Giving help is one kind of gift, and it’s given without expectations, beyond maybe gratitude. So as I get better at accepting help, I think I’ll get better at accepting gifts as well.

Positive Thinking and Positive Self-Talk

I got into positive thinking and positive self-talk a few years ago. I find them useful. Contrary to what some people say, it’s not about lying to yourself. It’s not about believing the impossible. Everything isn’t always great. Positive thinking is about seeing opportunities in obstacles, and finding lessons in hardships. Yes, it’s about looking on the bright side. Accept the negative and move forward while keeping a positive mindset, but to get results beyond that, you have to take action as well.

Positive self-talk is a way to support yourself in your pursuit of becoming more. More doesn’t have to be faster, bigger, stronger, thinner, or wealthier. It can be as simple as being happier, accomplishing a specific task or goal, or just being more grateful for what you already are and have.

Positive self-talk is another tool to use when things get difficult, you feel down, or things aren’t going how you want. It’s accepting what is, while acknowledging that the situation is temporary, and you have the strength to outlast it until things improve or create improvement.

Acceptance alone isn’t enough for me. I like to remind myself that I’m capable of great things and often add visualization to my positive self-talk.

I have a number of statements that I use in different situations. I call them affirmations, but they could also be mantras, chants, oaths, testimonies, prayers, or whatever you want. Sometimes it’s just about having something to focus on to make positive changes to my mindset.

There was a period of time when I was convinced that I was not going to live much past my 40s, maybe 50s, that I would become sick, miserable and die. Then it started to happen. I was already miserable, which certainly didn’t help my outlook on the future. I started to get quite sick, and I was getting worse.

When I decided that being sick wasn’t part of who I am and being healthy was, I started to see opportunities to support my health and began taking action. I started changing food habits, running and taking responsibility for my own health. Doctors told me it didn’t matter what I ate, but I noticed symptoms got much worse after eating fatty foods, especially when I was dehydrated. I learned more, became more self-aware about my body and its reactions to different things and made further changes.

The positive changes in my mindset and the actions I took built on one another to nearly eliminate my previous symptoms, stop all the medications I was taking, getting into the best shape of my life, and have a much better outlook for my future.

I’ve said it before, but I hated running when I was in the Army. A couple years after I got out, I started running again. I got injured a lot over the first few years, didn’t think I’d ever be very fast and really just had a limited view of what my running potential.

When I started telling myself that I was fast, strong and a good runner, believing it, and learning more from others and what’s worked for myself, my training started going better, injuries decreased, motivation improved. I’ve even expanded my running self-image since then. I exceeded my increased expectations a couple times too.

When I’m out running and it starts getting tough, whether I’m having trouble concentrating, I keep tripping, I feel some imbalance or twinge, I get stiff, sore, tired, or I just hit a low patch, I came up with an affirmation that brings my focus back to my body, running form, foot placement, breath and the to moment in general. “I’m strong, fast, flexible, efficient and sure footed. I’m built for long-distance running over uneven terrain.” If I’m feeling tense somewhere and having trouble releasing it, I’ll add “relaxed” after “efficient”. It works great for me. My concentration improves, I relax, and start to feel lighter on my feet. It doesn’t suddenly give me a boost of energy or make me faster. My mind comes back to the current task of running.

It’s sort of like trying to read a book and watch TV at the same time. If you focus solely on the book, you won’t catch much of what’s happening on the TV. If you let too much of the TV take over your focus, you’ll have trouble reading. My running affirmation focuses me and reminds me that I’m capable of more. Whatever the current difficulty, I can get through it.

Positive thinking and positive self-talk are both great tools for increasing your vision of your potential. But on their own, the best you can hope for is an improved mood. To actually get results with them, you have to take action.

Trying to Get Out of My Own Way

I haven’t written much in weeks. And most of that was just some training log notes. I shouldn’t say “just”, because writing is writing, and even in training logs I try to write well.

I tend to build up an anticipation and pressure around writing. Usually it’s about writing xxx number of words, or so many blog posts, or even staying up-to-date on training log notes. The anticipation and pressure become so great that they become a barrier to even trying.

This phenomenon isn’t solely limited to writing for me, and it dates back over 20 years. The first specific incident I remember was related to writing, though. In 5th grade, I ended up getting myself homeschooled for about the last half of the school year. I had a school district provided tutor/teacher. I kept getting behind on assignments. The knowledge wasn’t an issue, I’d just build so much anticipation and pressure about the assignments. My tutor recognized this and gave me a due date for a history report that he was pretty sure I’d miss. I did, and he explained that he thought I’d miss it. I think he said it was procrastination and overwhelming myself, and he was pretty close.

I’m pretty sure the same phenomenon was why I ended up homeschooled in the first place. I’d worry so much that I’d get sick in the mornings either at home, or on the way to school. I think I did finally finish the report, but I don’t really remember how rest of the school year went.

I had similar problems missing school days all the way through high school, culminating in leaving school halfway through my junior year. I took correspondence courses through the mail (internet courses weren’t around yet) for the second half. I went to community college through the Running Start program for my senior year of high school.

The anticipation and pressure still get to me sometimes. It’s not things that are actually mandatory like taxes or bills. Though I do usually procrastinate on my taxes. Sometimes it creeps into my business, unfortunately. Working for myself, there’s no one else to hold me accountable, so sometimes I find myself doing enough to get by rather than hustling to flourish. It’s a lot more invasive in creative endeavors, things that I want to do, and tell myself that I should do, like music, videos and, of course, writing.

I haven’t come up with a good way to overcome it when it does build up. If I don’t overthink whatever the task is and just get to work on it, I don’t have time to build that obstacle for myself, and there’s little resistance. Sometimes I can just ignore it and get to work, but that’s not yet a consistent strategy. Maybe I’ll find another way, or maybe I need to continue chipping at it and slowly build up the strength to act despite the pressure.

For now, I just know that writing again feels great.

February 15-21 Practice Running

Monday, February 15, 2016
5:10 pm – Elliptical, 6013 revolutions, 1:00:00, 5/8 resistance.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016
4:40 pm – 4.57 mi, 205 ft elevation gain, 51:02. Kellogg Lake Tree Farm gate #2, with dogs. Altra Lone Peak 1.5.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016
4:49 pm – 6.06 mi, 625 ft elevation gain, 1:03:59. Kellogg Lake Tree Farm gate #1, with dogs. Altra Superior 1.5 red #5.

I did about 2 mi warm-up heading for the connector hill, plus a little bit to hit the next whole minute, which was 21:00. Then I did one round of uphill Tabata “sprints”, 8 reps of 20 sec sprint with 10 sec rest between reps. It was rough. I started to get a little light headed at about rep 6. My legs handled it better than my lungs. The reps definitely felt short, but hard. The rest breaks felt much shorter than 10 sec.

I continued up the hill after finishing the tabata, walking the ups and very slowly jogging the flats. My lungs were burning for about 15 minutes afterwards. By about 20 minutes after, I started to feel semi-normal again. I did not enjoy that, but I’ll probably do it again sometime.

Thursday, February 18, 2016
5:00 pm – 8.32 mi, 273 ft elevation gain, 1:19:08. May Creek Rd Loop +. New Balance MR10v2 white.

Friday, February 19, 2016
5:21 – 4.40 mi, 318 ft elevation gain, 47:00. Kellogg Lake Tree Farm gate #1, with dogs. Altra Superior 1.5 red #4.

My right hip was slightly sore, mostly near the hip flexor, but I’m not sure what the exact muscle is called. I took it pretty easy and didn’t really have any troubles with it during the run, except for some discomfort during a pit stop. But it was fine when I started running again.

Saturday, February 20, 2016
5:36 – 5.01 mi, 96 ft elevation gain, 41:31. Around town. Inov-8 Road-X-Treme 220.

I modified these shoes much like I’ve done with my Altras. I left the foam around the top of the heel this time, and I think I’ll cut that away too. It’s more of a memory type foam than the softer foam in the Altras, and it puts more pressure on the calcaneus than I’d like.

My right hip was a little sore today, so I decided to cut my run down from the planned 8 mi. I was going to just do 4 mi, but I was feeling pretty good, so I went out 2.5 mi before turning back. The run was still going fine until about 3.5 mi, when my hip started hurting. I slowed down a bit. It eventually felt better and I finished the run fine.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

I decided not to run today. My hip hurt even more. It was a little harder than normal to move around without sharp pain in a couple spots around my right hip. Sleeping Sunday night to Monday was rough. I was relatively pain free and comfortable when I first went to sleep, but I kept waking up with pain and had a hard time finding a comfortable position most of the night.

Totals: Running – 28.36 mi, ft elevation gain. Elliptical – 1:00:00, 6013 revolutions.

February 8-14 Practice Running

Tuesday, February 9, 2016
4:13 pm – 4.34 mi, 696 ft elevation gain, 1:07:05. Olney Creek Rd, with dogs. Altra Superior 1.5 red #5.

There were too many cars parked at the gate where I had wanted to run. Glad it was so busy, so I got to check out Olney Creek rd for the first time. Some crusty, punchy snow part of the way. I’m looking forward to exploring out there more.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016
4:14 pm – 7.44 mi, 111 ft elevation gain, 1:13:44. Warmup, 11 x 1min repeats, cool down. New Balance MR10v2 white.

I had to loop back during the warm up to use the restroom at the grocery store. I did about 2 mi warmup. At 2 mi, I waited until the next whole minute, which was 25:00, I believe. Then I did 11 x 1 min repeats with 1 min rest between. I managed to only hit a hill on one of the intervals.
I miscounted the intervals. I stopped off the side of the road in the bushes after the 7th to pee, and my 1 min rest was over when I got back up on the road. I think that’s where I messed up the count. I meant to do 10.
I’m still figuring out pacing. I end up going a little too fast to start out, then dial it back a little. But my average interval pace was good. I definitely felt worked by the end. I may have been able to push out one more, but my legs were a bit heavy on the cool down.
I stopped briefly to chat with a neighbor on the way back home. My legs were recovered enough by the end to finish hard, so I did.

Thursday, February 11, 2016
3:51 pm – 11.05 mi, 781 ft elevation gain, 1:44:56. Through town to WFSP RR Grade. Altra Superior 1.5 red #6.

Friday, February 12, 2016
4:14 pm – 6.48 mi, 1363 ft elevation gain, 1:26:58. Reiter hill gate to top, with dogs. Altra Superior 1.5 red #4.

Saturday, February 13, 2016
3:34 pm – 18.02 mi, 1878 ft elevation gain, 3:04:46. Town to WFSP RR Grade, Greg Ball, Wallace Lake. Altra Superior 1.5 red #4.

Sunday, February 14, 2016
3:52 pm – 18.08 mi, 2071 ft elevation gain, 2:59:26. Town to WFSP RR Grade, Greg Ball, Wallace Lake. Altra Superior 1.5 red #4.

Totals: Running – 65.41 mi, 6900 ft elevation gain.