Are you ready to challenge yourself?

By Ruthy Watson, PhD

Life presents everyone with daily challenges. Whether mental or physical, challenges can bring out the best or worst in a person and can be very stressful. Some challenges are external, imposed by something or someone that is known or unknown. Other challenges may be self-imposed, where a decision is made to do something new or different. One self-imposed challenge that I recently accepted and successfully completed was a half marathon and fundraising requirement for a national nonprofit organization. I learned many lessons about myself during this challenge, and I hope my story will motivate others to take on a new challenge in life.
 
Challenging oneself to do something new or different can be daunting or overwhelming. When faced with a new challenge, some people fear that a setback will ensue or that the effort will not be successful and result in failure. Yet there are others who can so easily overcome challenges that it may seem they have some sort of underlying talent, skill, or personality. How do these people do it? Do they feel that fear? How do they work through those fears?  To overcome my challenge, I acknowledged the fear and moved forward with gathering tools and resources to ensure a positive outcome for my efforts.

Challenges

Before signing up to participate in the Team In Training half-marathon program, my initial perception was that it was a great way to get the training that I needed. I had been running for about 2 years and competed in many small distance 5k and 10k runs. One of those races was very difficult for me so I knew that if I wanted to continue running I needed serious training. I also thought it would be a good way to get in shape and loose some unwanted pounds. When I went to the information meeting I met the coaches and learned about the program requirements and the challenges that were ahead.

What were my challenges? One was training my body to endure a 13.1 mile run. I had never run farther than 6 miles, which meant I needed to get serious about making the time to run during the week and with the running group on Saturday mornings. Notice I said making the time versus taking the time—training was a conscious effort. I had to decide when and how I was going to insert my training runs into my weekly schedule because I still had to work and fulfill other obligations. For me that meant getting up between 4:00 and 5:00 am and running anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, 4 to 5 times per week.
           
Another challenge was learning about nutrition and about the foods or supplements my body needed to use as fuel for energy and endurance to run 13.1 miles. Even though my occupation involves educating people on healthy living and wellness, and I consider myself to be informed, there were many things that I didn’t know specifically about running. I had to make use of the staff and resources that were part of the Team In Training program so I could get the information that I needed. In addition, I took the initiative of speaking with friends who were runners and reading several magazines and websites that were geared towards running. Once I had the relevant information, I had to apply it and determine what was effective. By race day I was ready because my nutritional plan and training schedule was working.

Getting my mind “on board” with the mission of success was also a challenge. To maintain my motivation, I focused on why I was training and the mission of the organization, knowing that that the funds I raised were going to help in the fight against cancer. These positive thoughts were instrumental on those mornings when I didn’t want to get up or when the runs seemed to be extremely laborious. Visualizing myself crossing the finish line on race day made the training meaningful and exciting. I also took into account the coaches’ and mentors’ advice during the weekly training sessions and read the training emails. When it came to race day I was confident and strong, thinking positive thoughts and affirming success while I was running.

Another part of the challenge involved fundraising to support the cause of Team In Training and to offset the expenses involved with participating in the event. There have been numerous events that I have participated in where fundraising was required. However, this was the largest sum ever and while I was initially concerned, I knew that I was willing to put forth the effort and try. I read the information that was provided and developed a plan, which included approaching my friends, families, business contacts, and acquaintances, to reach and exceed my fundraising goal.

Lessons Learned

So, how did I do? Fantastic! When I approached the finished line after a strong race, I had to fight back tears of joy for what I had just accomplished. It is a feeling that I will never forget. Reuniting with my teammates after the race was also incredible as we reflected on our triumphs that day.  

Through this experience, I learned what experts say about the power of the mind and body: what the mind can conceive, the body can achieve. I never thought I could run for more than 2 hours for a long distance, but I committed my mind to accomplishing this goal. I also learned the value of support and confidence. If I could convince myself that I would be successful then I could convince my friends of the same and, consequently, obtain their support. That’s exactly what I did. My friends and family encouraged me mentally and supported me financially. Finally, I learned that doing something for someone else is the biggest motivator of all. It is easy to pay the fees for a race and run just because I can, but it is even more significant to know that my actions and training would be used to help someone struggling with a devastating disease.

Are you ready to challenge yourself? Challenge your mind and body to reach your next goal. You can do it.


Ruthy Watson PhD

Ruthy Watson is an adjunct professor with Kaplan University’s School of Health Sciences. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Chatham University and both her Master of Science in Public Health, and her Doctorate in Public Health and Community Health Promotion from Walden University. In addition, Dr. Watson is president and founder of Ruthy Watson’s Innovative Wellness Consulting, Inc., a health and wellness promotion organization that specializes in community programs and activities to encourage healthy living and disease prevention in South Florida. Dr. Watson has taught in traditional classroom settings and online courses in wellness education with Broward College in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Kaplan Higher Education Corporation is a division of Kaplan, Inc., a subsidiary of The Washington Post Company.

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