Don’t Be Married To The Miles by Kelly Carder Mascorro

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Kelly Carder Mascorro is currently the Assistant Director of the Freshman Resource Center at the University of Portland.  She attended DePaul University (Go Blue Demons!) for undergrad and received her M.A. in Communication from the University of Delaware (Go Blue Hens!).  This picture encompasses why Kelly runs, to consume entire boxes of Voodoo doughnuts.  You can follow her on Twitter @kellycarder.

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Don’t Be Married to the Miles: Allowing your goals to be shaped, and not to shape you.

The best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray.” – Robert Burns

Regardless of this being your first or thirty first start to the academic year in student affairs, without a doubt you can relate to the sentiment by Robert Burns.  We spend a tremendous amount of time planning and visualizing how to make the first weeks of the academic year engaging, educational, and fun with little thought to the alternative to those great plans.  But what happens when there’s a wrinkle in those great plans?  How do you respond?  Do you let the unexpected consume you, or do you welcome those unexpected moments with open arms and turn them into an opportunity?

With 6 years in residence life and now onto my second year within the first year experience I must say I have responded in both constructive and not so constructive ways to unexpected change.  In my very first year as a professional there was a power outage in my area my first night in the building.  I freaked out and thought, “How am I supposed to be a positive leader and guide in this environment if I have no idea how to respond or have no way of anticipating when this might happen?”  After a few more power outages that summer I realized this would likely be a reoccurring issue.  I started to ask questions about who was a part of the response team, what the response was in the past, and how we could respond better when and if it were to happen again.  Within no time the response team found a rhythm together and handled all future outages like a well oiled machine.

Without an ability to move beyond the unexpected change and allow those best laid plans to transform into a new plan, there is little room for a positive outcome.  Getting stuck within the change and letting your frustration fester only keeps you in that place longer.

The same is true of the way we respond to our own personal plans and goals, especially fitness and wellness goals.  Within my roles in student affairs the summers have provided the most room to create a consistent workout and nutrition plan.  Without as many students on campus the emergencies are fewer and the work load more controlled.  No amount of caffeine can make me a morning workout person, so I like to plan my workouts for the time after I get home from work.  In the summertime I can often finish my daily run or cross training at a reasonable hour with enough time to make dinner and enjoy some down time before bed.  I love going to sleep knowing I have accomplished both my professional and personal goals for the day.

A few years ago I set my sites on running my first marathon, Chicago 2009, and also decided to switch to a plant-based diet.  I was excited about these transitions and even more amped by the opportunity to jump into a new learning process; I knew little about marathon training or veganism.  In early 2009 I utilized free time to educate myself on the benefits and drawbacks to a new way of eating.  I wanted to make sure I didn’t skip out on the nutrients I would need to sustain my activity.  As fun and easy as it would be to eat chips and salsa for dinner every night, I knew that wouldn’t get me through the killer 20 miler on the calendar in late summer.  The transition was slow but as the academic year ended I eventually switched to 100% vegan.  I also started my training a few weeks after all the residents moved out.  Part of the reason I decided to run Chicago was because it was in the fall which meant most of the training was over the summer.

As the summer progressed I check off my daily workouts one by one.  I never missed a single run or stepped foot back into my apartment without hitting each mile required by my daily plan.  I was feeling stronger and more energized by the different meal plan.  As August came around the corner I felt strong and confident about my accomplishments.  I was ready to tackle the demands of move in and my training routine.

Once the student leaders (Resident Assistants) arrived my daily scheduled became engorged.  With training all day, staff dinners and team building in the evening, and prepping the building for new students at night, my evening workouts were forced to transition to the morning.   The harsh tones of the 5AM alarm were not a welcomed addition.  Before long I was pushing the snooze button more and more.  My workouts grew shorter to make it to work on time, or were skipped all together due to the late hours the night before.  With group meals more than once a day my nutrition options were limited and my plan challenged.  After a week of my perfect plan execution wavering my inner dialogue turned quite negative.  I started to tell myself I was lazy or not capable, or that I wasn’t trying hard enough.  After a few weeks of irregular workout days and more than a few cookies eaten I wanted to give up entirely.  How could I go forward with the training and the race if I wasn’t staying true to the path?  I didn’t believe it was possible to accomplish my goals of finishing and feeling strong if I didn’t stick to my regimen.

For the next few weeks I did the best I could with my plans and all in all felt pretty good.  In October I finished the race!  Despite the killer limp the few days after, I loved the experience.  As I went back to life without the rigid training schedule I started to realize how unfair I was to myself.  Despite the ebbs and flows of my training and nutrition program I did what I set out to do.  It can often be easier to have flexibility when working on a team than by yourself because you know there are things beyond your control.  When it comes to our personal goals, we have more influence.  Despite the perceived control or lack thereof that should not influence our adaptability.  Be kind to yourself as you would to others.  As one of my colleagues often says “Don’t be married to the miles”.  In the end you will still reach your goals and you will find a heck of a lot more enjoyment in the process.  You will also be able to set and achieve your goals during the busiest times of the year.

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