I've always been a fan of my Garmin.
I bought the wearable GPS unit second hand several years ago. I wear it almost every time I run. Or bike. Or go for a brisk walk. The Garmin measures speed, pace, time and even maps your route. It spits out numbers and stats that appeals to my inner nerd. It lays everything out in tidy columns and enchanting decimals. Everything you need to know about your sweaty escapade is spread out in front of you, except for one important yet immeasurable factor—effort.
Before GPS units, runners measured their runs by effort. They didn't wring their hands over pace, or fret over cadence. They just knew that either that day's run was hard or easy. A runner judged their performance by how they felt, how much intensity or ease they placed into their run and how long they went.
Effort is something that can't be measured and analyzed by a computer. Some days I run seemingly without strain and other days it's like I'm going uphill in quicksand, during a hailstorm and wearing army boots. My pace may be the same in many cases, but the effort is wildly different. When I judge myself by my pace, I am usually disappointed because it doesn't factor in things like fitness level, weather, motivation, fatigue, etc. Or I compare myself to other runs or even other runners. I often feel like I should have done "better". Results aren't the outcome of a simple calculation.
The same can be said in my life. There are phases in my life where I can juggle all sorts of things and not feel any undue stress. I can easily bounce from one thing to another and not feel sluggish or weighed down. I have an inner capacity that carries me, a spirit that is undaunted by landmines or complications. It's like I can go on and on and only feel the sunlight and the richness of my efforts. My pace is rock solid.
Then there are other times where even the simplest tasks seem daunting, where I feel my skin is heavy and my heart is encumbered. I am still doing the same things, but there are some incalculable factors that make me feel that I am swimming with cement blocks on my feet. I feel like all I can manage that day is just taking a shower and getting dressed for work. My pace is off the mark.
The one thing I have learned in running is to adjust. Coming back from my herniated disc has meant that I have had to look at my training in a new light. I have had to learn to not only love running again, but to take it easy. Build up slowly. I can't tackle the distances and times the way I used to. I can and will get there again, but I need to be patient, listen to my body and take advice from others who have been there before.
Lately I have applied this principle to my life, in general. In the last few months, I have been easing up. I have taken a hiatus from the pod, and this blog, and stepping down from other things I have been doing up until recently. My pace wasn't matching my effort. My effort was heavy, and my pace was sloth-like. I realized I had to adjust my efforts by redirecting them. I had to take my mind off of pace, results, numbers, likes, hits, pages written, etc. and re-focus on where my efforts were going and the energy behind them.
I have found this easing up to be vital in my overall perspective. The problem with taking things off my plate is that I start to wonder where the next spiritual / mental meal is coming from. The negative space on the plate takes over and I start to panic a little. But one thing I have learned on this journey is that nothing is outside the realm of the Creator. I know that my faith will not lead me astray. Listening to my spirit is wise. My ego will try to thwart it, just like it does when I am running, but in the end, when I lay low my ego, other things will rise in its place. It's not easy. Ego loves a good pity party and to compare and compartmentalize.
The result of easing up and focusing on the effort is that new things have come up. My pace is shifting. It's not a straight line or easily marked route. It's hilly and there are puddles to jump and my pace will reflect what life puts in front of me. There are times when I need to slow it down and there are times I can kick it into first gear. The most important thing is that I keep moving forward.