Out Past The Edge

018_18The athletes have finished their warm up and are moving to the line for the start of the workout. It’s a tough one, what we call an “edge” workout. They will challenge themselves – going beyond what they’ve done before. 120 yard runs in 19 seconds, 35 seconds to jog back to the start, 30 seconds to rest and then repeat – 10 times.

They approach the line quietly, intentionally, focused. One of them asks again, “How many of these?” A few of them say something encouraging like, “Alright we got this.” But, this is new territory. And then, they go.

10 sounds so far at the start. You take them one at a time though and pretty soon you’re halfway. You can’t see the end but you’re committed now so you keep on going. You get to eight and realize there are only two left. You are past your edge now, outside the comfort zone of what you have done and you’re exhausted and challenged but you’re gonna be ok.

The last two come and go. The final run is actually one of the fastest.

In a recent On Being podcast Ashley Hicks, the Director of Black Girls Run shared a wonderful piece of advice given to her shortly before running the Chicago Marathon. Low on enthusiasm, the clerk in the running store told her,

 Yeah, the best thing for you to remember is that the blessing is outside of your comfort zone.

The athlete knows that the body, in order to adapt has to be challenged, to go beyond what it knows to create a new response; increased fitness and strength is one of the blessings found outside our comfort zone.

There is another blessing out there as well and that is the knowledge that exploring the boundary increases the edge.  10 is possible so now maybe 12.

103_103Everything inside that new edge is in the comfort zone now. Deep in the match or the race or the game,  when you’re feeling that exhaustion,  you remember you have already been here, you know this territory and you know you’re not at the edge anymore. You know you can go further,  faster, harder.

We don’t earn our blessings, we receive them. They are gifts.  So, the athlete’s path becomes a spiritual one. There is the blessing of the practice itself, of learning how to go outside the comfort zone, explore the edge, receive the blessings and continue to grow in new and sometimes surprising ways.

So get out there on the edge, then take that next step, the one that takes you outside the comfort zone. Discover the blessing waiting for you just beyond.

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Making The Journey Is What Makes Us

One of the players I coach wrapped up her high school hockey career a few weeks ago. And, while there are certainly bigger things on her horizon as she prepares to play college soccer, she found herself feeling that momentary sense of sadness we often feel when we reach the end.

The beauty of the athletic pursuit and it’s power to transform can probably best be understood as a journey. Whether the goal is to reach the top of the mountain or the bottom, the important part, the biggest part, is what happens between the two.That’s where we experience the wonderful grace of being alive. Challenges are met, courage summoned, disappointments overcome and relationships with competitors and teammates are forged along the way.

There’s obvious satisfaction in reaching the destination. Yea!! we did it. But, making the journey is what got us there. Making the journey is what makes us. Grace is not so much at the finish line as on the way. Which is why the end of the season or a career feels bittersweet.

It’s helpful to stop and look back for a moment; to reflect on what we learned, what we’ll take with us and how we’ve been blessed by taking this path.  Then, when you’re ready, it’s time to pack your bags. New adventures and a new experience of that grace await.  Go hard, stay focused, and enjoy the ride. Great clip below from YETI cycles on following the path.

Lean In The Direction You Want To Go

iStock_000011469617MediumIts hard to move gracefully when you’re going in two directions at once. Hips moving one way, shoulders another it’s hard to keep rhythm or balance. Oops, down he goes! In any sport we learn to lean into the change even if it’s ever so slightly so that we can make the change gracefully, shifting momentum and exerting power in a new direction.

I’m learning I do well to remember that in the rest of my life. Whether its an unexpected change to avoid an obstacle or an intentional step in a new direction it seems to be better to lean in the direction I want to go. Grace flows more readily when I  can relax, and commit to the change. Lean in.

Commit To The Journey

IMG_2976  Joyce Di Donato hit the nail on the head this week with her commencement address at Julliard. ” You will never make it, she told the group. That’s the bad new but the shift I invite you to make  is to see it as fabulous, outstanding news, for I don’t actually believe there is an it.”

We play and compete because it’s fun. We also do it because, for many of us it’s way of feeling connected and alive. It’s an opportunity to become more and be part of something greater than ourselves.  One of the things we learn though is that grace, the thing that transforms us and our experience isn’t waiting on the other side of the finish line. It isn’t found in the record books or on the podium. Grace is found along the way in the challenges and choices we encounter and in our response.

Over time we discover that the rush that comes with the victory or the accomplishment is momentary and fleeting. As enjoyable as they are, and they can be exciting, they are not what sustains or transforms us.

Di Donato goes on to tell the graduates, ” One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself right here, right now, in this single, solitary , monumental moment in your life – is to decide without apology to commit to the journey and not the outcome.”

So, play to win? Of course. Strive to better our performance? Absolutely. Remember though, to compete means literally to journey with. To “commit without apology to the journey” and let go of the outcome  – is to play with grace.