January 14, 2012

Bumps in the Road and a Bit of Rain

The road to self-belief is potholed  ~Nyasha Madavo

I am lucky enough to be spending this week with an incredible international group of health professionals at the Inaugural Caribbean Obesity Forum on the beautiful island of Barbados. In love meetings like this because having a global perspective on the disease of obesity is increasingly important in what I do. When you don’t open your eyes and take a look around the world once in a while, your focus can become ever more narrow.

So for me, while I appreciate the education, the best part of this kind of gathering is increasingly building my global network of like-minded people.

At the same time, travel always has its challenges. I chose running as a form of exercise in large part because of it’s portability – “have shoes, will travel” – you can really do it anywhere. Almost every business class hotel in the world has at least one well-worn treadmill hiding in a converted 5th floor suite.

For this trip, however, I had not really planned on needing the treadmill.  I am, after all, on a tropical island – I am thinking “I am going to run outside.” so I put on my shoes and walk out through the lobby to do just that when the skies open up  – not with glorious sunshine – but with torrential rain.

Me, shoes, iPhone – wet, wet, wet.

I turn around and and am back in the hotel lobby at a record pace (hmmm…maybe rain is good for something).

“Sixth floor,” says the woman at the front desk, exactly like she was waiting for me.

Up on the 6th floor, there is the Fitness Center. Two adjoining rooms – one filled with weight machines, some free weights and some sort of exercise ball. The other room has 4 treadmills, all empty. I choose one right in front of the windows, overlooking the harbor. My socks are wet and my shoes are a bit squishy, but I set a time of 30 minutes and start to run.

Sometimes things are not ideal. This whole trip had some of those moments. My lecture topic was not the one I had prepared for. I arrived with a sinus infection and had to track down an antibiotic. The sinus infection made my asthma worse, so breathing has been all around a bit more challenged. When the rain started it would have been so easy to just give up.

Now I am on the treadmill and my feet are squishing a bit in my shoes and my lungs burn and I really feel slow and tired and it would be so very easy to just stop. I could have coffee and get into something dry and be in the front row for the first lectures. Why not? No one would know but me, right?

Then I look and notice someone else has come in and is starting up the treadmill next to me. It’s one of the docs form the conference. He greets me with a big smile. “Great talk,” he says – of my lecture that I prepared of a miss-mash of slides thrown together in to fit my surprise topic. He settles in and starts running next to me.

It’s funny how the mind works. We have all this inner self-talk that can really change how we perform and/or how we feel about it. I am a practiced enough speaker that I can – if called upon – deliver a pretty decent talk on almost any subject within my field on short notice. Because I have done it enough, even if I feel I am not doing my best, I know I can still do pretty well. But I wasn’t always like that. 5-6 years ago, I might have insisted to the conference organizers that they let me give my prepared talk – or I might have bowed out entirely.

Maybe it is this way with any acquired skill. I don’t have a lot of confidence in my ability to run – so when one or 3 or 5 things aren’t just right, the voice in my head starts to give me the permission to bow out.

Then, I get this compliment – from a stranger – on an entirely different thing – and it’s like it plays a trick in my head: I CAN be good at something even when the cards are stacked against me. So I turn up the music, and look out at the water and keep running.

By the end of my run I am more wet with sweat than rain. The clouds have mostly passed and there is a rainbow fading over the boats in the harbor. It looks like a postcard. It probably is a postcard somewhere.

Rain or shine, happy Saturday to you.




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