Yesterday afternoon my husband and I were settling into the first round of the NBA playoffs, starting with the Cavs vs. the Pacers. The entire game felt far too close for comfort for the defending champs; they ended up winning by just 1 point as a jumper from a Pacer guard rolled off the rim in the final seconds.
Earlier in the 3rd quarter, after LeBron scored on a powerful and definitive drive to the basket, he pumped his fists and pounded his chest with a clear intent to ignite himself, his teammates, and the crowd. Generally unimpressed with the 7th seeded Pacers and a bit disturbed that the Cavs could not put more distance between them, this move surprised my husband. Both of us being huge LeBron fans, he asked me, “Do you think he is having to manufacture all of this enthusiasm, don’t you think he’s annoyed they are not just putting this team away?” While I totally understood what he meant, I immediately answered “No, I think it’s real, I think he is living in the moment.” My thoughts didn’t end there. I was so inspired by James in that moment, and at the end of the game, I felt compelled to carry his attitude and energy into the rest of my weekend, and hopefully beyond.
It hasn’t been the best season for LeBron and the Cavaliers. They won only 51 games in the regular season and struggled consistently with injuries and roster shifts. Still, when you’re the defending champs and you have the best player in the world, expectations are always high. Sure, under ideal circumstances, the Cavs would put away their mediocre 1st and 2nd round Eastern Conference opponents in four games, by healthy margins. In reality though, they are still finding their way to their best game as a team. So, on their way back to the Finals, the road may be a little rockier than one might have expected when the season started. After they beat the Pacers by 1, LeBron seemed elated during his on-court interview with Lisa Salters. “It doesn’t matter how you get a win in the playoffs, it’s that you get a win,” he explained, out of breath and relieved. James’ ability to exist only in the present and to embrace his current journey immediately awakened my desire to do the same.
I’ve got 5 weeks till the Brooklyn Half Marathon and I am not exactly where I hoped I would be. If you’d checked in with me about 5 weeks ago I would have told you that things were right on track. As I was slowly increasing my mileage, my runs stayed easy and light. The gains I was making strength training seemed to be balanced by the flexibility I was maintaining with twice a week yoga. Everything felt fluid. I set a goal to run the race in under 2 hours, a goal I missed by exactly 1 minute the last time. I wanted to be in the best shape of my life by the time of the race, and the way things were going, I felt like I was on my way there.
Then a few weeks ago, I caught a bug from a co-worker. The flu-like symptoms have now plagued me with varying severity for more days than I find acceptable. The first couple days I felt like I had been hit by a ton of bricks. Since then, one day I’ll feel better, and the next my muscles are achey and that scratchiness in my throat is back. The most intolerable part of my ailments has undoubtedly been the disruption in my workouts and in my diet. I keep things very clean, especially during the week — no sugar and very little grain. But when I’m sick, if I want to eat anything at all, it’s usually crackers or a bagel — foods that I love but don’t normally eat because of how crappy they make me feel. When I’ve been able to complete workouts they’ve been shorter and less intense than planned because my strength and energy is just not there. This lack of energy has met with pessimism as my thoughts have been residing not in the present, but in the future. All I’ve been thinking is: My goal was to get lighter and faster, but all I’m doing is getting heavier and slower. I will be lucky if I finish the race, a PR is out of the question.
While in some ways these thoughts are me being dramatic, they are rooted in some truth. I have put on some weight and I don’t feel how I wanted to feel at this point. But after I heard LeBron yesterday, all I could think was: It is what it is, I’m at where I’m at. Stay on the bumpy journey, you can still get where you want to go.
I took this attitude with me this morning on my first long run in a week — an 8 1/2 mile jaunt through the park where I walked more than once, and averaged a little bit over a 10 minute mile. It wasn’t pretty, but I got it done. At the end I was wiped. But, instead of feeling down about my pace and the fact that it feels like my fitness level has fallen, I felt excited to plant this struggle into my memory. I know I will use it. After all, I’ve rarely achieved linear progress in anything I’ve ever gone after. There has to be bumps — first to trip over, then to climb up on when I’ve gathered the strength to reach even higher. Many thanks to the King for the reminder: I’m still finding my way to my best game — the W is still in sight.