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Yesterday, I ran for the first time since 2003. Yes, you read that right. Keep in mind, I’ve been struggling with jogging, with working my way up to running, with feeling like I’d never run again. I didn’t know what I was missing, what part of the joy of running was escaping me, but I knew something wasn’t right. Ever since I started this journey to finding my fit passion, I knew running used to be it, but I couldn’t remember why; now I do.

I finally got to re-experience something. Not just runner’s high. I didn’t get to feel light legs. I didn’t have an “easy” run. But what I did get to experience, for a few seconds, is that moment when you feel like you’ve outpaced your skin you are moving so fast, yet in your head, there’s complete stillness. It was a moment where my form naturally fell into place. I was an economy of motion. I gradually increased my speed, like a car getting back up to speed after stopping at a red light. Holy crap; I’m running! I’m really all out running. Am I bouncing? Did I even touch the ground the last five feet? This is awesome!

Of course, all those thoughts burst the bubble, and I was literally reaching for the mile marker by the end of it. I doubled over the minute I stopped running (after I stopped the iPod; let’s not get crazy). Holding my thighs didn’t help, so I held a hip. Still no. Oh no, I’m going to hurl air!ย  Why did I come running right after Smokey Bones? I opened the car and lay across the back seat, feeling like maybe I’d popped a lung. My throat burned and my chest was sore. My abs were cursing me out like a fisherman’s wife, and what my legs/feet were saying isn’t printable. After a minute or two, though, that receded. The feeling of accomplishment still hasn’t, though.

I realized that I’ve been holding back all of this time, afraid to be gasping for breath, afraid to push my body, afraid to stop concentrating so hard on my form and allow my body to find its own rhythm. I didn’t think I had it in me to do what runners do naturally.

Have you been holding back, not giving something your best because you’re afraid of failure? Are you only putting a safe amount of effort into your dreams, just plugging along at a sedate pace, feeling like something is missing from doing what you love, yet not knowing what it could be? Maybe it’s time to really push it. Show yourself the wall and start climbing even before you fully form the thought. Leave it all on the course/court/page. You may be wheezing and gasping by the end, but you’ll recover. You won’t even remember that part. What you’ll remember is how great it felt to fly full tilt towards reclaiming a bit of your passion.

I’m not suggesting, I’m telling you: get that book done. Get your workout clothes on and get your butt out of the house. Press the edges of your comfort zone. If 500 words a day is comfortable, do 550, then 600, then 650. If 20 minutes on the elliptical is comfortable, do 22 (handy ten percent rule). If you can comfortably run a mile, run 1.1, or run faster. If you’re work is “finished,” send it out to be judged: run a race, send out a query, submit to a magazine, apply for grad school, test your fluency with a native speaker. The only way to improve is to challenge yourself, and the only way to measure your improvement is to test it. More important than that, even if you wind up sore and out of breath, you’ll feel better than you’ve felt in a long time.

At least, that’s my two cents. Leave yours in the comment section.