I know he’d be utterly embarrassed to read this
My friend Christopher Bergland is one of my running paladins.
Chris has won triple Ironman races, run Badwater, written a great book on running The Athlete’s Way: Sweat and the Biology of Bliss and holds the Guinness Word Record for distance on a treadmill in 24 hours. And while I’ll never share any of those accomplishments with him, we do share two things – a passion for rubber bands and the desire to develop a positive mind-set.
One afternoon, a few years ago, Chris and I were having coffee and he starting telling me about his rubber band fetish. He explained how each morning he puts a new rubber band on his wrist as a reminder of his commitment to training. At night, he takes it off and adds it to a rubber band ball.
The balls remind him of the “investment” he’s made in himself and serve as a visual reminder of the effort he’s put into training. The more the he trains, the bigger the ball gets, which, in turn, drives him to keep training. A never-ending cycle; a circle… just like the rubber bands themselves.
His story set off little fireworks in my mind.
Rubber bands, so what?
Chris’ story really struck me. As you may have noticed, I have a touch of OCD and it manifests itself in the quirkiest ways. For example, I’ve been wearing rubber bands around my wrists off and on since high school.
I don’t know what it is… when I find one, I pick it up and slip it on. I’m not picky about color, width or quality. When I find one that’s too big, I break it and tie it into a smaller loop so that it stays on. Sometimes I tie two together and double loop them around my wrist. You get the idea…
What do I do with them? Previous to meeting Chris, nothing. I’d wear a couple for while, find a better one, swap one out. Maybe shoot it at somebody. On random occasions they came in handy, like in a MacGyver kind of way, but none of this amounted to anything.
After talking with Chris, though, I put my obsession to new purpose and started making my own training-related ball. Pre-Lyme I was doing 6-8 training activities a week and the ball quickly grew. However, once Lyme hit me, I gave up “training” and contributing to the ball. And without goals or a visual touchstone to remind me of them, I spun down into a pretty dark place.
Positive Imagery. Positive Mind-set.
I think any runner/athlete can associate with this statement – my mood and general outlook on things are very closely tied to my athletic abilities. When I’m able to get out and run, ride and be active, I’m pretty happy. But when I’m struggling physically, I’m struggling mentally as well. It’s one of the toughest aspects of my illness and until as recently as last summer, I was not managing it well at all. I couldn’t climb out of the hole.
After a particularly low point in August and a lot of self-doubt about attempting to race a 1/2 marathon, I decided to pick up the ball making process again. The next day I went to Staples, bought two 64-count bags of 3 1/2 x 1/4 inch rubber bands and started wearing them again.
Training for the race was rough. And even though I’d run many 1/2 marathons before, it was very much like doing it all again for the first time. But as the training continued, so did the growth of the ball and by race day I had a nice tennis ball-sized example of the hard work I’d put in (see photo above).
Roll Your Own
I bring this up now because I’ve started a new ball of the new year (also in the photo above). According to my log, I’ve run or biked 20 times since January 1st and I now have a 20-band ball sitting on my desk next to my 1/2 marathon ball. Their presence is reassuring; a reminder of what I can still do instead of what I can’t. A reminder of the many commitments, athletic and otherwise, that I’ve made for this year. A reminder of the investment I’m making in my health for myself and my family.
If you’re struggling to stay focused on your goals, stay on track with your treatment or just generally stay positive. I suggest you go to Staples, grab a bag of 3 1/2 x 1/4 inch rubber bands and started making your own ball. It’s a cheap, easy way to give yourself a visual reminder of the path you want to follow.