The Three Very Important “G’s” – Guest post by Christiana Rutkowski
Today’s guest post speaks about the interplay between gentleness and grit, but introduces a third “g” into the equation. Christiana is open and honest about how her past history has shaped her to become the individual and runner she is today. Read on to hear more about her story and The Three Very Important “G’s.”
Growing up we tend to hear many phrases, some of which you may be familiar with –
“Work through it.”
“Suck it up.”
Other times, we might also hear the following –
“Take it easy.”
“Don’t push too much.”
“Let it be.”
Eight different phrases, half of them hold one meaning; half of them hold a very different one. When do we follow being gentle with oneself, and when do we follow being gritty?
These two words, gentleness and grit, hold a lot of meaning for me nowadays. There’s one more I’d like to throw in there, another “G” word: gratitude, but I will get to that later.
This year is my tenth year of competitive running, which started as a way to stay in shape for basketball many years ago but quickly turned into my #1 passion in life. As a senior in college now, I am currently in the heart of cross country season, a season that tends to test the spirit and will and strength of many runners.
The idea of being “tough” is something that is constantly being instilled in us as runners. You’ve heard it before and I’ll say it again: running is such a mental sport. Physically you have to work every day in order to become better, but you have to mentally be there and believe in yourself in order to reach your potential. It wasn’t until this year that I have learned to appreciate being gritty while also being gentle with myself in the process. I believe that many individuals tend to think you can’t have one and the other at the same time. I strongly disagree with this – I not only think you can be both gritty and gentle with yourself at the same time; I think it is essential that we are able to be both of these things simultaneously.
There is a fine line between being gentle with ourselves and throwing ourselves a pity party. Just like there is a fine line between being gritty and brave versus self-sabotaging ourselves by pushing too much. Like many things in life, this is a learning experience and a process that doesn’t yield results over night. This is a journey of trial and error, of adaptation, of adjusting and learning from our previous setbacks and obstacles.
The point I’m trying to make is that you can be both gritty and gentle with yourself at the same time. It does not have to be an all-or-nothing approach for either concept. An example of this is something I like to do before I step up to the starting line before a race; spikes tied up, uniform on, braid in my hair, ready to go.
While warming up, I engage in positive self-talk: “You can do this. You can do hard things. You can do tough things. You have put in the work. This is the fun part. Your body is healthy. Your body is strong. Your body is capable. Your mind is resilient. And you are brave.” These phrases have nothing to do with excuses even before racing or beating myself up even before the gun goes off. These phrases are affirmatory and uplifting…gentle and kind, but gritty and strong. This is not a complicated process; it’s just one that we tend to forget about.
Another example can be after a race. Let’s take the example of a racing experience gone wrong – you had all the tools you needed (a healthy body, consistent training, good weather conditions), but the race just did not go as planned. Maybe you panicked; maybe you didn’t truly believe you were ready, maybe you got too much in your head. This is exactly where you need to be both gentle and gritty with yourself – allow yourself to feel the pain and disappointment, allow yourself to feel the sting that running didn’t seem to love you back that day, but do not let it fester. Be gentle and allow yourself to rest and recover and take some time to recoup from this both mentally and physically, and then let it pass. Time for the gritty part – get back up, reevaluate, adjust, make a new strategy, and do not wallow. You didn’t make it this far to stop this far.
There is difference between grit and courage versus running yourself into an injury or burnout. There is a difference between being gentle with yourself (taking a rest day) and eating ice cream sundaes) versus quitting halfway through your season because it became too hard.
Remember: You can do the hard things. You can do tough things. And while working towards them, you’re allowed to say to yourself, “It’s okay that today wasn’t your best day. You’ll get back up tomorrow.” You’re allowed to sleep in, have an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s, take a rest day – all while still working towards the tougher goals ahead.
Exact phrases I repeated to myself this past summer when I was at the track by myself, seven 400-meter repeats in and five to go, wanting to give up because it was tough, wanting to cut it short because the temperature was climbing and the sun was unrelenting. I would repeat, “Girl you got this. Have fun. Laugh a little. Smile before the start of the next repeat. Enjoy it. But remember, you’re a tough bi***.” (Woops!)
One more thing…
No matter what happens, wake up every morning with a spirit, mind, heart, and soul that is grateful. When you’re walking outside after practice and the breeze is just the right temperature, or the sun is at a magical angle, be grateful. When races do not go as planned, be grateful to have gotten on the line in the first place. When they do go well, be grateful for the flow. When you live, act, speak, behave, and perform out of gratitude, magical things can happen. Magical things will happen.
The “3 G’s” – gentleness, grit, and gratitude.
Thank you Christiana for your wise words and open heart.
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