No Run Will Be Sacrificed In This Semester

There have been two full weeks of school. We have played lots of games, had a quiz. A new student joined Wednesday’s class so the quiz was deferred to this week. We didn’t know there would be a quiz in Thursday’s class but he surprised us. The quiz was on the syllabus. I think we all flunked.

imageOur first group hike is Wednesday. We were told to be prepared with the correct equipment.

The Backpacker’s Field Manual says this includes 12 Essential items: a map, compass (and knowledge of how to use one), extra clothes, extra food, pocket knife, first aid kit, rain gear, two quarts of water, matches or lighter, a candle or fire starter, flashlight/headlamp and extra batteries, sunglasses/sunscreen.

The purpose of the hike is not only to condition us for walking five miles but to walk five miles with 15% of our body weight in our backpack. Reluctantly, I weighed myself. I must find 16 pounds of stuff to carry in my backpack.

Each of us were told to volunteer to lead a game for Thursday’s class. Is that still considered volunteering? My name was written next to January 30. Last week Stefan and Jonathan led the games. We played one game outside and the other in the gym. It was the game in the gym that consisted of us snorting at each other. The first person to laugh when being snorted at was eliminated. In spite of how ridiculous this was, I didn’t laugh and ended up snorting at my teacher for the final round. Is this really school?

There are two more chapters to read before Thursday’s quiz and a paper to write on a leader we admire. Every day last week I got up at 5:30am to study before coffee. Monday afternoon was spent studying. More studying during lunch and instead of a nap on Tuesday.


A schedule was organized for the entire week – hour by hour to be sure everything could still be done. Time was allocated for laundry, cleaning house, running and getting dressed. I recited the list of 12 Essentials on the drive to Wing Chun class on Tuesday and reviewed the Wing Chun form in my head while driving to school on Wednesday. Not one moment was wasted.

The friendly advice I have been given most often regarding my newly filled calendar is that maybe I will need to sacrifice running this semester. Some people broached the topic gingerly while others blurted it out with all the bluntness it deserved. I nodded contemplatively, suggesting this might actually become necessary. Inside I screamed, “Never will I sacrifice a run.”

The truth is, when your schedule is full it is exactly the thing you should not sacrifice that usually gives. Exercise is the easy thing to eliminate when life is busy. It’s easy to eliminate date night with your spouse when the kids require so much energy or, to give up time with the kids when the career reaches its peak.

My run was barely half over yesterday when I found myself thinking, “This is taking too much time. I don’t have time for this today.” Life was distracting me.

Recently, I asked Master Sifu if he still meditates. He told me that while it’s important to practice clearing the mind, he feels it is equally important to spend time focused on one thing….to allow the mind to concentrate on just one thing.

This seems to be good advice for my life at the moment. If it has been determined some thing is important enough to be in my life, then it is important enough to allow myself the time to focus on each and every thing.

No run will be sacrificed in this semester….not yet anyway.

Finding a coach that speaks your language.

The period of time after a marathon and before you begin training again is a virtual no-man’s land. You may be running, but you’re not training. The differences are subtle, mostly mental.

Although nothing has been written into my new 2014 calendar, I have been contemplating next year’s running goals – what should I do differently, what needs more work, what will make me better? I let these questions and what I believe to be the answers percolate in my head before committing them to a training plan. The process tends to extend beyond running – into Kung Fu.

When I began Kung Fu a few years ago, there were 5 or 6 other new students in the class. We learned everything together. Through attrition, it has mostly become a classroom of black belts…..and me. Although these Fo Jiao Si (Black Sash classmates) watch out for me, it has been increasingly difficult to learn, memorize and practice all the new concepts….. alone.

Some nights I literally stand in the corner by myself practicing a form that may have little real world usefulness, while the black belts are learning something new together. I am torn between memorizing form after form alone in class and the desire to learn how to really defend myself and fight in a real world situation.

Finally, I have switched to a Kung Fu Wing Chun class.


The name Wing Chun means “Eternal or Beautiful Spring”, implying freshness, creativity, innovation or modern. Although a traditional or classical system, the original idea was to have constant development and innovation keeping the system up to date and effective in the modern world.

How individuals learn is a fascinating topic. Courses are devoted to the subject, careers revolve around it. Yet, when it is you, the one that needs to do the learning, the rest of the world may as well be on its own. It is your situation that demands the attention.

The best advice I received as a Corporate Instructor came from my boss the week before my first class. He said, “It’s not the student’s job to learn, it’s your job to teach.” Sure, the student has responsibilities but it is the teacher who has the knowledge to be transferred to the student. If you simply throw that knowledge out there to see what sticks, you’re not really teaching.

Awhile back I contemplated hiring a running coach and researched the qualities of a successful coach. The research that stuck with me was from a high school track coach. He said, the runners who never reach their full potential are the runners whose coach did not believe in them. In other words, you could only be as successful as your coach believed you could be.

imageDuring the first Wing Chun class, Sifu told me fighting is a language…and he was going to teach me this language. He adapts the training to how I learn and he tells me he knows I will learn this. The confidence he has in his ability to teach transfers to a confidence I feel toward learning. This has been important to me.

After months of long slow runs, it’s exciting to do speed work at the track. After a few years of working in a start-up, you may be ready for another big corporate job. A change of pace is sometimes just what we need to re-energize and keep from feeling stale in running, learning, Kung Fu, maybe life.

The translation of Kung Fu is time and effort. There are no short cuts. The foundation of Wing Chun is to always move forward and aim for the center.

A common language in life as it turns out.