This morning marked another turning point in my recovery. It was my first taste of running with pace changes since my injury. I had been nervous about this run since last Sunday when I received and read my plan for this week. My eyes caught the expectations, and my anxiety thundered, “Nope! There’s no way you will be able to do that given how you have been feeling all month.”

The workout was set for Thursday. Falling back on positive habits, I focused only on the task at hand each day. Sunday through Wednesday called for nothing particularly intimidating or challenging on the workout docket. Before long, the dreaded demand was on deck. My head swirled with doubts and reservations as it met the pillow on Wednesday night.

In my recent post, Running Humbled, I shared my honest perspective on the challenge of returning to the road after injury. My workouts for the past 4 weeks shared a singular purpose: a steady increase in mileage. Until now, there was just one goal: to reacclimate to the physical act of running.

Thursday’s workout pursued something more. It asked, “What’s your current threshold?” I was afraid of the answer. Out of practice, I worried that it would hurt too much, lungs searing and cramps stabbing. If this is truly my threshold, then the target should be sustainable with moderate effort. As a current resident in the land of the unknown, a place of “let’s try and see,” I feared the harsh inner critic that may erupt in the face of failure. Nonetheless, the workout demanded that I reacquaint myself with focus and perseverance on the road with a pointed query, “Do you really want to return to competition shape?”

My wife ran with me for my two-mile warm up. Happy to have her quiet yet confident company, there was a part of me that wanted to keep going at our comfortable pace and forgo the test. Still, I realized that it was just the fear talking, knowing all too well that when the moment came, we would go our separate ways.

Mile two came and went. As I prepared to engage the next gear, Maggie offered these simple words of encouragement before she turned left: “Just do your best.”

Something in those words clicked for me today. There was power in their simplicity. When I am plagued with anxiety, simple is best. Consumed by worry, often I can’t digest long pep talks or strings of sentences meant to drum up confidence. What works for me is a manageable mantra, evocative, and easily repeated. With those four words, Maggie replaced the numbers with an accessible and genuine assessment of effort. I was charged with nothing more than doing my best.

This entry has a happy ending. I know they can’t all be like this, but my run today inspired confidence. I nailed the goal and felt good doing it. That is not to say that I didn’t work for it, but the level of work was manageable. The mantra proved its worth, and my body held up beyond my expectations. Today, I got a long-awaited, sweet taste of adrenaline! And all I had to do was try my best.