I love running. It’s hard to explain how it makes me feel but I am sure that any of you that are involved in any sort of physical activity (or any kind of activity… piano, acting, anything!) can understand the feeling.
I remember when I was in between sports (I used to be a hard core swimmer, fortunate enough to be a world champion in 1998) and I went to spend New Year’s Eve with Cris and Juan Carlos (my best friends) in Puerto Vallarta. This was the first time I was not training during the holidays and I was not sure whether I would continue swimming at a high level or not. We stayed up all night (well, Cris and I because Juan Carlos decided to get some sleep) and at about 6am we were sitting by the beach and we saw some people running to start not only their day but their year. Fast forward to 2017 and I was lucky enough to be one of those people at that same beach who not only run but have running as a way of life.
The best part of taking up running is not the many friends I have made or the fact that, unlike swimming, I can do it anywhere, anytime. What I love the most are the life lessons I have learned from training for distance running and that I believe can be applied to any area of life.
Here’s what training for a marathon has taught me about life:
1. When You are Moving, Progress is Inevitable
When I started out, my short runs seemed pointless. I kept thinking, “How will running 4 miles help me run 26.2 miles?” What I didn’t realize was that by getting myself moving, I was slowly training my body to handle the longer distances. It’s easy to feel like you’re not making any progress when you work on the little things. But you will be surprised by how far your ongoing actions get you. As they say, big goals start with small steps in the right direction.
2. It’s the Little Things that Matter
When I first started training, I completely underestimated the importance of the tiny details. I learned this when I was swimming as well. I tried to swim fast by moving my arms and legs like a maniac without realizing it’s all about the detail,the technique, the taking care of the little parts that make the whole stroke, As a runner I learned that the more prepared I was for my run, the more enjoyable it was. It is the little things that made all the difference: double knotting my shoelaces, leaving my water bottle ready, eating a certain amount of carbs before my long run, rolling and stretching every day. There may be small things that you can do for yourself to make your goals easier to accomplish. It’s the minute details that really add up. What tiny things would make a difference for you?
3. You’re All in it Together
I knew from my swimming that training with other people is a huge benefit, so I figured I would connect with a few people who were working towards the same goal I had. Little did I know just how much of a gift it would be to run with a group, week after week. When we meet up for our runs, everyone adds something, no matter their age, experience level or pace. I love that when we run it doesn’t matter if you are an eminence in your field or unemployed, if you are older or just coming out of your teen years, we all have something to say, we are all giving the same effort, and we all want to achieve our goal and we push each other towards that. There is a huge benefit to having a support system around you when you are working towards goals. There is an irreplaceable sense of comradery that grows when you connect with like-minded people. After making progress, a high-five from a friend can really make your day and give you the energy you need to keep pushing forward.
4. You’ve Got to Trust the Process
I have learned that there is always a reward (consequence) to the effort you put while training. Bu you have to trust the process. It’s not an immediate consequence, it takes time and sometimes we can grow impatient by putting the work day by day and not seeing the result we want immediately. We have to be careful if we catch ourselves thinking “Is this actually going to get me through the distance?”. Just remember, no matter what you are working towards, there are others who have been there before you. There are proven processes in place, and tried and tested strategies for success. Sometimes you have to take a step back from your worry and doubt, and put your faith in the process. See the big picture and keep adding the little pieces to get he whole puzzle complete.
5. Be patient and Remember to Enjoy the Moment
Before I got injured a couple of years ago, there were days where I would think, “Let’s just get this over with.”Now I am so appreciative of being able to run that I am just thankful I get to do it. I also changed the way I see every run.I remember my last workout before I got a stress fracture and thank goodness it was a great one. I never knew that would be the last one for a while. So now when I find myself worrying about my pace or about how I feel (“I’m tired”, “I’m not as fast as I was two weeks ago…”) I just shift my focus to “What if this is the last time I get to do it? How would I like to remember my last run?”. This helps me realize that there is a lot to appreciate: The weather, the interesting people, the thrill of running, the exercise, and the sheer excitement of building towards an unbelievable goal. Instead of wishing we could just accomplish our goals overnight, and setting our sights on the finish line, it’s important to soak in the experience. Chances are, you will never have the same opportunity again. It’s up to you to find the fun in your goals. Be patient and enjoy he present moment because you will never have another one exactly like this again.
6. It’s Not as Hard as You Think
Training for my first marathon was as hard as I anticipated it would be. When I started out, all I could think about was the long sets I would have to endure and worrying about whether or not I would be able to run at a certain pace for that long period of time (I was a sprinter in the pool, 50 meters freestyler. In and out in 25 seconds or less. Anything that would imply holding a pace for over a minute seemed like forever!). But, when I started training for long distance running I didn’t realize how much stronger my body would get through training, and how much my confidence would increase in the weeks leading up to race day. Oftentimes, we underestimate our abilities. We get discouraged by the space between where we are and where we want to be. Yet if we start to shift what we think we are capable of, everything starts to change.
Remember, you are as limited as you think you are. You have been telling yourself a story about yourself for many years (“I can’t do this”, “I am not a runner”, “I can’t run that fast” or whatever it is that you tell yourself about your life and possibilities) but you can always choose to tell yourself a different story and to become whomever you choose to become.
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