What we should all feel like after a run (Chicago, New Year's Day 2012)

It’s January 8.  We’re just over one week into the new year, and for most of us, that means we’ve already broken our New Year’s Resolutions at least once.  I gave up on resolutions a few years ago, but this year, I’ve committed to a few simple things:

1. I will complete an Olympic distance triathlon by June.  It might be in England.  It might be somewhere else.  But I’ll have a training plan in place by the end of January, and I’ll be ready by June.

2. I will run a 5k in every place I visit this year.  I took 14 trips last year, and was only able to run in a few of them.  This year, I’m running everywhere I go.

3. Every “add on” or “personal” trip that I take in combination with work will involve something active.  I’m going to Estonia in March, and I’ll go hiking.  I’ll be in Barcelona in October, and who knows what that will bring.  But I’ll be diligent about making the most of the adventure side of my travel opportunities this year.

4. I will run a few iconic races wherever the mood takes me.  That means I’m already signed up for The British 10k.  I might sign up for The Little Beaver (name notwithstanding, it’s relatively close, but we’ll see) or the Paris-Versailles 10 miler in September.

5. I will stretch. I will strengthen.  Three days per week, I will do the core workout which will keep me healthy.  I will not get hurt this year!

6. I will run a great trail race by the end of 2012.  I will train right, but I will run it, nonetheless.  It may only be a 5k, but that’s okay.  I’m in – because the most fun I’ve had in the last few years I had on a trail.

These are simple goals, but I’m not pretending they’re small.  Most people don’t walk into their new year and put an Olympic on the calendar – but I know who I am, and I know that’s what I need to get moving.  I also know that there’s probably going to be one of these goals that won’t get met – and that’s okay.

Because here’s what I learned a long, long time ago:  I have to have a goal to keep moving.  I have to have FUN to keep moving.  It has to get easier to keep moving.

These are simple rules for me.  You might have some which work for you, too.  Maybe you have to run with others (or alone).  Maybe you have to swim in a pool (or a lake) to keep moving.  Maybe it has to kick your ass (or be easy to train) for you to keep doing it.  The question is this: do you KNOW what it takes to keep you moving?

I was walking around doing errands today and got to thinking that  all of us know, intuitively, at some point in our life, what we’re good at.  And so none of us usually chooses a career we’re BAD at for our life’s work.  We tend towards the things we do well – so we don’t keep hitting ourselves in the head each day.  But for some reason, a lot of us seem to choose workouts or sports which are really hard for us.  And yet, we keep coming back.  I don’t know about you – but if those things didn’t get easier for me, I wouldn’t keep doing them.  I was thinking about a story my friend Rich told about learning to snowboard.  Rich (who has no idea I’m telling this story, sorry, Rich!) went snowboarding one year.  Rich is – by all accounts – a pretty fabulous athlete.  He’s the Steve Nash of our football games on Sundays (which full disclosure, I haven’t played in about 4 years).  But still.  He’s a natural.  And yet, Rich tried snowboarding once in Colorado, and after a day of getting killed (maybe it was even two) he turned in the board, and went back to two footed snowfun.  Why?  Because it was counter-intuitive. It was impossible to master.  He couldn’t do it.  And it wasn’t fun.  (At least that’s the recall I have of the conversation).  And I couldn’t blame him – why would you continue to try something that was SO. DAMN. HARD – if it wasn’t fun?

For a lot of us, though, the simple reality is that all of the new sports we take up – if we’re not born athletes, and not in peak condition – will feel SO. DAMN. HARD.  So how do you know when to turn it in, and when to keep with it?  What motivates you to keep moving in that case?  It’s a question worth asking – especially at this time of year, when we’re all setting ourselves up for Big Goals.

Well, I have at least one suggestion which will help.  The simple reality is this:  if you are starting a new fitness program this month, it’s probably going to suck a little.  So for the next 60 days, if you’re starting something new, ask yourself this question:  if I could BREATHE while I was doing this, would I enjoy it?  If I was STRONGER would I enjoy it?  Because for the first two months of your new running, walking, skiing, hockey-ing, zumba-ing, bar method-ing, yoga-ing approach, your muscles will burn and you’re going to sweat and you’re going to wish that it was just a little bit easier.  But it won’t get easier – unless you stick with it.  So ask yourself:  if I could breathe, or if my legs weren’t jelly, would I maybe like this?  And if the answer is just a little bit – just a teeny bit “yes”, then keep your ass where it is, and keep on trying.

Understand that it’s going to be hard these first 60 days, and that’s okay.  But give it that time – and if it’s not fun after you’ve started to recondition your body, and to get back into it – then you can walk away.  But until then, you’ve got one goal – to give it a good try, and see if it gets easier.  And, since I’m giving some advice here, let me offer you one other suggestion:  get a log.

And I’m going to get even more radical.  Get an actual paper book.  Go to the grocery, or your favorite paper store, or Runner’s World, or whatever, and buy an actual paper book, where you can write down the detail on your workout.  Years ago, when I first started running, I did this, and it was the best thing I ever did.  I knew what I wore and what temperature I ran at. I knew end of day workouts were hard, but with friends, they were easier than morning workouts alone.  I knew running hungover was hard but I still knew that I had done it, and I could look back on it and be proud of it.  I had a record of what I’d done, and that record was just as motivating on the bad days as any number on a scale or goal in the future.  So consider getting a log.  And when you’re at Day 45 and you want to give up, just pull up a few of your log entries, and see how much fun you had, even when it was hard.

If the last 4 weeks are anything to go by, I’ll just say this about the adventure you’re about to embark on for 2012:  We will get to a day where the breathing is clearer, and our legs are less heavy.  We will feel stronger and ready to keep going after we thought we would be finished.  And until then, we need to give ourselves the room to go slower than everyone else.  We should not keep up with anyone in these next 60 days.  We should be able to talk to ourselves, or our friends, or the squirrels – out loud, without gasping for breath – if we want to keep moving.  We will invest in the long-term strategy to get back on the path.  And in 60 days, we just might be ready to call ourselves a Habit.

I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to it.

See you on the path….


3 thoughts

  1. Such great advice for the new year and always. I can feel your excitement and motivation leaping off the ‘page’! And it’s contagious–thanks!!

  2. Awesome post Sallie! I set some goals in 2011 and it really helped me a lot. I completed two 100 day challenges – 100 days of movement (John Bingham’s) and 100 days of burpees towards the end of year. I did a sprint tri and then the Chicago Olympic. I started crossfit in January and just celebrated my one year there! It was a great year fitness wise and I’m excited about what 2012 brings! Thanks for the support – you rock!

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