I’m training to run an endurance race and as I take this journey, I can’t help but think about our greatest endurance event of all – Life.
Each of us journeys our own unique path in life. Some journeys are short, others long. Some easy and others so difficult we might wonder if we will ever complete them. Hurt, broken relationships, trauma, anxiety, depression and loss are just some of the challenging journeys that come along.
So, let me explain some of the similarities.
Endurance events are run in the mind – Sound weird? My running coach once said these words to me and they hold true for everyday life too. Our thoughts have a tremendous impact on our experience of the journey, how we perform, and the results we achieve. What we think, can hold us back from achieving our full potential or enable us to excel.
Cultivate positive expectancy – Believe in yourself and your ability to see this through. You are capable of far more than you think you are.
Edging out of the comfort zone – Endurance events will take us outside of our comfort zone – sometimes way outside – and as we approach its edges and step beyond its limits, the brain will activate its alarm signals (fear and anxiety) in an attempt to keep us inside the confines of its comfort zone. (You can read more about this in our blog, The Value of Leaving Your Comfort Zone) Acknowledge these emotions and take heart because their presence means that you’re making progress toward your goal.
Set a pace that you can maintain for the long haul – This is not a sprint. If you look at life like an endurance race then you will understand that if you approach it at 100 miles an hour every day then you will burn out fast.
It’s okay to slow down and even walk – When endurance running, maintaining energy is key. There will be hills and maybe even mountains and trying to run these will be a waste of energy when they can be walked just as efficiently conserving energy for later. Give yourself permission to slow down on those uphill days.
The body needs nutrition – Take appropriate fluids and food for the run and eat regularly. These are the fuel that will keep your engine running and energy levels up.
Rest well – Recovery is vital, especially after big training sessions. Recovery days allow the body to rest, recover and re-energise for the next run. Some days are tougher than others and it is okay to allow yourself time to rest and recover from them. You will come out stronger as a result.
Self-Coach well – Am I being a great coach to myself, encouraging, motivating and inspiring along the way? Hearing “You can do this!” “Wow, look at how far you’ve come!” and “You’ve got this!” are powerful resources that can keep you going.
Training buddies make all the difference – Friends make tough runs more fun and help us get out of bed in the mornings when we don’t feel like it. Likewise, as social beings we all need people around us to encourage and motivate one another.
Turn off the chatter – “Random thinking is the enemy” says ultra-runner Scott Jurek. Be aware of the chatter going on in your mind. Is it helping or hindering? Unhelpful thinking will slow you down and inhibit progress.
Be mindful – Being immersed in the present moment, giving attention to what we can see, hear and feel as we run can improve our running performance. When did you last take a moment to be truly present?
Take small steps – Building endurance takes time. Similarly in life, we don’t have to get “there” all at once.
Talk to an expert – Experts have skills and knowledge that we don’t and can help us when we are struggling or feeling stuck. For you this could be a Coach or Therapist. We readily seek out experts to fix our car, house and computer and maintain warrants of fitness for our vehicles. So what’s the difference with our mind and body?
Celebrate success – No matter how small, celebrate it! It is still a step in the direction you want to go.
Like an endurance race, day to day life has easy moments, tough ones and those in between. Sometimes you will cruise along “in the zone” and at other times you will find yourself slogging uphill. All are normal parts of living a full and meaningful life. Enjoy the easy moments and adjust your pace when things get tough.