“You say that every week.” The words weren’t malicious. They weren’t false. But they stung. And they have been rattling around in my head for the past three weeks. I had just declared my intentions for making drastic life changes. I would eat well, sleep well (get up on time), and grind out a killer running schedule. Then, my friend nonchalantly delivered that crushing blow with a playful laugh. “You say that every week.” The understood subtext being “and you never follow through.” What hurt the most? I knew the words were gospel truth. My weakness is follow through. If willpower is making tomorrow happen today, I lack it at every turn.
I’ve demonstrated that lack of discipline in the three weeks since. This blog post has been clogging my brain the whole time. My to-do list is growing by the day. Soon, I will clean my room and my car; I will stick to my running plan (I will also make a specific running plan); I will become regular with my writing and sleep schedule.
But I know none of it will happen. Not until I force myself to develop better habits and willpower. The good news is that I know what to do.
Identify a key habit
For me, trying to change everything at once proves disastrous. It’s smooth sailing for a few days. Then I run aground and end up farther behind than my original starting place.
Earlier this year, I worked hard to create a habit of waking up early. For several months in a row, I was awake before 7 a.m. daily. In that time, many of my other goals fell in place naturally. It was easier to get a morning run completed. I made my healthy smoothie before I left for work most days, and my nutritional choices were better the rest of the day. In that time, I watched my daily running pace drop consistently, and I hit several springtime running goals.
Since the end of April, however, I’ve relaxed on my morning routine. I’m more likely to set my alarm for later than 7 a.m. or hit snooze multiple times. As a result, I’m not running early as often, I’m scrambling for meals (and making poor choices), and I’m playing catchup all day long.
So first, I must get back to my early morning wakeup. If I don’t take the first step, then how can I expect everything else to fall in place?
Perfection isn’t the standard
My other stumbling block is demanding perfection or nothing.
I expect to be able to stick to every single goal all the time. Keeping up with that kind of pressure is possible for short periods of time. But eventually, something falls through or slips. I need to be able to let those mistakes go.
Instead, my natural response is to give up everything. If it isn’t perfect, then it might as well be destructive right? Example: I had a donut for breakfast, so I might as well follow that up with a bag of candy and Red Bull for lunch and ice cream for dinner.
Why is letting a bad decision go so difficult?
One of the best parts of typing out personal goals and struggles and publishing them for anyone to read is the support and accountability that follows. When I started blogging several years ago (on a different site), my stated goal was qualifying for and running the Boston Marathon.
Just typing my intentions seemed silly at the time. I was a long way from making that dream happen. But when I wrote it down, I was announcing my commitment. As a result, people encouraged me at every step.
I also wanted to back up my written and spoken words. The same is true for each positive habit I want to develop now. Hearing “you say that every week” was a slap of reality. I need to start following through. I want to be a person who lives out the inspiration. My goals are set extremely high, and I know the things I need to do to chase after them. It’s time to do them.
Get past the fear
I’m scared of doing consistent speed workouts. I know how they will benefit me, and I’ve experienced some of my bigger running breakthroughs after a few weeks of hard track work.
But recently I’ve avoided all tough workouts. Sure I run hard almost daily, but it’s a different burn.
As a runner focused on the marathon, I’ve learned how to run just under the red line for hours at a time. Just a bit faster would equal a massive blowup in a long run or race.
But in a structured workout with mile or shorter repeats, pushing past that mental and physical barrier is quite beneficial. It helps push that line to faster and faster paces.
I know I need those types of workouts to keep from plateauing. But I also know the pain that accompanies speed work. Running fast and pushing for PRs is about becoming comfortable with discomfort. Speedwork is another lung-searing level deeper.
The picture I used for this story is from a trip I took up to northern California a few weeks ago. I thought about this specific blog post on several of my runs there, including the one up that long hill in the picture. But it’s taken me far too long to write everything out.
I’m not going to let all of the failure I feel from the past several months drag me down, though.
All we have right now is the opportunity to make the next choice. I can’t change anything that happened this morning. Or yesterday, or at any point in my past 31.5 years of life on this earth.
I’m currently sitting at my kitchen table on Sunday night (I’ll post this in the morning). I didn’t get up and do my planned long run this morning. Several other plans went unexecuted as well. I was on the verge of calling it a day and sulking about how I can’t get things together.
But then Jack announced he was leaving for a run. It was the spark I needed. I joined him and knocked out 10 miles to cap off a decent training week.
Now I’m writing the blog post that has been haunting the back corners of my brain for days.
Today didn’t go exactly the way I wanted. I’m OK with it. Eyes forward. Stop making declarations about what will happen tomorrow. Today is all we have.