Recently I had the amazing experience of running my first ½ marathon. A group of girls invited me to run with them, and I jumped at the opportunity. I usually gravitate to training inside a gym as opposed to training outdoors, and I realized very quickly that running outside with hills, uneven pavement, and the element of wind pushing against you is a whole different ballgame than running on the treadmill. A few weeks before the race our longest run yet, 9 miles, was scheduled. I’d never run this far in my life, and was starting to second guess whether or not I could do it.
We were running in an area unfamiliar to me, so I was following the other girls’ lead to complete our route. It was extremely windy that day, and each hill that presented itself was a challenge. I couldn’t help but wonder how much further we had to go at each corner that we turned, and it reminded me of when you’re a kid and start whining in the car…”Are we theeeere yet?” As we came around another corner, I heard the girls start groaning and cursing at the most daunting hill yet that stood before us. Just then, the wind started blowing harder against us. We were all breathing heavy, our hearts racing as we picked our feet up high with every step and battled to keep moving forward. Surely we’d need to walk this hill right? I figured we probably had at least 3 miles left still, and I was seriously contemplating walking. I didn’t know how much longer I could hold out, but I just kept picking up my feet and looking ahead to the top of the hill. Each step became more difficult until we were FINALLY back on level ground.
I’d never been more thankful to see even pavement, and I did my best to bring my heart rate and breathing back to normal. I had to get it under control if I was going to be able to endure the last few miles of this run! Just then, out of nowhere, I realized that I recognized a house I’d seen many times before during our runs. Huh? Impossible I thought! That can’t be the same house I think it is, because that would mean we are right around the corner from our starting point. Each house that we passed was now familiar, and I knew exactly where we were once again. I couldn’t believe it! Just when I’d thought we had so much further to go, we were actually only mere steps away from our destination! We were closer than I’d thought the whole time…much closer! We ended up finishing that run at a record pace without having to stop once.
So what’s my point exactly? It’s not to tell you to train for a ½ marathon, although I highly recommend trying it if you haven’t before. The real point here is to remind yourself that you’re much closer than you think. Do you ever notice that when you want something badly, it can’t come quickly enough? My husband always jokes with me and says if we ever have a daughter, then we’ll name her Patience, because that’s the only way I’ll ever get any! I’ll be the first to admit that patience is something I continue to work on. Many times it seems that no matter how badly we want something, we are presented with obstacle after obstacle, and things can get tougher than they were to begin with.
Maybe you’ve made the decision that it’s time to improve your health. You’re making time to hit the gym each day. You’re shopping with a grocery list and sticking to it. You’re planning and packing your meals ahead of time. You’re doing everything in your power to lose weight, but the scale just isn’t responding the way you’d hoped. I know it can be frustrating if you’ve set a goal for yourself, are doing all of the right things, but you still feel like it’s just not happening quickly enough.
Then there are all of life’s little obstacles that seem to come at the most inconvenient times. Just when you’ve had a really bad day, your friend invites you out for cocktails or dinner at a less than healthy restaurant. Maybe your child has become ill, causing you to re-arrange your entire focus. Or maybe, in your quest to reach your goals, you’ve somehow managed to injure yourself and are forced to take a step back from training to heal. These are only minor compared to some of the things that can throw us for a loop when we’re trying to reach our fitness goals. It can certainly be much more serious, but you get the idea.
The same thing happened to me during my run. Just as I was growing the most tired, along came the biggest hill yet. I was tempted to throw in the towel and just take a break. I hadn’t gone that far before, so it was completely unfamiliar, and I didn’t know how much longer I could hold on. But you know what, I just kept the top of that hill in my view and kept picking up my feet one step after the next until I’d reached the top, only to realize I was already on the home stretch. I was much closer than I’d thought all along!
When obstacles present themselves, I want you to remember one thing. You might be closer than you think! It might seem like you are battling through obstacles day in and day out, but instead of feeling frustrated and worn down by it, take a different approach. Start thinking of those things as small hurdles you must jump in order to reach the finish line. With each and every hurdle you clear, you’ll grow stronger and prove to yourself that you are capable of so much more than you even knew.
If you can make it through today staying on track with clean eating and working out, then you’ve made it one day. If you can do it tomorrow, then you’ve made it two. Do that day after day, and the weeks will start to add up. You’ll notice that the choices that were once difficult become easier, because you’ve practiced overcoming those same temptations and obstacles many times before. When new situations arise, you’ll be better equipped to handle them with more confidence.
There are going to be times when you feel like you’re looking in the mirror each day but aren’t seeing any real changes. You might even start to question if it’s even worth all the extra effort. The next time you start thinking those thoughts, stop yourself from falling into that mindset. Have faith that you are changing from the inside out, and even if you can’t see as many changes on the outside as you’d like yet, know that they ARE happening on the inside.
Did you know it can take 8 weeks to experience any noticeable growth and improvement in muscle tone? People often get frustrated because they feel stronger, yet they can’t see any big changes. Or maybe you saw some progress at first, but it seems to have slowed down. It’s normal to experience quite a few ups and downs along the way, but don’t let it control your thought process. Resist the temptation to engage in negative thinking or return to old habits. Stay the course, and it will pay off in the end!
You might not even realize how much progress you’re making, because you see yourself in the mirror every single day. Then, just when you least expect it, someone else will notice your progress and compliment you. Or maybe you try on an old pair of jeans and they fit for the first time in a long time. A couple years ago when I committed to a new exercise program, I started feeling frustrated at week 10. I felt like I was working hard, but still wasn’t getting to my goal weight and goal body fat % quickly enough. I hadn’t seen myself in a picture since 4 weeks prior and reluctantly decided to take another progress picture to compare. Even though I didn’t really feel I was making that much progress, I was astounded at how much I had actually made once I was able to compare the pictures side by side. I had to see it for myself to believe it. It was then that I realized I was actually much closer than I thought! If you are working towards fitness goals, take progress pictures every 2-4 weeks so that you can compare your own physical changes. It’s one of the best ways to see just how far you’ve come and can give you the extra boost of confidence and drive needed to continue towards your goal.
You have a choice in how you want to spend each day. Thinking about where you’re “not” isn’t going to get you any closer to your goals. You’re not going to get to the top of the hill by looking down it for goodness’ sake. Anytime you’re tempted to get down and discouraged, re-direct those negative thoughts. Bring your focus back to where you want to go and how great you are going to feel once you get there! When things are taking longer than you’d like, practice patience. Rome wasn’t built overnight. It was built brick by brick over time. If you make the decision to take each day one step at a time and push through even when it’s not easy and even when you don’t know exactly what’s around the corner, you WILL get to your final destination…and maybe even in record time. Stick with it, because you just might be closer than you think!