I couldn’t help but sign up when I saw the running challenge promoted by Psychologies Magazine to run every day in January. I had signed up already to run 1000km in 2017 as a personal challenge to keep me motivated to run throughout the year. RED January would start my year off nicely I thought. I didn’t consider what I might learn, I was only thinking about the miles it would tick off my bigger challenge and raising awareness for MIND.
In preparation I stopped running over Christmas and enjoyed the break, telling myself it was ok because January 1st I would be out there beginning my challenge. So the big day arrived and I jumped in the car with my friend and went to my first parkrun. It was cold, it was wet and it was scary but I did it and it felt good.
The first week passed relatively easily, nothing more than 3.6 miles, I felt proud for getting out of the house and making time to run, particularly in the cold and wet conditions. I even got some PBs but more than that, something strange was happening. This challenge was quickly becoming a metaphor for the rest of my life, particularly my business. So here are the things I learned whilst running 30 days in a row (one more day tomorrow…I will share any new insights!)
The most difficult thing is making a start
From getting up off the sofa and putting on my shoes some days were harder than others but I never regretted it, not once. Not in even when it was -3 degrees or raining hard. Not even when I felt unwell. Like anything we can give ourselves excuses as to why we can’t do something and they can be really persuasive excuses but with the excuse of “I can’t go today because…” removed suddenly it became easier. Getting out for me was non-negotiable. Yes, I walked some days instead of running – the last four days in fact, as I have a horrible cough and cold. It was important to me to get out.
It brings me back to the thought that when something is important to us we make time for it; we make it a priority. It is not important how far we travel, the point is that we started. That said, I bet you go further than you thought once you get started!
A dose of Comparisionitis
It’s so hard not to compare yourself with others isn’t it? I learnt very quickly on this challenge that comparing yourself to other runners is futile. As I pass someone in the street or on a trail somewhere I have no idea of their journey. I don’t know if they have just started their run or if they are on mile 25. There is no telling if they are new to it or an old hand; naturally speedy or been training for years. I know nothing about them or their journey to where they are today.
The same is true for life. I posted a picture recently – don’t compare your chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 20. It was a popular post which seemed to resonate with people. As I grow my business and support others grow theirs or take on new challenges in their career I take this lesson with me. It is also a brilliant metaphor for parenthood! We are good enough and we are in the perfect place for us right now.
Success is relative and worthy of celebration
The beauty of being in a group of 1800+ people is that you get to observe and celebrate some awesome successes. I saw that for one person it was getting out of the door, literally, because their anxiety got the better of them that day. For others it was running further than they thought or faster than they had been.
When I coach one question I ask in relation to setting goals is “how will you know when you have achieved [x]?” and I get the response, something along the lines of it being a success…my follow up question then is “what does success look like for you?”
I had to answer this myself only yesterday as I postponed my first 10 mile run. A run further than I have ever been before. A run I was looking forward to and one which would have smashed my target of 87 miles in the month and got me so close to 100 miles. My ego wanted me to go for it but my heart said rest. I came down with the dreaded cold and cough on Tuesday of last week, I tried to rest but I probably didn’t really. I knew my long run wouldn’t happen and as Sunday grew closer I got more and more irritated it wasn’t going to happen and I wouldn’t meet my 87 mile target. As I contemplated in my morning meditation and subsequent journalling I realised that by the 31st January I could still have run 80 miles – 300% further than I had ever run in any month before.
For me success was recognising I had gone out everyday, rain or shine, motivated or not and I had completed what I set out to do. In those 31 days I had got 4 PBs, run further than I ever had in one go, got out every day and completed what I set out to achieve. That is what success looks like to me. Yes, I was disappointed in not getting out for my long run, ok so I hadn’t reached 100 miles…a target I hadn’t even set but I have plenty to be happy about! With respect to missing the long run I asked myself “will it matter in 12 months time?” The answer was no. So what was I getting annoyed about? Suddenly I felt lighter and able to see my success.
We all get caught up in what we could have done, but how many of us look at how far we have come?
You are stronger than you think you are
As I ran around the park I realised something – my legs and lungs were doing great, I was halfway through the longest run I had done in 8 years and it was ok. I knew I had this. Yet a few runs before I had stopped every half a mile or so, I couldn’t find my stride. I was 1.5 miles into a 6 mile run and I was ready to give up. It wasn’t physical, it was mental. I kept telling myself how far it was still to go, that I was cold, tired, hungry. That I couldn’t do it.
I learnt that the battle is mostly mental in running but the same is true when we are going through a change of any kind. It’s not that thinking positive is going to get you through but that acknowledging that it’s hard can be enough and finding solutions is key. In the 6 mile run I reminded myself that physically I was ok, that 6 miles was a long run for me. I slowed down and I gave myself permission to walk. I gave myself the option of doing a shorter route. In acknowledging that this was difficult I was able to let the feelings be and to snap out of it. I chose to do the distance and next time I had the mental advantage of knowing I had already gone that far before…and I was stronger both physically and mentally.
We all come across challenges in work and life that we feel we are never going to get through, but, invariably we do. It takes time and each time we learn and (hopefully) move forward, stronger than before.
It always seems impossible until it is done – Nelson Mandela
I choose the direction
I used to have a limiting belief that if I stopped and walked I wouldn’t get going again but what I realised (mid run) is that sometimes stopping is essential. Whether you are so far away from home you have to keep going or you have to change direction or stop and sit for a while it’s about noticing the bigger picture (why you are running, what your bigger plan is) but noticing what’s going on in the moment (breathing, footsteps, scenery etc) will help you achieve your goal.
My limiting belief almost certainly stemmed from a joke phrase used in my family as I was growing up which was “if at first you don’t succeed, give up” and I have been intrigued in the last few days as I have been ill and unable to run at my mindset. At times it feels like I have given up, even though I still have a couple of days left.
I do it with my projects too, if something doesn’t give me results I am often tempted to give up on it, I lose interest and focus on the more exciting things that are working. The insight I got when I was in the middle of nowhere helped me see that I am in control of which direction I choose. There will be obstacles and diversions but at each point I can choose to turn back, to change direction or to stop and rest.
Variety is the spice of life
When running daily I have found variety to be key. I replaced my rest days with short one mile runs, I changed the distance, the speed, the terrain – each giving me something different. I found it made me more productive – I was able to stay up later, even running past 9pm! I wanted to go and I got creative with finding time to go and what I could do in that time.
This had a knock on effect for my organisation more generally. Got 10 minutes – do x, got 90 mins – do y. Thinking more creatively about my time and what I do with it has allowed me to achieve more than I thought. It has also helped me plan new projects like a 90 day programme for clients and a course of webinars for an organisation I am working with. Breaking down the projects into ‘types’ has really worked for me and then I can pick and choose what I do depending on the time I have available to me.
There is need for balance in here too, so sometimes replacing action with reflection in the same way one might incorporate strength or cross training into a running schedule. This affords you the time and space to think and allow your intuition to guide you.
This is really about finding your tribe, your cheerleaders – the people who hold you accountable and pick you up when you need it. In this scenario it was (and still is) the wonderful virtual family I have in my fellow REDders. I have already mentioned at the top of this post (I know, it seems a long time ago now!) how important it was to have people to share the excitements, disappointments and frustrations with.
For me the accountability is really useful. Committing to it publicly is the way I get things done. It allows me to take action and not worry too much, like writing a blog or doing a facebook live. If I know that people might be looking out for something I am producing it keeps me motivated. I appreciate it’s not like that for everyone, find what works for you.