Saturday, January 15, 2011

Going Long - When the Going Gets Tough

This week, I’m talking, ok, not really talking... writing, typing actually, about things I learned last year, the year I ran and wrote every day, about setting and achieving long term goals.

So far, we’ve talked about... uhm... let’s see... there was setting good goals, uh... having a good plan... and ways to keep you plugging away at that plan.

If you missed any of those, go ahead a click the links and catch up. I’ve got all day... just wake me when you get back...

... Ahh! Don’t touch the snake! It has cooties!!!

(wipes drool from chin, rubs eyes)

Oh, sorry. I was having that dream again... freaks me out every time...

Ok, back to work... this time we talk about how to manage your plan under the every day pressure from the rest of your life.

6) Make your goal a priority

It’s so easy to let your day get away from you. We're all busy. We've all got people and responsibilities pulling us in different directions. The day can zip by so, so fast. And it’s so, so easy to let all of that stuff rationalize why you don’t get your run in.

There were days when I’d look at my schedule and scratch my head. “When can I possibly squeeze in a run.” Somedays, it had to be done at O-dark-thirty, or it wasn't going to happen. Most days I wasn't awake at O-dark-thirty, so I had to make sure I had clean (enough) gear to take for a lunch run, and pack a lunch.

I’m telling right now, if you just tell yourself "I'll get a run in today." it has maybe a 50% chance of happening. You need to make an appointment with your run. Plan ahead, set a time, and make it stick. Make it as important as any other meeting or appointment you have that day.

7) Be flexible

The problem is, unless you're P-Diddy Puff-Daddy Snoopie Von PopStar, the world doesn’t run on your schedule. To make things work, to keep on track, you need to be creative, well prepared, and flexible.

Way too many times when I knew the only time I could get a run in was during lunch, around 11:00am a lunch meeting would drop out of the sky. That's an Oh-sh!t, Code Blue, What-the-hell-am-I-going-to-do moment.

If you’re hit with an unavoidable disruption, have a backup plan, or at least be ready to improvise.

I kept spare running gear in my car. I called it my “disaster readiness kit”. It was crappy shoes, bad socks, baggy shorts, and an old race shirt I hadn’t worn in years. But in a pinch, it would have sufficed for a mile or two. I never had to use that kit, but it was close a few times. I did run at 10:30pm once. That was calling it a little too close, but it was better than running in those dreadful "disaster" shorts.

When the world takes a dump on your day, don’t let that be an excuse. Think if it as a challenge. Show that day that you aren’t to be messed with. See what else in your day can be shifted. Take a conference call while running. Run in the airport. If all else fails, you can always run at night.

8) The moment of truth

Some days, you will not want to run. This happened to me, a lot, last year, but there was one morning in particular that stands out. It was cold and yucky outside. It was warm and cozy in my bed. I was scheduled to run a race downtown. All I wanted at that moment was to go back to bed.

This, or something very much like it, will happen to you. I promise. And more than once.

It’s these moments of truth where you either give in, or you don’t. It is a decision. And it’s a difficult decision, because everything in your present is telling you to stay in bed, or not run, or skip your workout, or blow off the race. Your instincts are telling you to stay put.

But we're human. We're sentient beings. We set goals to get us to a better version of us. And it's that better version of us that needs to push that sleepy wuzzy out of the way and take over the decision making authority. That person knows that though it might feel good to stay in bed, for a little while, we’ll feel like crap once we do fall out of bed, realizing that we’ve let ourselves down.

When you’re facing that moment of truth, imagine yourself in the future, 2 ways. The first, the future version of you who failed to meet your goal. The second, the future version of you who succeeded. Is being that second version worth getting out of bed for? Is staying in bed worth becoming that first version?

The moment of truth is when you decide between doing what feels good, or is easy, or comfortable, now, and what you know will make you feel even better, later.

Good now, or great later.

9) Be compassionate with yourself

There will probably be a time when you miss a scheduled run. Despite all of your planning and flexibility and prioritization, things just don’t work out.

If you get injured, or sick, or just have a bad streak, that's ok. When you're better, ease back into it, and get yourself back on track. Don't let any setback become an excuse to quit.

An online buddy of mine, Chris, started a running streak a couple years ago. His goal was 1000 days in a row. He made it 364 days. I am not making this up. 364 days. On day 365 he had the flu so bad he couldn’t run even a mile.

After coming so f-in close to running a year straight, it would have been totally understandable if Chris had thrown his hands up and declared “Screw that! I'm taking up golf!” But he didn’t. As soon as he was well, he started again... at 1.

Today, his streak is still alive. He’s over 740 days and going strong.

The goal is just that, a goal. It’s the process of trying to achieve that goal that changes you, challenges you, and makes you stronger. And maybe thinner. It's the days you fight off your inner wimp, the days you do something you never thought you could do, the days when you think back at who you were when you started and wonder how you could have ever settled for that... those days add character, and give you glimpses of how great you can be.

...aaaaaannnnd scene.

Here endeth the Go Long series. I encourage you above-average-looking readers to share your goals, and any other hints that you find useful, in the comments below.

Next week, back to the usual nonsense.

Good running,
Doug