When I first began running, I frequently found myself embarrassed at how unfit other people must perceive me.
After a one mile run, I looked so fatigued and bedraggled it would have been safe to assume that I had just completed the Marathon des Sables (a six day ultramarathon staged in the Sahara Desert) in record time.
My complete lack of endurance made the concept of running longer distances very unappealing; it was aconstant sap on my motivation.
I’d go running for three days in a row on a diet that would make a rabbit crave calories, notice absolutely no cardiovascular improvements, eat as much junk food as I could get my hands on (I sort of deserved it, after all), then not looking at my running shoes again for another six months. “So”, I hear you ask, “how do us non-superhumans persevere, when it is clear that we’re just not built for running?”
This is a huge misconception. When we aren’t good at something straight away, we blame our genetics in an attempt at self-preservation.
We see athletic success on the surface, without bearing witness to the years of agony and training.
Yes, some people’s body types allow them to improve more quickly but against anybody who’dtrained far more industriously, they wouldn’t stand a chance.
Be reasonable with yourexpectations, but be persistent. To succeed in any area of life, you need to set the right goals. Distal goals are the long-term, often unattainable aims we set ourselves on January 1 every year: “I will get fit”.
They are kept vague so we don’t really have to commit to them (which makes failure far less painful), and only indicate what we aspire to be or do, without setting out a logical and progressive plan.
In the context of running, this is aiming to go on a six plus mile run, without having conquered a two miler.
Proximal goals are less intimidating bridges between the moment the goal is set to the moment it is attained.
As they are short-term aims, the end requires far less effort to reach. Instead of saying ‘I will run a marathon’, break it down into a specific, bite-sized chunk: “By this time next week, I will be able to run a mile comfortably”.
Over time, whether your aims are achieved daily, weekly or monthly, you eventually progress further towards your overarching distal goal.
So here’s the lesson: don’t expect too much from yourself, but don’t make excuses.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, just as Usain Bolt didn’t set the 100m world record on his first attempt.
Dedicate yourselves to short term, attainable goals and one day, you could be considered superhuman.