One of the best things about fitness is that so much of what we learn in the gym (or on the trails, or the roads, or wherever we spend our time) can be applied to life outside of the gym. I spent the majority of 2020 training to qualify for the Boston Marathon and ultimately, wasn’t able to race at all due to COVID. Looking at this from an “outcome” perspective, it was a complete waste of time. All of those hours, all of the running, all of the time spent in the gym in pursuit of this one goal - a 3:30 marathon - useless.
However, looking at things from an “outputs” point of view, I still consider the 10 months of training as time extremely well spent. I’ve been running for years and have run marathons before, so I knew that there are always lessons to learn. This cycle specifically, pushing really hard for a specific goal, brought a lot of great things out of me that I try to continue to use in my day to day life, personally and professionally.
Without further ado, the 5 things I learned while marathon training.
- I am capable of more. There were so many workouts that I wanted to quit or thought I wouldn’t be able to complete. Amazingly, I only quit one workout during the entire 10 months. There were others where I didn’t hit the pace I wanted, but I only fully quit on one. We often have an image in our minds of who we are and what we can accomplish and sometimes can’t see the possibilities outside of that realm. Session after session showed me that there actually is more in me if I’m only willing to push a little further past my comfort zone. Admittedly, this is still stumping me in my everyday life, but it does continue to propel me on the track and in the gym.
- I can only control so much. Going into this training cycle in November 2019, my primary goal was to give 100% in every single workout so that I had no doubts when I got to the starting line that I’d done everything I could do. This mindset helped immensely when COVID hit and things started to get canceled. I knew that I could only control what I could control and chose to not spend much time stressing about the other things. This led to me continuing to give 100% in workouts and allows me to breathe easier in other parts of my life as well.
- There are different types of progress. In order to qualify for Boston, I had to get faster and fitter. So it would follow that the best and most useful training sessions were the ones that helped me make physical progress. While that’s not incorrect, some of the biggest lessons were learned during the workouts that were logged in what I call “brain miles” over “leg miles.” These were the times that I may not have done great physically, but I unlocked a new tool in my mind to help me persevere. It’s easy to look at not meeting a specific goal as a failure, but it’s important to remember that there are other markers of progress that we can consider wins.
- The story we tell ourselves matters. I used to struggle with negative self-talk while I was running. Reading Deena Kastor’s Let Your Mind Run at the end of 2019 really inspired me to try and change that. She offers a lot of good tips, but one that I always kept in mind was “find a thought that serves you better.” When I was having a tough time during a run, I would always try to reframe the situation in a way that inspired me (or at least kept me moving a little while longer.) Like anything, the more reps we get in, the stronger we get so as I continued to focus on this, my entire mindset shifted and I found it a lot easier to be kinder to myself while running and find more positive ways to motivate myself when things got tough.
- One part isn’t representative of the whole. The last thing I’ll leave you with is the reminder that one part isn’t representative of the whole. What does this mean? In my training, it meant that one bad workout did not mean that I was suddenly terrible at running. When I ran my final time trial in August, what should have been my qualifying race but was really a supported run around Town Lake, I DNFed (did not finish.) I was disappointed that I didn’t get the race that I wanted or hit the goal I set out to hit, but I also recognized that the result of that day was not representative of my fitness as a whole. In life, this means that one bad day or moment doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person / friend / employee / partner. Like my first lesson, this one is still a tough one for me to remember in my day-to-day non-fitness life, but I’m working on it.
Many of the struggles and triumphs that we experience through fitness can teach us new ways to approach other challenges in our lives. I look forward to taking what I learned in 2020 into my next training cycle and continuing to get fitter, physically and mentally.
If you’re looking for support in reaching your health and fitness goals this year, schedule a free strategy session with a Central Athlete coach below. They’ll take a comprehensive look at your background, your lifestyle, and your goals and develop a way to help get you there.