“Instant gratification takes too long” – Postcards from the Edge.
Everywhere you look there are ways to do things minus the time, effort and hard work. Sometimes they might be quick-fix weight loss schemes or those vibrating machines I keep seeing on infomercials that apparently contract all your muscles for you or even how to turn your business into making a million dollars in five seconds. A very long time ago an art teacher of mine told me that given the option I would always take the easy option – the path of least resistance. But that had actually nothing to do with hard work and everything to do with not wanting to be seen. As it turns out, both of those things are hard.
When you have a goal that you are working towards a couple things will tend to happen – you will have to work hard and that hard work generally opens you up to criticism from others. And that goal starts to become infiltrated with ideas of doubt or failure or the vague notion that you are an imposter and you should go back to being invisible.
But the thing is most goals take time. A lot of time. A lot of commitment. And sometimes it takes a lot of hard work when there is no real indication that the hard work is paying off at all. In those moments, or days or weeks all you have is the faith in yourself that eventually it will pay off.
This is especially true for running. It’s easy to see people running obscenely fast times or ridiculously long distances and get caught in the comparison game – but the reality is that most people build up their distance not over weeks, not over months or even years but over decades. I was probably running for two years before the runs started to feel actually comfortable. So when I refer to a particular type of run as an ‘easy run’ people who are starting out will have no idea what I’m referring to because in the beginning any form or run feels remarkably close to dying. And all they can rely on is the experience of others to know that eventually if they keep going they will feel that too.
Running and fitness is a long game. There are no quick fixes. There are no shortcuts. There is just you, your mind, your body and your commitment. And that is probably what I love the most about it. It’s the idea of 10,000 hours. There is no substitute for hard work and consistency. But I also think the bigger picture is that when you start to think of your progress in terms of years, rather than weeks it really highlights how much you have to love it. If it’s something that you are going to be successful at – it has to be part of your life. And for it to be part of your life you have to be able to enjoy it. It’s not like the quick fix scenario where you gut something out for 8 weeks and you’re done.
Which is why I see Learn to Run as about creating a lifetime habit, rather than going from walking to running for 30 minutes. Because I truly believe that given the opportunity most people will fall in love with running and become a lifer like me. For me a big part of that is accepting that progress is slow, it’s hard won and it’s more rewarding than you ever thought it could be because of that. Sure, every now and then you will make a giant leap forward but those leaps have their foundations in all of the tiny steps you’ve been taking every day up until that point.
So, the next time you think that maybe you aren’t making any progress, remind yourself that commitment to mastery might take a lifetime, but it is a life that you will love.