I recently stumbled upon a quote by actress Gwenyth Paltrow, in which she talks about how she stays fit. She says, “The reason that I can be 38 and have two kids and wear a bikini is because I work my ass off. It’s not an accident. It’s not luck, it’s not fairy dust, it’s not good genes. It’s killing myself for an hour and a half five days a week, but what I get out of it is relative to what I put into it. That’s what I try to do in all areas of my life.”
I love this quote because it speaks to the fact that even superstars have to work to get results… in fitness and in life. Simply put, there’s no substitute for good, honest effort. The problem is, working hard over the course of many weeks or months is sometimes a lost concept in today’s fast-paced society. When we’re used to the speed of technology making so many things in our lives instantly accessible, it can be a struggle to work towards something that takes awhile to achieve. It’s not easy to convince our brains to “trust the process” and wait for the results that happen only over time.
Never was this concept so evident than when I trained for my first marathon. In the beginning weeks, I couldn’t understand how my Saturday long runs would go from 6 to 8, 10, 12, 14 miles and eventually peak at 20, preparing me for the ultimate 26.2 on race day. How could one person cover that much ground in just a few months? Sure, I’d been to marathons; I’d seen runners of all shapes and sizes run across the finish line. Yet, when I was the one going through the process, I didn’t see how I could be one of those people who actually put all of the steps together to do 26.2 miles. (In one day!)
Yet, slowly, and quite literally step by step, I learned in my training that just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither was a marathon runner created in one. I put in my miles, changed my diet, got rest, and did all of the things my coaches told me I’d need to do to finish 26.2 miles. I succeeded, but not because I lucked out the day of the marathon. I achieved my goal because I put in the miles. I did the work. As a result of finishing the marathon I learned some very important lessons that can be applied to marathons or any major goal.
- The road isn’t always easy, in fact it rarely is. As I think back to every major goal I’ve tried to accomplish in my life, I recall saying (more than once, in varying degrees with profanity added on occasion), “This is too hard. I don’t want to continue…” Let’s face it, when the going gets tough, our natural human inclination inevitably makes us feel like saying “forget this” at least one to ten times during the process. The thing is, giving up is easy; it’s a two second decision that can be made at any given time along the way. Yet, in the long run it feels so much better to ignore the voice that tells us to quit and honor the voice that tells us it’ll all be worth it in the end.
- Small goals along the way make the road smoother. Because a typical marathon schedule is broken down into small segments, with gradual increases, it made the training seem less intimidating. Could I run just two more miles than I did the previous weekend? Sure! 14 miles more? Whoa there. Take it slow. This is true with everything in life. College is not completed in a semester, rooms are not painted with one stroke of the brush. It takes continuous and consistent effort over the course of time to accomplish most things. Bit by bit, we can do anything!
- Trust the process. For many weeks, I thought my coaches were nuts when they said I’d be able to do a marathon in a few months. Yet, I listened to what they said, and more importantly, I believed them. We’ve got to believe in what we’re doing and in ourselves. Systems are set in place to guide us to do most things in this world. Our job is to follow directions and trust that in doing so, we’ll achieve our goals.
- Fairy dust only works in fairy tales or at the Magic Kingdom. No amount of carbs the night before a marathon or Gatorade on race day will substitute for proper training leading up to the event. There is no magic pill or bullet that will make an untrained body perform. Similarly, most things in life requiring good old-fashioned hard work require months if not years of work to come to full fruition. In the words of Vince Lombardi, “The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Work is the key to success, and hard work can help you accomplish anything.”
Bottom line, it’s a great feeling to start with a dream, work hard, and in the end experience a certain pride that comes by accomplishing that goal. That mentality is the spirit that moves thousands of runners to sign up for 5K’s, 10K’s, half marathons, full marathons, Ultras and beyond. That spirit is what gets books written, bucket lists checked off, and brings graduates into the work world. It’s the spirit that moves us forward.
Whatever it is you want to accomplish, remember that it can be done. It’s all about putting one step in front of the other. Here’s to doing the work, and having fun in the process!
Carry on, friends.
By Abbey Algiers