“It doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger”
This week is simple really. I just want to offer encouragement to never give up. Or should I say….to just keep swimming? In honor of Dory and her big movie release (and because I’m a huge Disney fan and I incorporate Disney anywhere I possibly can), let’s go with that!
JUST. KEEP. SWIMMING.
Or biking, or walking, or running, or lifting, or dancing, or whatever you do to keep moving…just keep doing it! We all need the encouragement from time to time, especially on those days it is difficult to stay the course and continue pushing ourselves. Some days, you just want to throw in your set of Mickey Mouse ears and be done with it (okay, maybe the saying is “throw in the towel”, but I saw another Disney opportunity here so I took it). These are the days that encouragement is the most crucial, and the days we all need to be mentally prepared for discouragement to creep up on us.
Sticking to an exercise plan is not an easy task; if you were told otherwise you were very misguided. It is a major commitment of your time, it pulls lots of strength and energy from your body, and it takes a large dose of dedication. Someone recently asked me when running became easier for me, which is interesting because I keep asking myself the same question…when will it?? There was one night this week that I only had time to squeeze in two miles, and they were two very difficult, sweaty, messy miles. I just wanted to stop and scream as loud as I could “Shouldn’t this be easy by now?!” My conclusion is that we are using the wrong word completely and creating a false reality around our hard work and dedication. The simple definition of the word easy is “without difficulty or stress”. A few synonyms are: unchallenging, effortless, painless, simple, and undemanding. Hmmm…clearly we have the wrong word here, because I am sure that running will always be demanding on my body and challenging to my lungs, legs, and even more so to my mind. It will always require a great deal of effort, and I will even encounter days that it creates aches and pains. Running is not easy, and in fact, no form of exercise we put our bodies through should ever be defined this way. But what does happen over time…is you become stronger. So while running has never necessarily been easy, what I have noticed is that I am able to run much farther and much faster; my body is stronger than before. And while you may never enjoy every single run or every single workout, you will one day love the way it makes your body feel, and you will appreciate the sweat, grit, and determination you have put in to get where you are. You will love the mental and physical strength it has provided you along the way and continues to give you every single day, with every single workout, through every single mile. You will love it so much that you just keep going, even on the hardest days…
So how do you “just keep swimming”?
Remember Why You Started
The first one is simple but can be easy to lose sight of…remember why you started. There is a reason you had the courage to start this journey, and you owe it to yourself to keep going. You have goals, you have dreams, and you can do this. Always keep your eyes set on your overall goal and remember that it was important enough to start, so it is important enough to continue.
Look How Far You’ve Come
Remember those two difficult miles I mentioned earlier? I described them as sweaty and messy because, well, that is exactly how they felt. However, rather than focusing on how difficult those miles were, I needed to be reflecting on how far my journey has brought me. Because when I first started running, two miles was unimaginable and felt completely out of my reach. What a blessing that I was able to run for two miles, difficult or not. Learn to embrace the hard days, allow them make you stronger and more determined, and never let them take away from the joy of how far you have come.
One of the things I continue to work on is staying positive during my workouts. I have said the words “I can’t” way too many times. I have probably asked “How many more?” three times as much. It has to be annoying to others, because it started to annoy me! Now, I try to clear my mind of all of the negative, and let the positive thoughts shine through alone. I will grit my teeth and say something encouraging to myself such as “I’ve got this” or “I am doing this”. Sometimes the pep talks in my mind are more like “I will not die” or “my legs will not fall off”, whatever keeps me going at the time! Be your own coach and think positively during your workouts. You can do this. You will accomplish great things.
Celebrate the Good Days
For some reason, we tend to focus on our bad days and treat the good ones like they are just another day. Good days shouldn’t be overlooked, they should be acknowledged and celebrated. If you just set a personal record…text or call your closest friends and let them in on your achievement! If you found time to squeeze in a workout on an especially hectic day and you feel amazing about that…pat yourself on the back, do a little dance, and shout it from the social media rooftops! Never let the bad days outshine the good ones. Inevitably, there will be days that we take a step back, but celebrate when you pick yourself back up and continue moving forward.
This is all about your mindset. While I was running those two difficult miles this week I made a conscious effort to clear my mind and find perspective. I may have been out of breath and miserable, but at the same time, I was thankful for a healthy set of lungs. My legs may have been tired and burning, but at the same time, I was thankful for a set of legs that allowed me to run. Choosing to be thankful in the difficult moments gives us a different perspective, and keeps us going…thankfully and joyfully. When you are out there running, walking, or lifting and it gets difficult, remember that you don’t have to do this, but rather, you get to do this.
Okay, let’s talk about diet now.
When I say never give up, I do not want to limit this encouragement to your exercise routine alone. Diet plays a crucial role to our health, and changing old habits, resisting fatty foods, and controlling portion sizes is no easy feat. Sticking to a healthy diet is very challenging and takes a lot of will power. And just in case no one has ever told you before…you will have days that you slip and that is okay. If you find that you are beating yourself up for blowing your diet one day, an entire weekend, or maybe even an entire week of vacation…it is okay. Really. We spend too much negative energy feeling guilty, beating ourselves up, and regretting a food choice that our successful days and months end up being overshadowed. When you slip, focus on all of your good days, look forward to the future, and remember this –
Not every day will be perfect.
Not every day will work out the way you had planned.
Some days you just need to eat the cake.
Feeling bad about slipping on your diet only proves that you care, so really, you are still winning. Now, on to tomorrow. And just keep swimming…
What can I say, sometimes Disney characters have the best advice. Dory certainly had a massive ocean before her, and sometimes our feelings of being overwhelmed, discouraged, and defeated can feel as large as the ocean too. But you can’t give up. Never give up. A whole sea of possibilities lies before you…