I’ve loved running and writing for as long as I can remember.
With running, I loved feeling that raw energy surge through my body as my legs picked up speed. I knew I was fast, and I was proud of that.
I had an even deeper love for words. Writing was the one outlet I had for my active imagination and the feelings I often hid. I knew I was a good writer, and I took pride in that, too.
When I grew up, I pushed both running and writing aside. I blamed dramatic life changes: work, marriage, and having four kids in rapid succession. But mostly I used my Litany of Lame Excuses.
Don’t feel like it.
Without even realizing it, I let years pass by without doing two of the things I love most.
Instead of taking small steps to get back into running and writing, I made four big mistakes.
The first was focusing on the past. The idea of running or writing would cross my mind, and immediately I’d think, I used to be able to run this distance. I used to write for these news agencies. Why should I try now? I’ll never be what I used to be. I let these thoughts — the voice of resistance — shame me into not even getting started.
My second mistake was focusing on an unrealistic future. I’d see someone jogging or would read a fantastic blog post and think, “Ha! I could do that tomorrow, no problem.”
It was so easy to imagine I’d wake up at the crack of dawn the next day, slap on a cute workout outfit and miraculously transform into an elite athlete (abs and all). It was easy to think I could just sit in front of my computer and a Pulitzer-worthy story would pour out of my fingertips.
I didn’t think of how painful it’d be to get out of bed before sunrise, or how frustrating it’d be to stare at a blank screen. I didn’t imagine the slow, hard work required to get myself back into running and writing shape because I was too focused on the end result.
This fed into my third mistake: doing too much too soon. I’d finally overcome my usual excuses and would be ready to run one day. Thinking my body was some combination of my distant past and unrealistic future, I’d take off, pushing myself way too hard or too far. “Still got it!” I’d tell myself.
The inability to walk like a normal person the next day would say otherwise.
I made the same mistake with writing. I’d open my laptop and force myself to write something that only vaguely resembled a touching life story, when in reality, I was just typing crap.
Having to take a week to recover from overexertion (ahem, pride) pretty much knocked out any lingering motivation to run or write again, which led to my fourth mistake: giving up.
What I needed to do to break this cycle was take the first, small step and be content with that.
A walk around the block — not a marathon.
A quick journal entry — not a novel.
Author Robert Collier describes success as “the sum of small efforts — repeated day in and day out.”
The sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.
Last November I decided to start running again. Instead of beating myself up by thinking about the past or future, I focused on the present. At that moment, all I needed to do was get my running clothes and shoes on. The next step was walking. I kept putting one foot in front of the other, and before I knew it, more than half an hour passed by.
I enjoyed the cool, morning air and the sight of the pink-tinged sky so much I decided to walk again the next day, and the next. A few weeks later, I tried running. I walked to warm up, jogged for half a minute, then walked again. I slowly built up to jogging longer stretches until I was able to run my entire walking route.
I ran my first 10K in March.
I never imagined I could ever run that distance. But that race was the sum of many small efforts, repeated day in and day out.
This same approach of taking small, regular steps helped me get back into writing. After my grandmother passed away in April, I decided to write about her.
I started with what I remembered most: her strong, director-like personality, her no-nonsense approach to everything, her love of beauty. Every few days, I added more stories about her and refined what I’d already written. It took me about a month to complete. But this time, it wasn’t the finished piece I was most proud of. It was the slow, small process of crafting the right words I pray are worthy of her.
Getting back into running and writing has revived a part of me I thought I could bury, forget, and live without. All these years, I’d been overcomplicating the process, creating a maze out of what’s always been a straight shot.
Instead of looking backward at who I used to be, or looking forward to who I think I should be, instead of doing too much too soon, or simply giving up, all I needed to do was one thing.
Take the first step.