With the New Year upon us, and the Christmas season just concluding, it's a great time to reflect on 2018 and all the positive changes made during the calendar year. For me, my business grew by almost 15%, I posted a PR returning to Ironman triathlon after a 4 year hiatus, and qualified for the Boston Marathon on a last-minute whim. I had clients get into wedding-shape, runners that completed life-long race goals, and triathletes who became first-time Ironmen. And while all those accomplishments are incredible in their own right, nothing compares to the birth of my son. With the arrival of this 7 pound little wonder, my entire outlook on life has shifted in an almost indescribable way. Everyone said that would happen. That I’d see the world just a little bit differently. From how I would spend my time, to my goals in life, to my triathlon training, etc. They said it would all change. And they were right!
It’s interesting how our perspective changes. Sometimes our viewpoint changes due to something expected, that you try to prepare for, but that still permanently alters your world in a way you never thought it would- like having a child. At times, a shift in perspective is brought about by something unexpectedly life-altering, such as a sudden accident or illness. At times these shifts are short-term and quick, such as during a race when adjustments have to be made due to weather, fueling, or hydration issues. And sometimes these shifts are instigated by a slow burning desire to change contemplated over years. Whatever path we are on, or whatever the course we need to alter, it’s critical we keep the right perspective during the process. A loss in perspective can be tough to overcome, especially when things go poorly, leading to lots of frustration and difficulty, be it on race day, in the gym, or in life.
To help keep the right perspective in the fitness world (or outside of it for that matter), I find it helpful to remember 2 key principles:
Remember the big picture. So many times, we lose perspective simply because we take our eye off the ball. We don’t focus on the big picture and allow ourselves to be caught up in the minutia of the moment, failing to take a step back and recognize that trajectory is more important that perfection. A while ago, I read a book on personal improvement called, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”, which talked about not becoming preoccupied with minor setbacks, and how not to let the small things take us off track. Yet so many times I see clients fall into that trap.
After several months of slow but steady progress, one client was absolutely despondent after returning from an family emergency that took her out of town for several weeks. Due to the circumstances, she was unable to maintain her fitness and nutrition regimen while attending to family, and backslid into poor habits while on the trip. Upon her return she was frustrated with herself, becoming discouraged at her loss of immediate progress. For several weeks, she struggled with getting back into her routine, and her workouts and nutrition continued to suffer. She'd lost sight of the big picture; she’d forgotten that this process was about long-term, fundamental lifestyle change, not being perfect week in and week out. She focused on those few weeks when her fitness took a backseat to her family’s needs, not on the several months of fitness success prior. Her trajectory was still headed in the right direction, even if she had a few bad weeks.
So, in those low moments when you’re off track, and struggling, step back and asses your trajectory- are you trending in the right direction? Are the majority of your decisions trying to take you toward your goals? If so, then you’re on track. And that’s the big picture. Remember it!
The second principle to help you keep perspective may seem somewhat contradictory to the last;
The little things matter. Remembering the big picture is paramount, but the ‘little things’ matter. I once heard a saying that goes, “Thoughts lead to acts, acts lead to habits, habits lead to character, character leads to destiny”. I’ve always loved that quote, because it underscores the point that small things (a thought) leads to great things (our destiny). Keeping the right perspective involves doing the little things daily to get us to our goals.
Recently, I listened to a podcast in which an elite marathon runner was talking about his training leading up to a major event. I was struck by a few of his points in referring to his preparation for the race. The host asked if he was unsure he would be able to achieve his race goal, and he responded ‘no’, because he had done the work. He had put in the time, day in and day out which enabled him to get to the starting line healthy. He took his rest days, slow runs, and strength training just as seriously as he took his speed work, tempo runs, and marathon pace runs. He stuck with prescribed paces, and rested when he was supposed to and did the work every day that was going to get him to his goal. That process allowed him to maintain perspective about the importance of the process as a whole, and how each day fit into that.
Sometimes, as athletes we don’t look at how the pieces fit- we misfire on race day because we skip our recovery days or strength training and we come to the start line injured or overtrained. So, to help maintain that critical perspective that the ‘little things matter’, remember each day to focus why you are doing the work. Are you doing a recovery run, speed work, burning as many calories in the gym as possible, or strengthening a specific muscle group? Remember why you are doing these specific things. Consistent, daily adherence to workouts drives results. Pay attention to the “Little things’, because they matter!
So, with the upcoming New Year ahead, remember to keep perspective. To help do that, ‘remember the big picture’, and that ‘little things matter’. Whether it be on the track, out on the road, in the gym, or in life, don’t lose perspective on what matters most.