Making it to the start line of the historic Boston Marathon is a dream come true for many long distance runners. Crossing the finish line on Boylston Street is even more of a thrill. As of this past Monday, I’m proud to say I’ve accomplished both.
But it wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops.
It took years of planning, thousands of training miles, loads of commitment, and plenty of sacrifice to see this dream through to completion, and I couldn’t help but notice a direct parallel to the pursuit of extraordinary health.
Here’s what I learned about staying healthy and well on the road to the 120th Boston Marathon.
Are you committed? Then you’d better love the process.
We live in an outcome-obsessed society. We all want great results, but often overlook the fact that our results are simply a byproduct of whatever we’re committed to. Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to commit to something you find enjoyable? If you don’t enjoy the process, you’ll wind up sabotaging your results. It’s that simple.
If you enjoy the process of running through the winter, your chances of turning out a decent performance in a spring marathon will skyrocket considerably. If you don’t enjoy that process, it will likely feel like a grind. Your motivation will dwindle. You’ll skip workouts. And your results will suffer.
If you enjoy the process of eating nutrient dense food, your chances of experiencing extraordinary health will skyrocket. If you don’t enjoy that process, it will probably feel hard. Your enthusiasm for home cooked meals will fade. You’ll pick up take-out on the way home. You’ll find every excuse in the book to justify your choices (“You only live once” “I’m going to start fresh tomorrow” “It’s my birthday”). And your results will suffer.
So the real question should be, Can you learn to love the process? I believe you can, but only after you’ve committed.
Make a good plan, but not a rigid one.
Great achievements don’t just happen — they take careful planning. Most people understand this at some level.
Running a marathon? Excellent. How many days and hours per week do you have available to train? What will you do during those workouts? What will you do to support your recovery between sessions? These are some of the things I considered each week while putting together my plan.
Want to eat real food? Brilliant. What’s on this week’s meal plan? What groceries do you need? When and where will you pick them up? Did you double-check any new recipes for out-of-the-ordinary ingredients? Can anything be prepared in advance to make busy week nights unfold smoothly? Planning can be tedious, but failing to plan truly is planning to fail.
Don’t love the planning process? No problem. A quick Google search will turn up countless marathon training programs or weekly meal plans for you to follow to the letter. Hiring a coach works well if you need a custom plan or extra accountability.
So if we have the commitment and we have the plan, what could possibly go wrong? In my experience, it’s being unwilling to alter your great plan on the fly.
Here’s the thing. It’s not a matter of if setbacks will happen, but when they will happen. How you adjust your plan to deal with the unexpected is what really matters.
Take my marathon for example. I found out last May (almost a year in advance) that I qualified for Boston. I made my plan for being marathon ready in April.
Then I found out I’d need to do the majority of my training as a single parent while my husband worked away from home Monday to Friday. Plan adjusted.
Then I found out about an impending cross-country move, and because of my husband being out of town, the sale of our house rested primarily on my shoulders. Plan adjusted.
Then I got sick and lost at least two weeks of key training time in February. Plan adjusted.
Then race day came and despite doing the majority of my training in cold temperatures, we were all sweating on the start line. Plan adjusted. Again.
I’ve learned the hard way that rigid plans breed disappointment. If I’d been unwilling to revisit my Boston Marathon plan (many times over!), I probably wouldn’t have made it to the start line, let alone the finish line of this tough race. And I’m certain that a critical decision to slow down mid-race is the only reason I was smiling on the home stretch. This photo, which I will cherish forever, was only possible because of my willingness to adjust a good plan on the fly.
How willing are you to revisit your healthy eating plan?
People always want me to tell them exactly what to eat – but that’s the equivalent of a rigid plan. It can set you up for failure.
But if I tell you exactly what to eat (real food!), why you’re eating it, and how to do the best you can no matter what life throws your way, then I think you’ll really start to see results.
Remember this. If running marathons and eating real food were easy, everyone would be doing it. It’s only those with a firm commitment, a decent plan, and a willingness to adjust that plan as they go who go on to achieve great things in life.
Ready. Set. Plan (and re-plan)! I know you can do it.
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