A Lesson on Getting Through Difficult Times
Yes, I took off my clothes – but not entirely. Have I mentioned I hate running? More than mustard (if you have followed my blogs). Despite my disdain for it, I still do it. Not for exercise, though that is a bonus, but I do it for discipline, mental growth, and to remind myself that I can do hard things and accomplish them.
Just to be clear, when I say I ‘run’ what that really means is that I ‘jog, very slowly.’ The max I push myself to run is about 2 miles but typically settle at just one. With that said, you can imagine my reluctance when my 15-year-old asked me to go on a 3-mile run with her [insert blank stare gif here]. Any other day I would have said ‘no’ but given she has been quarantined for over a month and a half and feeling pretty down about missing out on track meets, I apprehensively agreed.
The route was from our house to the Marketplace Walmart, which was 1.5 miles away, round trip made 3 miles, with a lot of hills and straightaways along the way. We started off. My energy level was high. I was feeling good and thinking this might not be as bad as I thought, until I hit my first hill (not very far into the run). I immediately felt the burn in my legs as I attempted to truck up the hill. Breathing became more forceful. It hurt and I wanted to quit only 2 mins. into the run. I looked up and saw my daughter ahead and knew I could not quit because I was doing this for her. I pushed on. Once the path leveled out, things became a little easier and also much warmer. The clouds parted and the sun was beaming on me. I had on a pullover hoodie. I started to sweat and overheat. I took off the pullover and tied it around my waist. Immediately I felt relief from the release of heat; this gave me an energy boost to pressed on.
My daughter stayed ahead of me the whole time but when she would get to a marker, she would stop and wait for me to catch up. As I slowly approached, she would give me a big high five and then resume the lead position. I wasn’t even a mile in when everything hurt, I was panting for air, and wondering ‘Why did I agree to do this?’ I was coming up on another big hill and had no energy to take it on. I stopped and walked up the hill. Once I gained some energy back and my breathing normalized some, I picked back up to a jog. I immediately came upon another hill. This time, I was determined to jog it. The pain immediately rushed back into my legs. I kept pushing. If I looked up the hill, I knew I would be easily discouraged how far I had to go and how long I would have to endure this pain, so I looked down instead. I looked down and kept repeating to myself, ‘Just put one foot in front of the other’. I made it up the hill which was the middle point of our route; I was only halfway done and felt like I was going to die. I wanted to quit. This was not fun, but rather torturous. I wondered why I was doing this. These thoughts kept circling in my mind, but each time I would look up, see my daughter, and was reminded of my why. It was all that was needed to press on.
The trip home was similar, lots of pain, alternating between walking and jogging, forcing myself to each marker, high fives from my daughter at each, wanting to quit but choosing not to, and mentally pushing myself every single step. We finally made it back home. I was beat. Breathing hard, red in the face, legs and ankles in pain, but I did it.
Whether I am pushing myself to complete 1 mile or pushing myself to complete 3 miles, I found I had to take the same approach because for me, both are hard, both hurt and cause pain. The only difference is the duration of how long I am enduring it.
We are all going through hard times right now. EVERY SINGLE PERSON has been impacted by Covid-19 in some way. We are all trying to truck up our own individual hills. Here is what my run taught me about getting through a difficult journey –
- Life is full of hills and straightaways – There are no alternative routes. Hills are a part of every journey and THEY WILL BE HARD. Accepting this allows you to plan, prepare, and respond effectively in difficult times vs. becoming angry or resentful. This is when you may need to put your head down and just commit to putting one foot in front of the other.
- Adjustment to your environment is necessary – I had to take off my clothes to adjust to the heat. Adjustment will be required to make it through, or you can get really hot and overheat. This is when you need to reflect and decide what you need to take off, let go off, or change to adapt to your environment and the season you are in.
- You will have to slow down – Running at full speed is unrealistic. There are times you will be forced to slow your pace if you want to make it to the end successfully. These times are the most challenging mentally. This is when questioning starts. Is this worth it? Why am I do this? You will need to remind yourself why you started in the first place. Then just remember, the mountain will eventually flatten out.
- Set mile markers and instead of focusing on the finish line – If you focus on how far you have to go, you can easily get discouraged. The end will seem so far that it seems easier to give up or not even start at all. Setting mile markers makes the journey seem a bit more possible and gives a sense of accomplishment along the way. Be sure to celebrate when you make it to these points. You may still have a long way to go, but you will be closer than what you used to be.
- Support or an accountability partner is critical – Following my daughter helped push me to each marker and then her high fives gave me the boost I needed to get to the next marker. Having a strong support person provides a boost of strength and encouragement when you are having difficulty finding it on your own.
- Healthy distractions make the journey easier – At times, you will have to just bow your head and endure the pain; healthy distractions can help make it a little more tolerable. I listened to music to take my mind off the pain and even give me the energy to push through it. For some, this may be switching focus to a hobby or spending more time with people you love while riding out the difficult times.
- Attitude is everything – It is true that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it. If I kept going or if I would quit was 100% on me to decide. If I told myself encouraging words or discouraging words was 100% in my control. I was alone with my own thoughts and that is how every journey will be. It will always come down to you and your thoughts. There will be very little you can control in life, but you can 100% of the time control your thoughts and how you choose to respond to life.
How we handle difficult times will be the difference between success or defeat. You will come out on the other side a victim or a victor. The outcome is 100% your choice to make. Choose victory. You got this!