Progress is a funny thing.
When you're in it, day-to-day, sometimes it's hard to notice change.
It's easy to get discouraged.
It's difficult to see progress.
Then one day, it just hits you in the face.
And you're like, damn, I'M IN IT.
I was always an athlete. I played soccer and I swam competitively for 10+ years growing up. In college, I went to a gym for the first time and got real cozy like with the Elliptical. Never touched a weight. Never ran a mile. Running was always punishment in soccer. I stayed far away.
Post-graduation, I moved to SF, and joined 24 Hour Fitness. Where I did the same workout every single day. Literally. Boutique fitness didn't exist. I figured out there were people that actually ran for fun, so I signed up for a 12K; the Bridge to Bridge in the Fall of 2007. I had no idea what I was doing. I didn't train. I was unaware people "train" to run. But something shifted.
I ran a few more 10K's and signed up for my first half-marathon with this cocky mindset of, "It's running. I got this." And then I got served a HEAPING slice of humble pie.
Actually screw it, I got served the whole damn thing.
I wore the wrong shoes, never ran more than 3 miles at a time, had no idea about any pre-race rituals (ahem, like using a restroom), didn't know people eat while they run, and Gu was a term more foreign to me than kale at that time. (It was 2008, kale wasn't cool. JUDGE ME.)
Then I met runners. I learned you follow a training plan. That there are running shoes and there are gym shoes. That you fuel to keep from hitting the wall. That you eat, coffee, use the facilities before runs. (Sorry not sorry, we're all adults and it's true.)
But it wasn't until the summer of 2011 when, while on a booze cruise in the San Francisco Bay celebrating a friend's birthday, that a dear friend and I (over multiple Sprite and Vodkas) decided it was a wise decision to register FOR A MARATHON. WHILE ON THE OPEN SEAS.
So the next morning I woke up to a raging headache, a craving for a breakfast burrito, the very real "YOU'RE IN" e-mail sitting in my inbox and my bank account down ~$150.
Huh. So we're in this.
I downloaded a training plan (literally Google searched: "Marathon Training to not die") and a Hal Higdon plan came up. Novice 1. Perfect. Great. I'm a Novice and 1 is a beginning number.
I'm a very committed person when I have a goal I want to hit so I threw myself into my training.
I went from struggling through a 3-mile run, stopping every mile to "tie my shoes" (i.e. breathe and will myself to not lie down on the street to call an Uber home), to running 20+ miles on a Saturday without stopping. I cross-trained. I checked PR distances and times off the list. Racing became second nature. A 5-mile run followed by a Pilates class was a normal Wednesday.
Little by little, I started to look the part, and little(r) by little(r) I started to feel the part.
I could see my own progress. I could feel the hours upon hours spent paying off.
I was stronger. I was more powerful. I had core strength. I was mentally focused and driven.
On Day 3 of Week 2, I couldn't see it. By Day 5 of Week 7, I felt like a different person.
And come Marathon Day? I ran all 26.2 miles and finished in under 4 hours. And I felt pretty freaking good about how far I'd come. The cheeseburger I had afterwards was also pretty freaking good. And the multiple Peppermint JoJo's from Trader Joe's (it was Christmas time).
My point is - progress doesn't come easy. It's not instantaneous. It's not even quick. It takes a lot of work, and more importantly it takes time.
At SoulCycle the other night, Chris (come take his class with me ASAP) said something that resonated with me, and continues to resonate.
It's not 1,000 steps.
It's 1,000 hours.
It's making small decisions that lead to big changes.
It's progress, not perfection.
As Justin Theroux would say in one of the greatest movies of all time, Wanderlust, "Suck on that for a little while".
A little bit every day. Commitment. Focus. Determination. Grit. Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. Because it's not all fun and games and sometimes it doesn't feel great.
Training faster to run faster, pushing harder against resistance, using heavier weights, jumping in a freaking POOL to swim laps after 13+ years out.
Whatever it is, in Chris' words, be about it.
Find a pack or a community that supports you. Recognize those are your people. Support them. Give back what they give you.
Oh, and don't forget to work your ass off.
Crushing goals doesn't exactly come easy.