Two years ago I ran my first half marathon; if you had told me that just two and a half years ago, I would've laughed at you! How could I run a half marathon without even running a single mile? I considered myself — at that point — totally and utterly physically inept, incapable of reaching such an incredible fitness feat.
A concept that was once an absolutely impossible, distant, never-gonna-happen figment of my imagination (honestly, so far-fetched that I never even thought about it) became something I enjoy doing twice a year now, and I went from thinking running was a joke to loving races and cherishing my half-marathon memories.
I talked with Robin Arzon, ultramarathoner, running coach, and author of Shut Up and Run about this idea, and she too started in a similar way: by signing up for her first half marathon. Now, the woman who "wasn't a runner" has done several ultramarathons and run distances most of us still can't even dream of. So how do you go from having an impossible and lofty goal to actually accomplishing it and making it your everyday reality?
A combination of "micro successes" and "tiered goals," according to Robin. She explained that these two things will get you from the couch to a physical accomplishment you wouldn't have envisioned in your wildest dreams. This idea can be applied to weight loss or any other physical fitness endeavor.
"I think that people forget that there are so many micro moments that require the feeling of success," said Robin. "When you're training for something [like a half marathon or a 5k], there are a million times when you feel like you can't do it." It's so natural for those moments to happen, but the key is to not live in those moments where you feel some kind of setback or failure. The key to getting through? "Celebrating those micro successes, whether it's not hitting the snooze button, figuring out a pace for a 20-mile run, or sometimes just getting out the door; maybe you don't hit the distance or the pace that you want, but getting out the door is the success that day."
"Celebrate micro successes; maybe you don't hit the distance or the pace that you want, but getting out the door is the success that day."
Lacing up your shoes? Micro success. Going for a run when you don't feel like it? Micro success. Choosing a piece of fruit instead of a cupcake? Micro success. Getting anything under a 15-minute mile pace? You get the picture! "It's a matter of constantly reinforcing your will-power muscle; I do think that that reinforcement requires continually celebrating micro success, which often is in daily training." You can have a big overarching goal — like your race distance or goal weight — but keep things in perspective. That leads to Robin's second tactic for goal-setting: having tiered goals.
"I think it's important to have an A goal, a B goal, a C goal, a D goal," said Robin. "Some people's dream is to qualify for Boston or to break a four-hour marathon, so maybe that's your A goal, but then what's your B goal, what's your C goal?" Her concept is something that will keep you from failing: setting smaller goals to reach your larger ones will keep you focused.
Robin said, "Tiered goals keep us goal-oriented, but also they're a touchstone for things that happen. The weather could be sh*tty, you could get injured, you might get broken up with the day before your first half marathon — which happened to me!" The smaller goals are excellent benchmarks that keep you from feeling derailed entirely when something goes wrong, and less likely to give up on those big dreams. Equip yourself for major success with these tiers of goals and micro celebrations — you'll feel better than you ever have in your entire life.