Last winter some friends and I signed up for a running event in October. This is big. It’s something I’ve never done before – a three-day series of trail runs. We’ll run about 12 miles each day in gorgeous places – Bryce Canyon, Zion, and the Grand Canyon. I was seduced by the jaw-dropping pictures.
It was easy to say yes to such an exciting adventure in the middle of winter – when the reality was months and months away. It’s more daunting now (gulp) – as I can count the weeks. The reality of needing to prepare to run longer distances in heat I’m not used to, at high elevations, and on trails that go up and up and UP, has hit.
How to prepare? I needed a training plan.
The training has begun, and a part of the training is changing my habits. I’ve abandoned my usual long runs along the water for just-as-gorgeous runs in the mountainous trails near home. Actually, as I build my new trail legs, it would be stretching to call some of these workouts “runs.” The distance I cover is much shorter (in the same amount of time). My lungs and legs are feeling the burn. I’m not feeling so easy and graceful as I head out the door. It’s hard!
But here’s the thing. Every single time I’ve gone out for a hilly workout or finished my strength training, I’ve noticed at least one sign of improvement. I run a little further up the hill before I find myself out of breath, my watch said I ran a little faster, my legs weren’t so heavy the next day.
Repetition is creating strength and muscle memory, and even – yes – a growing type of automatic ease. Yesterday I caught myself daydreaming (!) as I was running up a hill that took all my concentration and effort a month ago. I’m making progress.
Habits and new strengths develop over time.
The same process unfolds as you conquer overeating or emotional eating. You start out with an idea of the habits you want to create. At first, they feel clumsy or forced or graceless. And usually, because you’re making new choices that you’re not used to, these new ways of doing things feel hard.
Doing something unfamiliar works new muscles. As you stick with the new habit, it becomes stronger, easier, and more automatic – until running up that hill without stopping, or not reaching for that cookie, and doing something else instead, feels routine.
Peace with food and freedom from overeating happen when you build new strengths and new automatic habits.
You take your power back when you create new habits for paying attention to hunger and fullness; new habits for responding to emotions; new ways of paying attention to your needs or caring for yourself (without turning to food). Peace with food is built on habits that replace mindless eating and stress eating with more helpful responses.
Freedom from overeating happens when you have a plan for taking do-able steps instead of being defeated by perfectionism or self-sabotage or overwhelm.
I’m feeling a lot more confident about my plan to successfully run this three-day race in October because I have a step-by-step training plan that breaks the strengths and the habits I’ll need into pieces I can manage. I don’t have to wake up every morning thinking, “How am I going to do this?” I have a plan and I know I just need to keep taking the steps.