You can't always judge success by the way you feel
I’ve had a few busy weeks with extra stuff on that has messed up my usual routine. For two weeks in a row I had events scheduled on Thursday evenings, which is when I usually attend my group fitness class. I go on Monday nights as well, but when I workout once a week I get too sore the next day and it isn’t fun anymore. So I try to go at least twice a week.
My husband, on the other hand, is a runner. He runs at least three times a week on a 5km circuit around the streets near our home. He has been running for a few months now, and his time is getting better as his fitness improves.
So, with Thursday night training out, I decided to join Murray on his Wednesday night run instead. I was keen for the challenge to see how my group fitness classes compared to his running fitness level. I hadn’t run since we moved five months ago, and I felt ready to go again.
First run. Murray was going so slow I felt like I was tripping on his heels and found it hard to find my rhythm. The hills were easy, I was breathing well, and I felt good. I ran in front and waited a few times for Murray to catch up with me so we could stay together. I enjoyed the run, all 5kms. It was actually fun. When we completed the circuit Murray was proud of me, and totally stuffed. He complained of low energy and a slow time compared to how he had been running previously.
One week later, we ran again. Same circuit, same time of day, same two people, totally different run! This time Murray was off like a rocket, and I was gasping for breath after the first couple of hundred meters. I struggled to keep up, even on the down-hill sections. Murray had to stop and wait for me several times, and even when I caught up I had to catch my breath before I could continue. I felt like there was lead in my shoes and fire in my lungs. I was not having fun!
I finally stumbled into our front yard and fell onto the soft lawn, totally exhausted.
The exact same run, yet I felt so different. How can that be? While I was trudging up the long slow hill, trying to will my feet to keep moving and my lungs to keep breathing, I got to thinking… life can be like running the same old circuit on different days. Sometimes things feel easy and everything comes together. Things just flow, it feels easy, it is even fun! You feel under control, competent, strong. You’re the leader, and you get to set the pace for those who are following behind. You become the encourager, you offer advice, and you feel good.
Then the next day, or the next week, or next time around the circuit, there are similar tasks, similar expectations, but the experience is so different. Just like running on the hard days, for some unknown reason, it’s just a tough slog and you have to battle just to keep going. You rely on others to encourage you and cheer you on, because you just want to give up. You feel incompetent, out of control, and oh so tired. Worst of all, you feel like your holding up the team, you're letting people down, and you’re holding others back.
When I finally made it back home after that horrible run, totally spent, exhausted, Murray let me know my time. It was three minutes faster than the first run. Yep, three minutes faster.
There you go. It’s not always about how you feel. Sometimes you can feel terrible, and get good results anyway. I was surprised, and strangely content. I pushed through, did the best I could, kept going, and made it to the end.
For me it was a valuable lesson in perspective. Often I judge success by the way I feel. But feelings are not always a good measurement. Feelings can lie, and if we focus inward we can be deceived into discouragement. We can convince ourselves that we’re not doing a good job, not achieving our goals, and letting others down. It’s so important to have an external measuring stick, outside of how we feel, to give us a true measure of how we're really going.
Whatever represents your ‘run’ right now, don’t give up. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, keep pushing, keep breathing. Everyone has days when it seems too hard, and it all feels too much, and that is okay. The way you feel doesn’t necessarily mean that you are not doing well and achieving great things. Pat yourself on the back, and keep going.