By Annie Gaudreault, Holistic Nutritionist and Wellness Coach
As a marathoner and three-time Ironman® triathlon finisher, I love races! The adrenaline, the preparation, the buzz, I love it all, but especially the spectators. They are sometimes the difference between sheer misery and utter joy. They can pump you up when you’re feeling low and inspire you to push through.
But one of the most frustrating things you can hear from the crowd as you go past them is, “You’re almost there!”, when you know very well that you are in fact nowhere close to the finish line.
Don’t get me wrong, I know these words of encouragement are coming from a wonderful, supportive place. In fact, during my first marathon race, while totally dehydrated and in a pissy mood, a stranger gave me his water bottle. I will never forget that man.
But when they tell you that you are nearing the end, and it’s not true at all, it feels more frustrating than helpful.
And right now, we are nowhere near the end. We don’t even know where the finish line is.
To start something and not know when and where it will be completed is somewhat cruel.
It’s no wonder so many of us are feeling discouraged and depleted, instead of a road race with a clear start and finish, it feels like we’re running on a hamster wheel, just spinning endlessly each day with no change, no chance to get off.
Since we can’t yell at the lovely people on the sidelines and tell them to shut up, even though I have been sometimes tempted, what can we do to stay motivated when we can’t see the finish line?
This is not a free pass for procrastination but rather, permission to cut yourself some slack and give yourself grace.
While we might be feeling disappointed that things look different right now or we’re not experiencing the same results as we were “before, as Don Miguel Ruiz so eloquently said in his beautiful book The Four Agreements, “Always do your best, but your best won’t be the same every day.”
While this seems simplistic, it is actually very difficult to live by. Aiming to do your best is important for self satisfaction, but having realistic expectations is key for emotional health. In the running world there is a saying that, “There are no friends on race day.” It means that, while you wish your friends all the best, you have to run your own race. So focus on maintaining the pace that works for you right now, rest when you need to and dedicate your mental energy to your journey.
Manage Your Energy
Another way we can help ourselves to feel better and stay motivated is by managing our energy, which means finding ways to recharge our batteries on a daily and weekly basis.
There are many ways to do this. Disconnect from social media, spend time in nature, make time for hobbies and activities that truly bring you joy, learn a new skill, take a nap, read a book, listen to music or a podcast, move your body, meditate, perform a self-care ritual, etc. Whatever it looks like to you, find ways to take care of you each and every day.
Connect With Others
You can also reach out to others (virtually of course) who might need you or just to talk and connect with someone outside of your household.
Giving back is a great way to gain much needed perspective and feel better. Research has shown over and over that being purposeful to others increase our happiness and even our longevity. In his book Successful Aging, Daniel J. Levitin states “Social engagement helps to maintain brain functions and protects against cognitive decline”.
What I know for sure is that during any race, there are highs and there are lows. Sticking to the path, one foot in front of the other, is the only way to keep moving forward. And slowly but surely, we’ll keep getting a little bit closer to the finish line.