June 5, 2018

How To Enjoy Your Running (And Any Other Exercise)

If you want to enjoy your running (and any other exercise), think less about the outcome and more about the process. The joy is found in the process.

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Early in my racing career, I spent a lot of time thinking (and worrying) about results. I needed good outcomes to qualify for races, improve my world ranking, win prize money and keep sponsors happy.

I put a lot of pressure on myself.

When I transitioned to my last coach about 2 years before I retired, he helped to shift my focus away from the results. He taught me to focus my energy on the things within my control – the process.

A subtle change, it made a massive difference to my experience as an athlete and to what I achieved.

My results and world ranking improved dramatically, anxiety levels reduced and I enjoyed my training so much more than I had previously.

Fast forward 10+ years and I am happy that some of the most common feedback I get from our athletes is that “Coached has helped me to enjoy training”.

Know Your Outcome Then Let It Go

When athletes join Coached, they are hoping that we can help them to achieve a result.

“I want to run a [insert time goal here] marathon”

“I aim to qualify for Boston”

“I want to go to Kona”

“I need to lose [insert kg’s here]”

While all worthy aspirations, I always tell our athletes that being fixated on the outcome isn’t serving you because you can’t predict or control the exact moment when the fitness needed for your Boston or Kona slot will happen.

Yes, you can influence it, but control it? No!

In my personal life, my wife and I wanted kids. It took over 3 years of trying before we were blessed with our twins. I couldn’t make one baby (let alone a pair) appear at my convenience.

In business, I can’t manufacture PB’s for every athlete and manifest rapid growth of Coached at my convenience.

In fitness, I can’t make fat vanish and lose weight at my convenience.

Cut Race Times, Not Corners.

Racing at your potential and enjoying training is easy when you’re following the right programme.

These things all take time and come with degrees of uncertainty.

Fixating on a result often leads to poor decision making and taking shortcuts in the short-term, instead of looking at the big picture.

When you’re fixated on a result, you don’t allow yourself the possibility of making changes when needed. Fixating on a specific outcome can lead to you placing your self-worth on these goals, and if it doesn’t go according to your plan, you’ll think of yourself as a failure.

This drains the fun from the experience.

By all means, know your outcome. You need to know where you are going if you’re ever going to get there. But, instead of fixating on the outcome (and having it on loop in your mind), let it go and put your focus on what truly matters – the process.

The Joy Is In The Process

When you take your focus off the result, you set yourself up to enjoy the process. The daily action-oriented details that make up everything you need to do to achieve the result you want.

Instead of worrying whether about whether you’re going to be fit enough to run your goal time, you focus on showing up every day. You execute the training to the best of your ability, focus on your recovery and eat healthy – the process.

As you do the work, you build confidence and develop a winning mentality that shifts you into a mindset of inevitability with your goals. You don’t know exactly when because that’s out of your control, but you do know that if you continually show up, the rewards will arrive.

In Closing

The process is the key to enjoying your running (or any other exercise).

When the quality of your process is high and you execute the race with a high level of self-discipline and control, the result will be the best possible outcome you could have achieved given your starting fitness and the length of time you had to prepare.

Often, that will be the result that you were gunning for.

In situations when it’s not, rather than feeling disappointed, you still feel a sense of contentment because you did everything within your power to have your best result.

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Ben Pulham

Ben Pulham is the founder of Coached, a personalised training programme that helps runners & triathletes optimise, track and enjoy their training.