Adopting an Endurance Mindset

Endurance workouts are my favorite type of workout, and I’m pretty sure that makes me a masochist.

But you know what? I think a life long tendency toward endurance, toward going the long haul, will be helpful during this month-long shelter in place experience we’re about to go through, and I’ve already been working from home three weeks as of today. (Trust me, for an extrovert who lives alone, this is no easy task, but more on that later.)

From Marathons to Orangetheory: What I’ve Learned

After burning out on running after my second marathon in 2014, I stopped training, stopped racing, and with the exception of the odd run here and there, I didn’t run with any purpose until I joined Orangetheory Fitness in December of 2018. Getting back on the treadmill was a chore, to be honest. But over the last five months of finally getting my shit together health-wise, I’ve seen nothing but improvement.

And so, I decided to return to my favorite race this year, the Door County Half Marathon. It was scheduled for May 2 and I had just started training when all of this started, and for obvious reasons it’s not happening as originally scheduled.* But I’m still running. With Orangetheory closed and social distancing restrictions in place, long walks and runs, in addition to the online workouts, are my bread and butter these days.

Even though I stepped away from serious running for a number of years (2011-2014 was my running heyday), what I learned during that three year period is still there to keep me moving now. And what I’m learned at Orangetheory over the last 16 months is there, too.

All of these lessons have led to an endurance mindset, which is as helpful for enduring life as it is a tough workout:

  • Set small goals along the way.
  • Tell yourself those little white lies.
  • Remind yourself that if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.

Let’s break these lessons down and put them into action.

From Lessons Learned to Lessons Executed

Set Small Goals Along the Way

I do this when I’m on a distance run and when I’m carrying out tasks in my every day life. Just yesterday, I set small goals as I was carrying a heavy load of groceries back to my apartment from the Mariano’s around the corner. (I ditched my car this year. Good timing on that, huh?) Two heavy bags and two cases of La Croix really gets my muscles burning, and no matter how fast I walk, I need to take little breaks along the way. I pick a light post and aim for that. If I’m feeling okay when I get there, I keep going. If not, I set the bags down and take a break. Simple as that.

For me, April is Orangetheory’s Marathon Month, so I’ll be tracking my miles. Fortunately my studio is running the challenge on its Facebook group, so all the runners will be aiming to get in 30 miles this month. Last year I hit 32.08 miles, so I’ll be looking to surpass that. I’ll break that down into weekly and daily goals to keep myself going. Tracking my progress is also especially helpful.

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What are some small goals, or light posts that you can aim for over this month?

Tell Yourself Those Little White Lies

Lies can be good sometimes. When I’m working out, I lie to myself all the time. “Oh, I’ll only go three miles today.” “I’ll stop and take a break at X landmark.” “I’ll stop running after X amount of time.” I tell myself these lies to trick my brain into thinking that whatever I’m doing is going to be easier than it is. I trick myself into thinking that I’m going to do less when I’m really going to do more. This approach not only gets me out the door, but it makes me feel extra accomplished, so that’s a bonus!

I did this very thing on Monday this week. I went out with the intent of doing a 5k, but by 1.5 miles, I felt pretty good and decided to press on for 4, which I did.

When it comes to running, I also often lie to myself about my expectations. Either I don’t set them or I keep them low, thus surprising myself when I do better than expected (or … not expected). My mile times on Monday sort of blew me away, as I consider myself a pretty slow and steady runner. But surprises can abound when you don’t set expectations!

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I will fully acknowledge that this approach might not work for everyone. Without an intrinsic drive to push yourself, lies might become truths. But what does it hurt to give it a shot? You might surprise yourself.

If It Doesn’t Challenge You, It Doesn’t Change You

I touched on change in a recent post. It happens to us, or we make it happen. There’s plenty of unwanted change challenging us at the moment, but right now, I want to focus on the change that we make happen. This kind of change comes from the challenges that we give ourselves and will ultimately help up reach a goal and self improvement. Arguably, changing ourselves with challenges we have some control over will also better prepare us for those unwanted challenges and changes.

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you” is something I picked up from Orangetheory. And while it might be a bit cliche or cheesy, it’s really f**king true.

I’m currently challenging myself to hit a specific goal weight before this month is over. Going back to the example of the 4 mile run on Monday, I really wanted to stop during that last mile. The last quarter of that mile, I repeated that phrase over and over again while begging for my Fitbit to vibrate and announce that I’d hit my goal. Those moments at the end seem the hardest, but it feels so good when you hit the finish line and can recover knowing you gave it your best.

Turning to a non-fitness example, I’m also challenging myself during this time to do some work around relationships and figuring out what I want. Dating makes me queasy, and maybe that’s because online dating is simply awful. But it might also be because I’m not entirely sure what I want and how to best approach the dating world. Most of it just makes me want to stick with what I know and what’s comfortable. But jumping back to my mention of being an extrovert living alone during this time, I keep thinking about whether or not being alone is what I really want for my entire future.

I’m good on my own. I’m happy on my own. But maybe I could be happier with someone else. Self discovery, time, and maybe some pain from putting myself out there when I’m allowed to be near other people again, will tell.

What challenges can you give yourself this month to bring you to a better place by April 31?

Closing Thoughts

I’m already mentally preparing myself for the finish line on this thing to change. What right now looks to be 31 days could easily move to 60 or 90. We simply don’t know. I’m preparing my endurance mindset for 31 days right now, knowing that maybe it’s all a lie and I’ll have to keep going once I reach that April 31 light post. I hope not. But when the time comes I’ll be ready to keep on going if I have to.

I’m going to try to keep these lessons in mind as I work toward my goals this month. I hope you will, too. But if all else fails, knock a nagging or long-forgotten task off your list to keep yourself from going stir crazy. Heck, I just finished a baby blanket last night that I started 5 years ago. It’s not great, but at least it’s done. Better late than never!

Stay safe, stay sane, and above all else, endure.

*As of right now it’s been rescheduled to October 31. If you’re looking for an amazing run in an amazing place, I highly recommend checking out the community tab on the DCHM Facebook page, as many people are looking to transfer their registrations.

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