Thursday, June 6, 2013

You don't get better at running hills by walking them

I read this saying the other day on one of the fitness blogs that I keep up with, and the goal-oriented person that I am, I keep repeating it to myself as I run the hills of my neighborhood a few times a week.

On a literal level, it's true: If you want to run up a hill, you have to practice running it. Even though it's so tempting to walk, if your goal is to run you need to start moving your feet faster.

As I've been getting back into running, I remind myself that the momentary burn in my legs, my shaky muscles, beating heart, and gasping breath is just that - momentary. I remind myself of when I studied abroad in Siena, Italy and practiced every week running up a huge cobblestone hill on the way back to the apartment. And by the end of the summer, I conquered the hill. I might have garnered strange looks from the locals, unsure why a blonde American was trying to make it up the hill, but I returned home still fit even in the land of pasta and gelato. And besides that, I'd accomplished my goal. (Did I mention that I'm goal-oriented?!)

But aside from running, this mantra applies to life too.

Hurdles are temporary. And the momentary effort you'll need to get over them is just that- momentary.

In life, you don't get over setbacks by walking. You need to go full force, take a risk, and not let them slow you down.

This determination, or grit, is the number one factor to success.

I recently watched a TED Talk by Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth that outlines her study on grit. In her terms, after studying West Point students, National Spelling Bee qualifiers, and rookie teachers in the inner city, "one characteristic emerged as the predictor of success: grit." She defines grit as a "passion and perseverance for long-term goals," aka stamina.

A article describing these studies on grit states:

"Not surprisingly, those with grit are more single-minded about their goals – they tend to get obsessed with certain activities – and also more likely to persist in the face of struggle and failure. Woody Allen famously declared that “Eighty percent of success is showing up." Grit is what allows you to show up again and again." 

So both a long-term and short-term view are needed to run up the hills in life. First, you must know why it's worth it to climb the hill. Secondly, you need to remind yourself that there will be moments that are difficult but they won't last forever. And it's getting over these hills that will give you the strength to ultimately reach the top.

Don't give up on your dreams. But put forward the necessary effort and give it your best.

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