Six weeks ago, tired of feeling listless and lazy, I made a commitment to myself to finally start an exercise regime, and I decided to start Couch to 5k. The program is designed to get people new to exercise up off the couch and running 5k in nine weeks.
You exercise for thirty minutes a day, every other day, for nine weeks. An easy enough commitment, you may think – but for someone who hadn’t stepped foot in a gym for years, it was fairly monumental.
The first week, I could barely run for a minute straight without collapsing into an exhausted, sweaty mess. I was shocked at how unfit I had actually let myself become. I almost quit there and then.
And it would have been so easy for me to quit. I quit things – all the time. I am afraid of failure, the queen of instant gratification. If I am not instantly good at something, or successful at something, or connecting with someone, I quit.
That’s it. It’s not a great trait, and it’s something I am working on. But in this world of social media and immediate results, it’s not that difficult to comprehend. Our attention spans are shorter; our focus on hard work and slow progress is skewed by a thousand Instagram photos of other people who seem to be so easily successful - now. And if they’re successful now, why am I not? If they’re already running 5k, or 10k, or a marathon, why can’t I?
But this time, I didn’t quit. I really don’t know why. A quiet shift in focus stirred inside me, and I quietly persevered with the program. One thirty-minute run, every other day, for six weeks, come rain or shine. It wasn’t fun, but I did notice – with some surprise – tiny moments of improvement. I was running that little bit longer each time; my breath wasn’t so ragged. I kept going.
And six weeks on, and several slow and painful sessions later, I can now run for fifteen minutes. Even more astoundingly, I am starting to enjoy it. Instead of dragging myself out the door after work, I’m looking forward to coming home to exercise.
I love the feeling of fresh air in my lungs, and the surprise that my legs are still moving after several minutes. I already feel fitter, stronger. I am genuinely shocked about how much progress I have made. And not only do I now believe that I can reach that 5k, I am even planning to go further once I reach that goal.
Sticking to this commitment, this tiny thirty-minute window of time, has changed my entire perspective from “why bother?” to “what’s next?”
Running has not been easy. It has literally been a step-by-step process. It has been one run at a time, making sure my trainers are ready by the door, making a commitment to exercise every other day.
The only way I am going to be able to reach my goal if I keep working towards it, if I keep that commitment to myself. No one else is going to get me out the door. No one else cares if I keep running. I have only myself to answer to. And that is both exciting and terrifying.
By finally choosing not to quit, and sticking to my goal, a whole new door of possibilities has been opened. Not only do I feel inspired to keep running, but I have opened my eyes to the idea of achieving all kinds of things.
If I can go from one minute to fifteen minutes in just a short amount of time, what else can I do? If you gave yourself thirty minutes a day – or every other day – what could you do?
Thirty minutes of writing a day could lead to a book. Thirty minutes of studying French could lead to becoming bilingual. Thirty minutes of job-searching a day could lead to your dream role.
And thirty minutes of running could lead to that eventual marathon.
So today, I implore you to sit down and think: what would you like to achieve next? What’s your goal?
Once you have that goal in mind, map out the path. It might not be an easy path. It might be long and arduous, weaving and changing a thousand times. It might take years. It might take sacrifice.
But you can reach it. Every achievement in life is reached by a series of small steps. And all it takes to reach your goal is to take one step at a time.
Commit a small time each day to your goals, and I can guarantee you that you will achieve more than you’d ever imagined you could.
By: Alex Pendleton
I am 29 and based in Oxford, England, where I work in higher education. I have previously lived and worked in Germany and Italy, and travel whenever I get the chance. An introvert at heart, I love reading, baking, and listening to others' stories. I share my own via my blog, Season Changes City Streets.