Many times, we are told that no matter what we are doing, we should be “in it to win it”. We must always give it 110% or not do it at all.
After all, if you don’t win, then you really don’t matter. If you didn’t win, then that means you didn’t try hard enough. If you are not planning and striving to win, then you really shouldn’t do whatever it is that you’re doing.
No, you’re not allowed to have fun. You must be serious all the time if you want to get anywhere and achieve anything.
Truthfully, the aforementioned thought process removes joy from your life and it does not get you any closer to winning. What it does is it puts unnecessary stress and pressure on you – the kind that you don’t need.
It’s the kind of stress and pressure that cripples you and prevents you from actually performing your best.
Many studies show that if you genuinely enjoy what you are doing and are actively seeking to improve, then you will continue your upward trajectory.
When you are having fun and enjoying the process, you will without a doubt, continue to improve.
When it comes to running, if all you’re doing is obsessing over PR’s and your pace, you will miss out on the opportunity to enjoy the mental benefits of the activity.
You will also miss out on the joy that a PR brings you because you will be too stressed out about being a bit too slow, despite the fact that it’s your PR.
Yes, time trials, tempo runs and speed work are beneficial for improving your performance in future races.
However, constantly worrying about how your tempo run wasn’t fast enough and how your time trial didn’t go the way you wanted it to will ultimately not help your performance. Instead, you will psych yourself out and most likely do even worse. This, in turn, will lead you to further dissatisfaction.
There was a time when I was so focused on numbers and personal bests that I stopped having fun running. Every time trial became a race against myself where I wasn’t satisfied unless I improved by at least 20 seconds.
What I came to realize is that if I continued doing it that way, then I would not be writing this post (probably because I would have quit running altogether a long time ago).
The bottom line is: we must enjoy the process. When we celebrate minor improvements, we experience the true joy that running brings.
As soon as I started having fun running, my times improved and I actually started to look forward to every run rather than dread it.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with giving it 90% while at the same time maintaining your sanity and life balance. Even if 70% is all you can put into it, but you still love it, then don’t beat yourself up because your times aren’t fast enough. If you’re not a professional runner, then don’t worry so much about your race times and go out there to just enjoy the run.
The truth is, you’re getting out there. You’re having a good time. You’re taking part in an activity that’s healthy for you. Improvement will come in due time.
Yana Hempler is a nationally published fitness writer and running coach who has helped dozens of people achieve personal bests in 5k, 10k, half marathon and marathon races. She specializes in small group training, corporate wellness, run clinics and online running programs. For every online run program sold, she will donate a portion of the proceeds to charity. Email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.