Small Change, Big Return

The sacrificing has begun.

The other evening in Michigan, when I was home visiting my family, there was one of the biggest parties of the year. “Boat Night” rivals News Year Eve and occurs on the night before the Port Huron to Mackinac sailboat race. I took an early flight Friday to Michigan the day of the party (incidentally) after only getting three hours of sleep. I enjoyed time with family at my sister’s and then headed to my folks’ house.  My mom was excited to go downtown and check out the boats along with the fun festivities.

However, I said, “no.” I said, “no,” not because I have a thing against parties or drinking; I don’t. I told my mom, “no,” because I had double 12-mile runs on the schedule for Saturday and Sunday mornings, and I was already operating on a sleep deficit due to my midnight packing extravaganza the night before. So, I rested my body instead.

Endurance training taught me that the little changes can have big effects. I think change occurs radially: I’m heading back to algebra for this analogy. If you view yourself as the dot at the center of a graph of the X and Y axis, any change you make from your current baseline will set a new trajectory angled up from the center and the baseline. The farther out one gets from the center (i.e., the bigger the target), the greater the increase in distance from the baseline.

I think it’s the same with goals. For example, how much sleep I get is quickly becoming one of my top priorities, as it was during Ironman training. I can’t ask my body to push every physical and mental limit if I don’t give it what it needs. Conversely, small changes tend to have less visible effects in more attainable goals. If I focus on getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night, my 5K race performance would not dramatically improve. However, the benefit in training for a 50-mile race would be substantial.

I’ve enjoyed the pizza/ ice cream/ Oreo diet that my ultramarathon training allows. But, I need to start being conscious of how I’m fueling my body. In addition to the double 12-milers, I’ve already done an 18-miler followed by a 16-miler one day later. The workouts are only going to get longer and tougher. I need to fill my tank with the nutritional balance that will enable me to persevere.

When facing a goal, I encourage people to start small, taking tiny steps and focusing on consistency. Over time, one reaches a place of advancement that requires additional dedication. Focus narrows. Steps become more purposeful. Unnecessary things get trimmed. The bigger the goal that one has, the more impact each small change will make long term.

It can be discouraging because one doesn’t always see the benefit of change right away. Additionally, those small alterations may require the sacrifice of something else (like Boat Night). Believe that every little bit counts and can benefit you.

So, I’m going to focus on getting enough sleep. I also bought a new cookbook and am planning to start revamping my diet. My coach says that I have to pay attention to what I eat right before I run and right after.

However, I can still have ice cream or Oreos later in the day.




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