Persistence Pays Off

If I had a nickel for every time I quit something…well, let’s just say I wouldn’t be writing this blog post from my tiny apartment, surrounded by furniture purchased from the likes of Walmart and Big Lots.

My weight has fluctuated up and down (and up and down again) since I was in elementary school. I’d start a weight loss program (read: starve myself), lose 10 pounds, then quit. I’d start a new diet a year later, drop a dress size, and quit. After ballooning to 220 pounds in middle school, I managed to lose 60 pounds in time for my my senior prom…but then, that’s right, I quit again, and returned to Weight Watchers (my weight loss program of choice) for the final time as a 267-pound 22-year-old.

When I first started running — strictly as a way to torch as many calories in as little amount of time, mind you — there were weeks when I was committed and consistent, squeezing in at least 3-4 runs each week and basking in my ability to run longer and harder without having to take as many walk breaks.

I didn’t start registering for races until a year ago, and suddenly, my finish time in local 5Ks started affecting my attitude about running in the same way the scale had always managed to sabotage my diet plan of the month.

If I had a bad week on Weight Watchers and, heaven forbid, gained a pound or two, I’d get discouraged and start letting my efforts slide. I’d go into hiding for several weeks, vowing to return to my meeting only when I was satisfied that the scale would not show a gain again. I probably don’t need to tell you how many times I simply never returned.

When I struggled through a 5K — even if it was because I hadn’t been training properly, or the weather was humid, or I wasn’t eating right  — I’d take what I believed was a less-than-satisfactory finish time and use it as an excuse to quit running for a month or two…because, after all, one bad race surely meant I was just too fat to run. Why bother?

I guess with age comes wisdom (or something like that), because the secret of what it takes to lose weight, or to become a better runner, finally clicked: persistence.

When I began my most recent weight loss journey in November 2007, I made a promise to myself that no matter what, I was not going to give up. Nearly five years later, I’m still not at “goal,” and I’ve certainly had my share of not-so-successful weeks (and months), but I never once allowed myself to completely throw in the towel and return to my old ways. I’ve lost 90 pounds, and am maintaining my weight loss for the first time in my life…and all because I just keep going.

After my unsatisfying performance in this July’s Firecracker 4-miler, I realized that I had a decision to make. Was I going to continue running recreationally as a cardio workout, or was I going to take the sport seriously and commit myself to trying to improve? I realized that my 2-3 mile walk/runs every few days were probably not doing anything for me (duh), and that if I was going to keep dropping 20 or 30 bucks on races every couple of months, I should probably give a real training plan a shot.

You know…actually try to succeed at something before convincing myself that I’m going to fail.

And that’s the real reason why I signed up for the Disney Princess Half Marathon…I needed to plop down a few thousand dollars (yes, that’s right…I just booked a six-night getaway at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort — French Quarter for $1,500, on top of race fees, airfare, park tickets, etc.) to force myself to choose a running-related goal — complete a half marathon without being hauled away in a body bag — and then actually stick to it.

And the crazy just keeps on coming. I’ve already signed up for my first 10K this fall, Brian’s Run in Wayne, NJ — the day before I leave for a 9-day vacation to Disney World in September. I have my sights set on a few other 10Ks in October and November.

But it’s working.

The Cranford Jaycees’ Firecracker 4-Miler and the Central Jersey Road Runner Club’s Not Quite Fall Classic 4-Miler, which I just ran this past weekend, both follow the exact same course.

On July 4, I came in at 40:37, for an average pace of 10:09. I constantly kept having to stop to “tie my shoes” just to catch my breath, and the 4 miles felt more like 14 miles.

After a month and a half of following my own unique blend of a 10K and half marathon training plan that I found on Cool Running, I ran that same course on August 26 in the Not Quite Fall Classic 4-Miler in 35:46, for an average pace of 8:56.

Not only have I been training consistently, but I went into the race with a very specific plan: I wanted to finish the first mile at an 8:30 pace, the second at 9, the third at 9:30, and the last mile at 10. Much to my utter and complete shock, I finished the first mile in 8:30 and then maintained a steady pace hovering right around 9 minutes for the duration of the race. Best of all, I legitimately took 3rd place for my age group (but was awarded the 2nd place medal because there are no double awards).

People have asked me how I stay “motivated” to lose weight, or continually put my body through the rigors of running. I can promise you this: whether you’re trying to shed a few pounds, or you’re a fledgling runner training for a race (or both, like me), “motivation” often has very little to do with it.

You don’t necessarily have to be motivated to achieve a goal — but you do have to be persistent.

I’m rarely “motivated” to choose a veggie burger and side salad over a juicy cheeseburger and fries, or to log a 5-mile run when my legs are sore or I’m tired from working all day or I just plain don’t feel like it. To me, it’s kind of like asking someone how they stay “motivated” to brush their teeth every morning. It’s just something you do.

I can definitely feel motivated by the way my jeans fit or setting a new PR, but on those days when I lose a battle with a bag of kettle corn or struggle through a slow 2-mile run, it’s persistence alone that keeps me moving forward.

How has persistence helped you achieve your goals?

 

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2 thoughts on “Persistence Pays Off

  1. I identify with this story. I remember being in the sixth grade and weighing in at 212 pounds, to the horror of my closest friend. I’ve let that be a defining moment in my life. No more though! Persistence is much more important that motivation. Motivation is fickle and fleeting. Persistence is what keeps you in for the long haul. I hope this will be my last trip on the up and down roller coaster.

    I’m finding it’s a lot easier to focus on things I can DO, rather than focusing on losing weight. I can train for a race. I’ve been through the 5K program on my running app, and I’m now on to the 10K program. I’m all set to run my first half marathon next February, the day after my birthday!

    For me, the best thing about Weight Watchers is that it turns eating into… almost a game. There are points! And I can earn more points, the more I do! It’s really working for me. Playing the game is something I can DO. Now I just have to keep doing it! Great post 🙂

    • Hi, Jen! Thanks for reading.

      You’re so right — that’s exactly how I feel about running! Training for a race gives you a concrete goal, with a step-by-step plan to get you to the finish line (literally)! My first half marathon (the Disney one) is in February of next year, too! Such a fantastic way to celebrate your birthday. Keep me posted on your progress! 😀

      Haha, you’re right…who doesn’t love playing games? I never thought of it like that! I hate math, but love counting WWers POINTS…who knew?

      Keep it up — you’re doing awesome! 🙂

      Jen

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