SMART Goals: Settle for Good, Get Great or Chase Perfection?

smart goals

I think modern consumerism has gone and shot itself in the foot this time. All our resolutions (or regular ol’ goals) are still fresh and fulfilled, we’re not even a week into January yet, but my local grocery store already has hearty (heart-‘y’! I seize the opportunity to make bad puns when I can ūüôā ) displays of chocolates, Valentines, and balloon hearts to smack us all in the face when we enter the store! Not that I am anti-love, but I guess the candy companies and Hallmark didn’t realize that the diet/weight-loss industry and gym chains are trying to capitalize on the idea of the “fresh start”. I don’t think candy and chocolates go together with the typical resolution to “lose weight”. Careful now junk food industry, don’t make the weight-loss industry mad!

Okay…this was not intended to be a rant, just thought I’d poke some fun before we got into the serious stuff! Resolutions, goals, or just Tuesday’s ‘to-do’ list, how SMART are you about accomplishing them? (Don’t get offended, I know you are all plenty smart…but it’s a clever acronym that you may have heard before, and that I really like!) I learned S.M.A.R.T. in high school once, and it has actually stuck with me, unlike some other useless word play designed to get me to critically think, etc.

smarter goalsI challenge you to use SMART to tackle a goal, small or big and be amazed! I actually prefer this (left) acronym even more as it includes “ethical” and “reasonable”! Never settle for just SMART when you could be SMARTER (or good when you can be great, but I am getting to that.)

My goals for 2015 are this:

  1. Bed by 9-10pm (10 at the latest): 8-9 solid hours of sleep each night.
  2. Keep my diet clean, comprised of whole foods. Low fat, all natural. Eat enough to fuel my running. *No hard alcohol, 1-2 drinks max. (Reinforced from New Years Eve)
  3. Run a 2:43 marathon!¬†Subgoals: keep running 90 mile weeks, stay injury free, and make one of my runs my “long run”.

Basically, I want to keep doing what I have been doing,¬†but better.¬†Eat clean, recover well, and run more! Each of these goals are¬†specific¬†because I know exactly what I want, for example “bed by 10pm”. There’s nothing vague about that. “Get fit” or “eat healthier” are good examples of what¬†not¬†to do. My second goal concerning diet could be interpreted as vague, but I know what I mean by all natural, and it’s based on how I have documented my eating previously on my blog.

My goals are¬†measurable,¬†I can measure amounts of drinks, I can measure miles, I can “measure” a whole food vs. a packaged food. Are they¬†achievable? Depends. I can control my sleep, my diet, and how many miles I run a week….but I can’t control all the factors concerning the marathon. I can only do my best to set myself up to succeed. I do think it’s¬†realistic¬†based on my training and previous performance.Measuring_the_Infinite

My goals are also¬†realistic¬†in the context of my lifestyle. I have the resources and time to eat well, run, and get to sleep on time. I know there are many people who find it a lot harder, but those people need to weigh their priorities and their¬†“perceived” resources against what they can actually do. Don’t use lack of time as an excuse, the same goes for having a family (they need you to take care of YOU too!), or not having enough money to be healthy. If it is important to you, you will find a way. By realistic, I mean don’t attempt a marathon if you’ve never ran before. Try a half, or resolve to run 5 days a week no matter what. No climber attempts Everest as their first summit!

perfect-enemy-goodMy goals are¬†timely¬†or time-bound, exempting the diet goal. Diet is tricky, because unless you are on a “get-slim-quick-2-week-cleanse” (don’t do it!) diet should not have an endpoint. Diet is the foundation of the other goals you set for yourself. It comes naturally in the process of achieving the other goals that are time-bound. My marathon is a time-bound goal because I committed myself to running the LA Marathon in mid-March. So I have 2.5 months remaining to keep logging 90mi weeks and get my longest run up to where it needs to be. As the date draws closer, you had better believe my sleep and diet will be as fine-tuned and on-point as I can get it so that I¬†can¬†run a 2:43 marathon.

My goals are¬†ethical¬†my diet is vegan, and running a lot doesn’t hurt anyone ūüôā I urge you, if you are considering a dietary change this year, go vegan! It’s the best thing you can do to set yourself up for success! You also withdraw your vote of approval from inhumane factory farming practices and animal cruelty. Instead, you free up valuable resources like water and land for starving children who go without because the animals are using it instead. (Don’t worry, the animals won’t starve….instead the intense and unnatural breeding processes will diminish as consumer demand does! Farmers won’t lose their jobs either, they’ll just farm plant foods instead!)

I’ll be doing a ¬†post on Veganuary soon, but if you want to get started now I urge you to check out their supportive website and make a pledge to go Vegan this January!

Anyway, back to ethics! *I’m skipping reasonable¬†I think it’s a tad redundant after discussing realistic and achievable.¬†Don’t hurt anyone or anything, including yourself ‚̧ ! This segues into my next point about good vs. great and great vs. perfect.

32fdbd0eac41e2e876006ffb317d355cI think most people by now are pretty aware that “perfect” is an illusion. No one is perfect. For example, it might appear that I always have a healthy diet and I always run well…but of course I don’t! New Year’s Eve is a great example, I drank way too much and consequently ran like crud the next morning. I still ran the miles I was supposed to, but let me tell you…it was not pretty! But the reason we fail or make mistakes is for us to learn what¬†not¬†to do! I needed a firm reminder as to why I don’t really drink or party, and I got it. As long as you learn and don’t make the mistake again, then don’t beat yourself up over it. An important note, “mistakes” should only be made once…after that, they are not mistakes, it’s just you deciding against what you know is right.

There is no perfect. But there is always better. If you are good, there is always great. Don’t settle for good because it is comfortable. Being good is a comfort zone, it’s where you can hold your head up high but not feel challenged at all. You’ll never grow either. Strive to get better always, that’s where the growth happens. That’s where character is built, self-awareness is gained and boundaries are tested.

I urge you to always keep growing and striving to master your craft, hobby, and passion. Even if you think resolutions are ridiculous, you can always make goals. No one is ever done learning, there’s always room for improvement.

How can you be a better friend, family member, community contributer, runner, skier, writer, painter today more than yesterday? Write it down, tell your friends, or register for the event.

Go get it!

Get Out the Door: 5 Tips to Run No Matter What

forrest gump running gif

Some days it’s just hard to get out the door. There are times when you¬†know¬†you should go for a run, you actually¬†planned¬†to go for a run, but somehow when it came time to actually follow through… you choked. You psyched yourself out, put it off till tomorrow, came up with an excuse. It doesn’t matter what happened, but the end result is the same: you didn’t go for a run, and now you feel guilty about it.

So how can you become a consistent road-warrior & running-addict? Here are my 5 useful tips to get your butt moving!

  1. ¬†Be mindful:¬†Don’t think too far ahead! Keep your thoughts on what you need to do in¬†this¬†moment to get yourself running. I always try to run in the morning and there are many days when my alarm goes off and I don’t want to go run. If I start thinking about why I don’t need to run my mind will find an excuse. So I try to shut off my brain. On auto-pilot, I roll out of bed, pull on my clothes and just go. Only once I’m safely out on the road do I let my thoughts wander. Don’t give your thoughts free-reign to trap you into inaction. Trust me, your mind can conjure up a million reasons to not run if you let it. So don’t let it! Remain in the moment, put on your running clothes, lace up your shoes, and take the first step. Concentrate on what you need to do right now, which is run!
  2. Get inspired:¬†Who is your favorite contemporary runner? Find someone who inspires you and do some reading about how they train. For me, it’s Meb Keflezighi, Deena Kastor, and Shalane Flanaghan. I read articles about their training regimens, dietary and sleeping habits. They never fail to inspire me with their incredible work ethics, discipline, and attention to detail. If I find myself wanting to skip a run, I remind myself that somewhere out there Meb, Deena, or Shalane are training and are each 100% focused on their goals. They don’t slack off or make excuses, and if I ever want to be great like them, I can’t slack off either! So find your woody allen quotepersonal hero and in times of weakness, remind yourself of what it takes to be like him or her.
  3. Practice acceptance:¬†Is it raining? Dark? Cold? Accept it for what it is! Don’t waste valuable mental energy stressing over the elements you can’t control. Instead, see the conditions for what they are and continue to focus on going for a run. If it’s raining, pull on a jacket and go run. Dark? Wear flashing lights and reflective gear. Cold? That’s what thermal gear and gloves are for! Focus on what you¬†can¬†control and accept the rest of it. When you are mindful and have one though in your head, ‘go run’, nothing will get in your way!
  4. Schedule it:¬†The first step toward establishing a healthy habit is to turn an action into a routine. The best way to do that is to schedule in a specific time to run. It’s an appt. with yourself! Allow at least an hour to warm-up, run, and stretch afterwards. Be realistic with how much time you need so that you don’t end up getting stressed out over time or skipping your run due to other conflicts. Find out what time works best for you to run, and then be consistent about running at that time. Do it long enough, and it will become a daily habit! I run every morning and I’ve been doing it for so long that I¬†need¬†to run or I am definitely not the same person the rest of the day!
  5. Find accountability:¬†It’s easy to let a workout slide if there’s no record of it. For the same reason that writing down goals is effective, having accountability makes the intangible tangible. It turns the intangible thought, ‘I should go for a run’ into ‘I need to run, otherwise _____ will happen’ with accountability comes tangible consequences. Accountability can mean diligently keeping a running log and building up a streak of days running. Seeing the miles accumulate will increase your motivation to run. You can have a regular running buddy, or find a supportive running group that will miss you if you don’t show up. You can hire a coach (I workout harder when there are more people counting on me!), join a team, or sign up for a race! You can even run for a cause (for example, Team In Training for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society which raises money for a cure). Or run to represent, I want to be an exemplar of running while vegan so I always do my best! ¬†If there’s more riding on the line, you’ll be less tempted to skip a run!

lets go

 

Why do you run?

 

dr garth davis

Photo and text source: Dr. Garth Davis on Facebook

You can be a complete “success” in life by contemporary societal expectations: have a great job, wonderful family, own a house, on and on. But if you aren’t consistently challenging yourself physically and mentally you won’t feel fulfilled. Everything you do either helps you grow and move forward, or bumps you backwards. Everything in life has energy and is constantly in motion, nothing is inert.

So are you challenging yourself and growing? Or stagnating?

long distance running quote
Dr. Garth Davis is a proponent of plant based (vegan) nutrition. He is certified by the American Board of Surgery and is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and a Fellow of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. Dr. Davis is a recognized expert in initial bariatric procedures. (The Davis Clinic)

‘Comfortable’ is a Coffin

Illustration by Kelsey Dake NY Times Magazine web, ‚ÄúWill Portland Always Be a Retirement Community for the Young?‚ÄĚ, Sept. 16, 2014.

Illustration by Kelsey Dake
NY Times Magazine web, ‚ÄúWill Portland Always Be a Retirement Community for the Young?‚ÄĚ, Sept. 16, 2014.

I can thank one of my friends for the title of this post. It’s been stuck in my head since she quipped it at me during one of our runs together.

I am taking a 3 month hiatus from employment: I resigned from my job today. I’ll work through the end of the month and then after that…who knows? I’m pretty terrified. I don’t understand what is wrong with me, but in the past three weeks since I have returned to my after school care teaching job my mood has taken a dramatic nosedive.

I should be happy, I should be grateful. ¬†I did this last year, and I was fine. It’s a great job: fun, low stress, work with kids. What on earth do I have to complain about? Yet I have consistently been filled with dread at the thought of going to work each day. While I am there I feel deadened and useless. I feel like I can’t do a good job for the kids like I did last year. And when I come home, I am always upset with myself. I feel guilty, ashamed of myself and my feelings of weakness, angry with myself and my attitude and just sad.

For the past week, I’ve been mulling over the thought of taking a break. I feel burned out. I worked full-time all summer while simultaneously racking up hours at my internship. I loved doing both, but not having a break and transitioning straight into my school job has been a lot harder than I imagined. I was going to look for a new job anyway when I graduated in December, one that aligns with my ultimate career goals and puts my Bachelor’s degree to good use, so I guess now is as good a time as ever to begin the transition.

For the next three months I’ll concentrate on finishing my undergraduate education and enjoy my last days of being a student while I can. I’ll have a lot more time to devote to my running, I have some big plans for base building and strengthening after the Portland Marathon, and I look forward to having more time to really take care of myself. Lastly, I really want to grow this blog. I want to create a stronger online presence and really focus on putting out quality content centered on health, nutrition, veganism and running.

prison quote

This decision has felt pretty momentous to me. I am scared of how my parents will react to me quitting my job, I am worried that others in society will see me as a leech who isn’t contributing. I don’t know how I will react to having unstructured free time that I haven’t had in awhile, will I rise up and pursue my goals? Or will I crumble into a mess of drifting days and wallowing thoughts? I am facing a lot of unknown right now and I don’t know how hard it will be to try to get a job again in the future. I’m losing the security blanket that my part time job provided me. It gave me structure and a way to participate in society that was acknowledged by others, but lately it has stopped being something that I felt was mutually beneficial.

I’ve got to trust myself and have faith that I will make it work out. I don’t want to let fear be what keeps me from living a life that I enjoy.

 

Monday Motivation: If it’s not over, you haven’t “failed”

failure success quoteI was supposed to have a good, hard 20 mile tempo run yesterday. Instead, I found myself barely able to slog along for 12 miles before calling it quits and getting pretty upset with myself. I had prepared all week for this workout, I wanted to simulate exactly what I would do for the Portland Marathon and I expected to have a great workout, because all my workouts have been strong lately.

Unfortunately, I got the opposite. My body reminded me that I get tired and things don’t go as planned. ¬†Just because my head says do one thing doesn’t mean that my body will automatically respond. It was a reminder I wasn’t ready to accept. About 6 miles into my run when I realized that I didn’t have it in me to go 20 miles, I made the decision to turn around and head back. I spent the next 6 miles mentally beating myself up, adding insult to injury and ensuring that I finished feeling like a failure.

This was all hard to do, especially because my coach was riding along behind me.

We are all so hard on ourselves. Since we all live in realities viewed from our own perception, it is easy to lose perspective. I had built this workout into a big deal, thinking of it as a “tester” for Portland and putting more stress¬†on myself to run well than was necessary. As my coach kindly reminded me after the run, today was a workout¬†not¬†a race, there should be no pressure. It took half a day for me to really understand that today’s run wasn’t “bad”, I didn’t fail. I am certainly not “weak” as I had thought when I decided not to run the whole 20 miles that morning. I just didn’t have such a good workout and now it is my job to analyze why.

In order to learn, I need to know what happened.

There are a lot of little things I could think of¬†as the reason why, and I’ll be hashing them out. But the point here is that I made a hard run harder than it needed to be. I put too much stress on myself to run perfectly today, when instead I need to be focused on running perfectly on race day. And when my training run didn’t go as planned, I decided to spend half of it mentally berating myself for being weak.

I didn’t need to punish myself. And neither does anyone else ever need to. We can all be our own worst enemies, but life is already naturally challenging. Failure is a part of the journey, it teaches you what not to do. But if you waste valuable time punishing yourself every time yourself every time you hit a snag, it’ll only make your journey that much longer.

There are obstacles in life that you can’t control. The good news is, you can control how you react to different circumstances. I had a rough workout, but that’s okay. They can’t all be great, because then there wouldn’t be any growth on my part. I need “failure” to learn and push forward. And it’s not really failure because I haven’t given up.

I hope my weekend-warrior story motivates you today!

Happy Monday ūüôā

Taking Risks & Putting Myself Out There

take risks

At mile 21 of the Newport Marathon, I hit the wall so hard. The last 6 miles were agony. As a result, I learned a lot and will be better prepared for the Portland Marathon.

It just occurred to me that I am doing something scary.

I’m not really a risk taker by nature, but by putting myself out here on my blog and publicly declaring my goal…I am risking failure. As a normal human being, I don’t like the feeling of defeat or disappointment. As a runner, it’s another great reason to tackle endurance events. As the race gets longer, “success” usually means being able to finish on your own two legs. Unfortunately, picking a specific time goal brings the pressure up a couple of notches.

My ultimate goal is to make the women’s marathon Olympic qualifying time of 2:43 or better before the trials in Feb. 2016. That’s a pretty specific goal, I will either make it or I won’t. Fortunately, I have a lot of time so I don’t feel that pressured, yet…

As part of my journey to achieving that goal, I will be running the Portland Marathon in 26 days. Gulp. My nerves, excitement and anticipation of the race are building. I have a specific goal for this race, as well as several back-up goals just in case.*

My Goals for the Portland Marathon:

  1. Run a 6:20-6:25 pace per mile. This equals a marathon time of 2:46:03- 2:48:14. Run negative or even splits.
  2. Run a 6:30 pace per mile or a marathon time of 2:50:25. Run negative or even splits.
  3. Finish with a faster time than my Newport Marathon 2:58:35. Run negative or even splits.
  4. Finish.

 

Goal #1 is my main goal. This is what I would love to do if I show up on the start line feeling healthy, strong and refreshed. My remaining workouts will need to be strong. My taper will need to go well, and my hydration and nutrition will need to be on-point. In addition, my mental state must be calm and focused. The weather needs to cooperate and the race start must not be too crowded!

If things don’t feel perfect, or don’t start off on the right foot, then Goal #2 is my next focus. A little slower, it allows me to relax a little more. Finally, Goal #3 is to just finish faster than I did my last marathon. If I meet this goal, I will still set a new PR and walk away from the race happy. As a complete last resort, I just need to finish. I believe that every marathoner, no matter how accomplished has this goal in the back of his or her mind.

I don’t¬†remember the last time I had such black and white goals as these. On Portland Marathon morning, I will either succeed or fail…and then I will tell you about it. That’s a scary thought. But I believe that my journey to the Olympic trials will ultimately be a success story. I can’t foresee the future, and I know there will be bumps along the way (the Portland marathon might be a bump, who knows?) but I trust in my training and the hard work I have been putting in. As long as I keep focused and making the right choices, I will get the results I desire.

make the right choice

*As a rule, you should always have fall-back plans because nothing will sabotage your whole race like knowing you are already behind in the first several miles. By having back-up goals you will still strive to run a good race, instead of feeling like everything was ruined from the start and running demoralized the rest of the way!

Monday Motivation: It’s your decision!

its your decision

Like happiness, motivation needs to come from inside.

The most successful people are intrinsically motivated. Successful people posses an inner drive, they push themselves to set big goals and take the steps (or risks) necessary to accomplish those goals.

I am currently reading¬†The Perfect Mile¬†by Neal Bascomb, a story that focuses on three men’s goal to break the 4-minute mile barrier in the early 1950’s. Each of these men: Wes Santee, John Landy, and Roger Bannister were incredibly self-motivated. They each trained for hours by themselves in less-than-ideal conditions. No one made them do it, in fact most people had accepted that a sub-4 minute mile couldn’t be done. So the men each pushed themselves to achieve an “impossible” goal.

John Landy and Roger Bannister were self-coaching during this time:¬†“Bannister trained alone and without coaching, convinced that he alone could get the best out of himself.” (Chapter 7). They both had to make room in their busy schedules to train, for example, Landy only found time to train at 11p.m. or midnight! During the day he attended college courses, and could only train after he finished with his homework. He crept out of his house into the dark, without anyone’s knowledge. It would have been easy for him to make excuses for skipping a workout, but he never missed one.

“Regardless of weather, sore tendons, blistered feet or fatigues muscles, Landy trained like this religiously. It was the stringing together of session after session, without compromise of effort, that most tested his discipline.¬†

“He was the sole master of of how well he ran the mile. And the harder he trained, the more control he had over his body to dictate this performance.” (Chapter 6)

Landy was quoted as saying,¬†“I just go out there and work. I’ve got to punish myself to get anywhere.” ¬†

The bottom line is: you need to be able to rely on yourself to accomplish your dreams. External motivation alone will not produce consistent results. However, if the will to succeed is coming from within then external cues can be immensely helpful. An example of this: You are scheduled to run a 10 miler in the morning. You make plans with a friend to run the workout together, but at the last minute your friend can’t make it. What would you do? That is where being internally vs. externally motivated makes the difference. Without a buddy (coach, personal trainer, teacher, etc.) there an externally motivated person might not do the workout, after all no one would know. An internally motivated person however, wouldn’t mind because he or she was going to complete the workout no matter what.

Internal motivation results in consistency and discipline, which over time leads to success!

I firmly believe that personal internal motivation can be created. I practice this in my everyday life, I have a “Motivation Board” which has morphed into a motivation wall! I write down inspirational quotes or tough-mantras. I hang my bib numbers and awards I am most proud of. I see it everyday and it ¬†continually reinforces my focus.

I have also created an environment that is conducive to my goals. I have healthy friends and key people in my life who help me with my running. No one will drag me down with toxicity or negative habits! I keep healthy food in my fridge, I pack my meals ahead of time, I read books about running and health, I watch exciting and inspirational video clips about running. I follow my heroes in running and diet on social media. I try to take in as many positive and motivational cues from my environment as I can.

monday motivation its your choice

Remember: What you focus on grows! No one can feel motivated and happy 100% of the time, I certainly don’t. But realize that you have the power to change your feelings. No thing, person, or place can make you feel a certain way. You can always choose to feel differently. Know that you have that power inside you. You are strong and brave and in control, now simply unlock what’s already there.