It is hard to stay motivated towards fitness goals when things feel hard. Who hasn’t gone out for a run at some point and struggled to make it to a half hour, only to return home utterly discouraged and wishing you could just give up running altogether? Who hasn’t been so sore from a workout that you wondered if it was even worthwhile, if it would ever start to feel good to exercise?
For me, the last couple of years have been a constant battle to keep putting in the work on my strength even though I rarely felt like I was getting stronger, to keep hitting the trails to build up hiking endurance even though every hike reminded me just how little endurance I had. I’ll be honest, particularly when it came to hiking, the delta between where I used to be and where I am now was at times so vast I almost lost my hiking mojo completely.
But there is this magical thing that happens over time when you stick to whatever your activity of choice happens to be: things start to feel easier. You have a moment where you suddenly think to yourself ‘hey, this isn’t as painful/tiring/hard/challenging as it used to be!’ It can happen in a moment and serve as a spark to keep you pushing forward.
I was lucky enough to have two of these moments in the last week. The first occurred while running stairs. It sucked. My lungs were burning. My legs felt like dead weight. But as I stood there trying to regain my breath at the top of the stairs, I realized something big: I had run to the top of that set of stairs several more times than on my last outing. Even though it still felt really hard, I was making progress. I was doing more and feeling no worse as a result.
The second moment occurred on our weekend hike when I realized that all those easy trails that we’d been hiking, the ones I thought were doing nothing for my hiking fitness, were actually making a difference. My legs weren’t tired. This longer and slightly more challenging trail felt comfortable. Did I feel ready to tackle a 30km day hike like I used to? No. But I could tell I was making progress.
These moments when things feel easier, when you can tell you are making progress, are the ones that can keep you going when things feel hard, when you feel discouraged, or when you inevitably have another bad workout day. Bottle that feeling to pull out when you need it most and you just might find yourself a bit more inspired to go harder, push your boundaries, and to just keep going.