As you know, I’ve had my share of ups and downs when it comes to grad school. When I began, I was not sure what I wanted to do, I just figured that I should get started toward a degree if that was an option (which it clearly was). Over time, I kept going and kept working — sometimes painstakingly, but always working toward my goal.
Running (and all forms of exercise, really) has helped me get this far in so many ways.
1. One Mile at a Time. I tell myself to just do one mile. I never commit to more than this at once, even if I have an overarching goal in the back of my mind (4 miles, 6 miles, etc.). I tell myself at each mile marker that if I feel too tired, if I hurt, if I have side stitches — I can stop. I can walk for 2 minutes if I need to. I never have to keep going. This means that if I’m running, it’s because I choose to run. If my legs are moving, it’s because I’m making them move. No one is compelling me, I am motivating myself.
I do the exact same thing with grad school. There’s no need to push myself further than I can go. I take it one day at a time, one hour at a time, one month at a time. I look ahead to milestones (like “this semester” or “this publication”) and I commit to staying the course for only that amount of time. This means that I always know I’m there, working my tail off because I chose to be.
2. I Find a Mantra. Brainwashing ourselves can be a huge benefit. When I want to think about how my shins hurt, or how I just want to quit, I start repeating something to myself like “Right, left, right, left.” Or “I can do hard things.” Or “dig deep,” synchronizing the mantra with my stride.
I do the same thing at work sometimes; I count off tubes as I pipet into them, “1, 2, 3, 4..” and I match a rhythm in my head.
3. Run Your Own Race. This is huge to me. If I try to match what the girl on the treadmill next to me is doing, I inevitably end up putting myself down. To compare is to despair. Comparison is always a trap and when I compare myself to others, I always lose.
Instead, focus on being kind to yourself. Cheerlead for yourself. You got out of bed this morning! You are a champion! Think back to a time when you couldn’t run a mile, and think about where you are now, you speedy little devil.
And for my degree program: it doesn’t matter how long it takes anyone else to do a project, or how many publications some other joker has. What does matter is whether I am putting my best effort forward.
The rewards of fitness are so much farther reaching than just physical health. Exercise is all about our minds, our hearts, our beliefs, our self-perception, our self-image. The healthiest version of me is the version where I am treating myself well, believing in myself and trusting myself.
Exercise empowers me to do so much more than I ever dreamed possible.
What does running help you do?