This section of the website draws heavily on episode 19, so if you haven’t already listened to it then I suggest you do.
Episode 19, which is about planning in order to achieve goals has resulted in a lot of positive feedback. Some of the listeners have asked questions about how they can break their own elephant into bite sized chunks and so I decided, what better way to show them how than by demonstrating it myself? So that’s what I’m going to do.
I think the easiest way for me to demonstrate this concept is by choosing a goal that’s physical because I think it’s much more quantifiable and easier to relate to. So I’ve decided that my goal is to run a marathon. I’ve never done one before and the farthest race I’ve ever competed in was a 10k. I’ve run longer than that just training, but this will be an additional 20 miles beyond my farthest race to date. And to up the ante my goal is not to finish, but to finish under 3:30, which puts my mile splits under 8 minutes. I really want to challenge myself.
The marathon is on May 5th, which gives me four months to train, and I already signed up and paid for it to eliminate any excuses or rationalizations that my mind might try and throw my way. This is huge. Remember, when it comes to accomplishing hefty goals most battles are won or lost inside your own mind first. The only out that I’m giving myself is sustaining a legitimate injury during training. Aside from that, there are no exit strategies for this goal.
So the marathon is my elephant. I need to finish eating my elephant on May 5th and in order to do so I’m going to need to deconstruct it. After doing some research I’ve got a good idea of how to do this. I’ve got 17 weeks until race day and I need to build up my endurance, speed, and mental strength.
I’ve decided to run 4 times per week and taper every 4th week. My four runs will be broken down into a long run, a medium run, a speed workout, and a recovery run. I’ll also maintain three strength workouts per week because I don’t want to lose my fitness in these areas. And for my mental game I’m going to use visualization. On all my runs my mind will be focused on me crossing that finish line on race day. Any doubt or insecurity that pops up will be snuffed out immediately and I’ll return to that visualization of me crossing that line. I’ll always return to me crossing that line. On race day I’ll have crossed that line so many times that it will feel familiar when I actually cross it.
When I first decided I would try to run a marathon there was doubt in my mind. All my runs up until this point have been 3 and 4 miles with an occasional 5 miler in there. There was all kinds of what-ifs popping up and I knew I needed to score a big mental win to kick this whole goal off. So the very day I decided to run a marathon I also decided I would run 8 miles after work, no matter what. I figured if I could run twice as far as my normal run on day one then I could easily be ready for a marathon after 17 weeks. And after I made that decision something flipped inside my mind. I left zero room for negotiations, rationalizations, or excuses. And as soon as my mind knew that we were running eight miles no matter what I started looking forward to the run. I couldn’t wait for work to end so that I could prove myself.
And that’s exactly what happened. I came out faster than my three mile pace and I held it. For two miles, three miles, four miles, and then all eight miles. I ran every mile faster than my three mile pace and I did it because I was in complete control of my mind. After eight miles I didn’t even want to stop, but I also didn’t want to force an injury so I cut it off at 8.18 miles. And as soon as I got back home I knew I could run a marathon.
I can’t reiterate this enough: your biggest obstacles in your life are almost always the obstacles your mind puts in front of you. Fear, insecurity, self-doubt. These feelings will stop most people before they ever face an external obstacle. You need to control your mindset and for me that means I need to score a mental win every so often. That’s what that eight miler was for me. Proof that I could do more than I thought. Proof that my mind can overcome both internal and external obstacles.
So now that my mindset is on point I’m hungry to eat my elephant. I’m craving it. I’m not worried about training days. I’m restless on rest days. My attitude is dialed and I’m focused. So each week I have four bites to eat. On top of that I need to maintain my current mental state and re-evaluate my nutrition plan to properly fuel my body. I already have my nutrition dialed as a matter of habit, so all I really need to do is increase my macros. No issues there.
Now each week I need to increase my mileage of my long run. I won’t dive too deeply into that because it’s not necessary. You get the idea. Every long run will increase by two miles and every four weeks it will taper back down to ten miles. My longest run will be either 18 or 20 miles, depending on my need to taper towards the end of my training plan.
So there it is. I presented my elephant to you and I showed you how I deconstructed it into bite sized pieces. More importantly, I showed you how I got my mind in the right place to eat this elephant. The difference between reluctantly eating the elephant and craving more and more of the elephant is astronomical. Find a way to crave your elephant and you will follow through on the plans you make.
So tell me about your elephant and your plan to eat it piece by piece. I’ll be updating this blog throughout my four months of training and I’ll debrief the whole process at the conclusion. I hope you’ll join me with your own goals.