Erika Kelly asks if in trying to achieve an abundance of goals and be the ‘best’ version of ourselves, are we actually draining our energy sources and exhausting the passion that got us going in the first place?

Specifically, in the field of athletics, where we live and breathe running (or *insert specific sport here*), it can be easy to get caught up in evaluating our self-worth on the basis of how many miles we clock up; the paces we hit; or how precisely we stuck to ‘the plan’.

Nothing is impossible?

We’re living in a world where we’re told that “Nothing is impossible” and, “If you want it enough, you can have it!” Social media is plastered with perfect lives, toned bodies, people working harder than you are – creating unfair comparisons and the illusion that if you want it enough, then why can’t you get there?

But is this actually creating a set of standards which are simply unrealistic? An uphill battle of burnout? Constantly asking ourselves if we’re good enough? It can leave us pooling in states of anxiety, which have simply become the ‘norm’ in a culture which insists we should be everywhere, do everything, be more productive, more resilient, and increasingly zealous.

We begin dreading the next run, the next fartlek, tempo session and race. Passion gradually turns to anxiety, apathy and fatigue. All of a sudden, we’re not hitting magic speeds, we’re plateauing and feeling less than enthusiastic about surpassing the ‘comfort zone’.

Energy sapping

But we keep going, ignoring the fact that our parasympathetic nervous systems are in overdrive, praying that something will just ‘click’ and go back to when things felt better – the reality is, it’s sapping us of energy and we’re exhausted.

• Do you feel overwhelmed by the simplest of tasks?
• Do you feel an inability to sit still, feeling like you must be doing something in order to achieve that sense of productivity?
• Are you happy one minute, and losing your head the next?
• Do you suppress how you really feel when asked?

A dose of realism

Aligning expectations with actual life can be a stepping-stone towards achieving more rationality. Find your growth mindset, and be content in knowing that just because today’s run or race didn’t go to plan, you are human, and ONE training session, ONE race, does NOT define your athletic career.

Bad feelings don’t last forever – accept them, don’t ignore them. In other instances, not hitting goal paces, could be simply a sign that you are not there… YET.

It doesn’t mean you never will be. It’s just going to take a bit more time, and a bit more patience. Go out and just run (or walk), with zero expectation – no watch, no GPS – just revel in the stripped back simplicity of what it is.

Write down how you’re feeling if it all feels too much, or speak honestly with your coach about taking a step back – it doesn’t diminish you as a person to have feelings and emotions (and a life outside of sport)!

Time to step back

Right now, could be a good opportunity for stepping back, with Covid-19 limiting us in what we can do, and when and why we can leave the house. It’s a time for appreciating what’s truly important, and comprehending that there’s more hours in the day than we’d ever cared to realise.

Reconnect with people, get moving, acknowledge the positives, and write down all the things that you are grateful for. In terms of your sport, remember and reflect on why you started in the first place, and make sure you’re doing what’s right for you.

It’s potentially even a good time to try new activities, and develop skills. Of course, ‘nothing worth having comes easy’ and will incorporate a wealth of challenges along the way, but be sensible in your approach and don’t pile on the expectations.

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