Author: Altra Red Team Julika Pahl
“If you want to change your life or maybe the world, start each day with a task completed.” - William H. Mcraven.
This is a quote taken from William H. Mcraven’s book, "Make Your Bed: A Daily Journal". I’m not going to lie to anyone, I have not read this book, nor do I make my bed everyday (… maybe ever); however, I understand the premise of what Mcraven is trying to get across and I can certainly relate it to myself as an athlete. For me, getting up, getting outside, and getting moving is making my bed every day. It’s achieving the same thing: starting my day with a task completed.
To offer some context, sport has always been a big part of my life, it is where I’ve felt my happiest and where I feel I perform at my best. As a kid I used to play many different sports after school, such as indoor hockey, squash, tennis, karate, etc. But I remember there was one year when I stopped all sports (I have no idea why exactly), which I recall probably being the worst 12 months of my life. It was in high school, I slept a lot, neglected my homework, picked up a bit of weight and I definitely wasn’t very nice to be around. After 12 months of this, I finally made the decision to change something. I started playing all my sports again and threw in one more just for good measure: running.
My running ‘career’ emerged from humble beginnings, starting with a 2.5km loop every single day for about a year with my best friend. I am convinced that had she not motivated me to join her, I would have hung up my running shoes long before ever completing my first 5km run. Suffice to say, after a year of short 2.5km loops, my friend and I started pushing a bit further… and further. Fast forward to today, I cannot imagine a week, or, to be honest even 1 day, without doing some form of activity - especially running. I know this may sound cliché, but it honestly makes me feel alive and after each run I feel like I have accomplished something. In turn, I think I also ended up not being too hard on myself in the other aspects of my life.
Sport, and for most of us this often includes running, means different things to different people. For some it is a career, while others engage in more social physical activity just to get up and get moving at least once a day. Either way, just like waking up and making your bed has been proven to have significant benefits, so too can sport be used as that task to complete. The health benefits and positive effects on your body aside, sport really does help us create a feeling of accomplishment. A feeling we can experience every single day, no matter the type of movement, no matter the length or intensity exercise. On my rest days, even a 30 minute walk is enough to give me that feeling of accomplishment. Not having these small, attainable goals that are easily achievable and instead always focusing on bigger, long term goals can be daunting and overwhelming. Focusing all your energy on buying your next house, buying a car, passing your next big exam or even getting a PB in your next marathon can often sap you of your motivation. On top of that, many things happen that are beyond our control and impact our long term goals - I guess Covid-19 is a pretty good and current example of this. It is highly likely that things are going to impact our plans and we need to be able to adjust. This can be frustrating, especially if current plans have to be put on hold and you feel like you’re not getting anywhere. So I suppose that is where not having a small challenge or task to complete every day could make it all that much harder.
From the beginning of this year to date, my plans have pretty much done a one-eighty. I was planning on taking the year off, focusing on my running and going on as many mountain adventures as possible. Instead, I’ve had to start looking for a job (not the best time for this) and think about starting to study for my last exam. Trust me, having to study again terrifies me. The reason I am saying this is to make the point that, if I didn’t have my goal of doing some form of activity or sport every day, I am certain this lockdown would have been a lot worse for me than it is now. Each day I wake up and am able to complete a small task and feel some form of accomplishment, while also focusing on my bigger goals… like looking for a job.
In this lockdown, it has obviously been a lot more challenging for us to create and complete these small “tasks” that we set for ourselves, but perhaps it’s also an opportunity for us to go back and focus our attention on the even smaller things: like waking up and making your bed. For me at least, it has shifted from being able to go running almost every day, to completing home workouts, cycling, strength training and yoga sessions… but the feeling after having completed these remains the same.