Though a big race at the end of your season may serve as a reason to rejoice, celebrating your successes along the way (big and small) breeds more successes and gives you a confidence boost on your way to the finish line.
Many athletes minimize small steps to progress. Worse, they may fail to acknowledge them completely, telling themselves they won’t celebrate until they’ve accomplished the “entire” goal.
Recently I reached some of my fastest speeds ever as a runner. Shortly thereafter, an old injury began to flare up. Instead of continuing with my progress, I suddenly found myself not running at all for three weeks! I searched everywhere for something, anything to make my injury go away. Finally, after much frustration and anger, I discovered the culprit – my running shoes.
I got lucky this time. It could have been much worse! I should be dancing in the streets that I can run again...and yet, I feel frustration and disappointment. You see, after three weeks of not running, I’ve lost the speed I gained before becoming injured.
But there is still cause for celebration. I can recognize how far I have come. My “super-slow” pace today used to be my “fast” pace when I first started running. I actually have gradations in my pace that I never used to have. I can manage different speeds, and levels of intensity that I had to develop. Looking back at how far I’ve come keeps things in perspective.
This experience has helped me to realize that I haven’t lost my success as a runner. I get to keep and celebrate how far I have come even in this ever-so-minor setback. I’ve been fast before, and I’ll be fast again. Who knows? I may get even faster!
All-or-Nothing: “This injury is going to set me back too much.”
Remedy: “What other exercises can I do to keep up my fitness?” “I may not be able to run right now, but swimming and lifting weights may make me stronger when I am able to run again.”
All-or-Nothing: “I’m in a really tough age group. I’ll never get on the podium.”
Remedy: “When I follow my success and aim for doing my best, tracking my progress is enough, beating my earlier times is awesome.” “What else could I do to increase my podium chances? “Do I want to to ask the podium finishers if they have any training advice for me to help me get to the next level? Is it time to hire a coach?”
It is important to take time out of your busy schedule to truly acknowledge your hard work, your accomplishments, and the journey that brought you to this point. Your celebration may be tangible, like achieving a specific pace during a workout; or it might be more abstract, like getting all your workouts in for the week, despite a busy life trying to derail you.
Taking note of how you measured up against others in a particular race is good and well, but it’s one outcome on one day. Less frequently celebrated, and perhaps more important to your development as an athlete, are process goals.
Think back to the moment you decided to participate in your sport.
- What drew you to the sport in the first place?
- How many small and large goals have you set and achieved in the meantime?
- How did you grow as a person when you overcame setbacks, injuries, challenges and adversity?
Pause – I mean truly pause - for long enough to be proud of your efforts, your work and your development. You may not be anywhere near a finish line right now, but you’ll find there’s still quite a lot to celebrate.