If Cincinnati is known for anything (especially among its many runners and cyclists), it is known for its hills. You can't run, bike, hike or even walk very far in this city without encountering multiple inclines, some of which are very steep! That is partly what makes our Flying Pig Marathon so notorious! When I run outside or hit the road on my bike, there is no avoiding the hills. And while many exercisers despise hills, I've come to accept them—even appreciate them. And no, I'm not a masochist.
On my many long runs these past few months (I will be running the Flying Pig half marathon this Sunday), I've climbed a lot of hills and had a lot of time to think about each one. I've realized that we all have our own hills—in running, in weight loss and in life. Whether a hill slows us down or holds us back has less to do with its actual physicality (or our own) and much more to do with our outlook as we approach it.
Each time I reach the foot of another steep hill, I look forward, not up. When I look for the top it's far too easy to feel deflated. That end goal looks so far away and so difficult to reach! I tend to lose momentum and often get side-tracked with negative thoughts about how hard it's going to be. But when I keep my eyes directly forward, watching the ground just a few feet in front of me, it's amazing how my attitude changes. From that view, I can't tell how long or how steep a climb is. In fact, I can hardly even tell I'm going uphill at all. When I look forward instead of up, I maintain speed (and a much sunnier disposition), and I reach the top of the incline almost effortlessly. Only then do I look back and see how far I've really come. And remember: The view from the top is much better than the view from the bottom!
While each hill we encounter may feel like a roadblock, it's not. It's a challenge that, while perhaps long or hard, will eventually come to an end. If you keep moving forward, you will always reach the top. If you keep going from there, you will feel wind and gravity carrying you with speed and ease to the bottom. And once you're on a flat again, you appreciate it that much more. You harness that momentum from the downhill and keep pushing forward.
Eyes forward, I approach a hill like I would any other goal: one step at a time. Your goal may be big: to lose 100 pounds, to run a marathon, to pay down a large debt. If you only look at the end goal (the summit) from where you are now (the foot), it's easy to feel discouraged. But when you break it into smaller steps and keep your eyes focused on what you can do right now in this moment, the top doesn't matter anymore. All that matters is the next step you take.
Trust me, no one sets out to run a marathon thinking, "I am 26.2 miles from the finish line!" They take it one step and one mile at a time. And if you plan to lose 50 or 100 pounds—or whatever you goal—the worst thing you can do is focus on how far away that end goal is.
Break it down:
As long as you're moving forward, you will eventually reach the top.
Sometimes getting there will be labored, long and challenging. But it is the nature of any hill or challenge to make us stronger in body and in spirit. Every hill I ascend makes me appreciate the descents and the flats that much more. Hill training makes you stronger and faster when hills aren't present because everything else feels so much easier. Each incline I climb gives me a chance to push through a challenging situation (one that—let's be honest—I'd rather avoid) and build not just leg strength, but character as well. It makes you proud. It makes you realize that if you can do this, there is no limit to what else you can achieve.
Bring on the hills.
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