Keep Your Eyes OFF the Prize


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  112 comments   :  63,404 Views

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:

One step.
One minute.
One mile.
One workout.
One choice.
One bite.
One meal.
One hour.
One day.
One week.
One pound.
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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  • 62
    This is SO true. I have to share when I first started walking, there is a hill .4 miles from my house. I would walk to it, and back several times, but not go down it because I did't want to climb back up it. Then I would take so many steps down, and increase that number each week until I finally made it to the bottom. Walking up it again (at 290lbs) was worse than I expected. I had to stop to catch my breath. I wanted to cry when I looked up to see how far I still had to go, so, I closed my eyes, concentrated on my breathing, and counted steps. When I approach that hill now (50+lbs lighter) I hardly know it's there. Some days I turn and take the bigger hill for a better workout. But I still think sometimes that if I hadn't closed my eyes I might have just let that hill defeat me. - 4/17/2012   1:57:20 PM
  • 61
    Just what I needed today! - 4/17/2012   1:06:21 PM
  • 60
    I've definitely found that breaking things down into mini-goals is the best way to go.

    Right now I'm nearing the end of my weight loss journey, training for a half-marathon, and trying to pay down debt. If I only looked at the big picture for all those things, I'd give up right now! But focusing on one half-pound at a time, one long run at a time, one payment at a time has made all the difference. Then I can look back at my progress every month or so and marvel at how far I've come. And I definitely look forward to the celebration when I reach my ultimate goals! - 4/17/2012   10:51:37 AM
  • 59
    THANK YOU! I needed this today! ONE thing at a time! Got it! - 4/17/2012   9:40:16 AM
  • 58
    oh my goodness! i love this: One step.
    One minute.
    One mile.
    One workout.
    One choice.
    One bite.
    One meal.
    One hour.
    One day.
    One week.
    One pound.

    GREAT blog post - 4/17/2012   9:11:10 AM
  • 57
    That was a very good message. When we look at the big picture, the big number, the end result, we can get overwhelmed and feel like it's just too much and we just can't do it. But if we break that big goal up into smaller, more manageable pieces, we can succeed--at anything.

    How do you eat an elephant?

    One bit at a time! - 4/17/2012   8:22:40 AM
  • 56
    Very motivational ....Thank you!!!!! - 4/15/2012   10:10:34 AM
  • 55
    This is one of your most awesome blogs yet!!! I LOVE IT! - 4/14/2012   12:56:38 AM
  • 54
    You make it sound so simple. Thanks, Nicole! - 4/14/2012   12:53:09 AM
  • 53
    I do the same thing when I encounter hills, which I do which ever way I go. It is so much easier when you don't look to the top. I have also found that the fitter I am getting - the smaller the hills are looking!!! I like them to as I feel they push me a little harder. - 4/13/2012   2:21:35 PM
  • 52
    I really needed this today. Perfect blog for me. Have to take your advice and go with it. Thanks Nicole!! - 4/13/2012   1:59:49 PM
  • 51
    Thank you for a great blog. I needed it today. - 4/13/2012   10:00:57 AM
  • 50
    thank you! - 4/13/2012   3:41:34 AM
  • 49
    Thank you. That was exactly what I needed to read today. Onward and upward! - 4/12/2012   10:58:14 PM
  • 48
    Thanks - 4/12/2012   9:55:38 PM
  • 47
    Great post - Thanks!!!! - 4/12/2012   9:24:56 PM
  • 46
    Thanks for the reminders Coach Nicole....I need them on my journey. - 4/12/2012   2:00:30 PM
  • 45
    "As long as you're moving forward, you will eventually reach the top."

    This one sentence smacked me in the head..........all I really need to do is keep putting one foot in front of the other. Some days it's harder than others but I will keep moving forward. - 4/12/2012   1:29:23 PM
  • 44
    Loved this one, thank you Nicole! - 4/12/2012   12:57:45 PM
    Really put things in perspective for me! Loved blog! - 4/12/2012   11:30:01 AM
  • DIETER27
    Thank you it is just what I needed to read today! - 4/12/2012   10:37:33 AM
  • 41
    I copied a portion too! - 4/12/2012   10:26:07 AM
    I cycle, a lot. Long ago I realized hills (or mountains) were rarely as steep as they first look. And I learned to take them at a reasonable pace, unless they were short enough to "hammer" through. I used to think people who rode rides like "Ride the Rockies" were nuts, but then I decided to do one myself and fell in love with climbing. I can get into a rhythm that feels good and allows my mind to dwell on so many other things while my legs work. This year I'm doing two Century (100 mile) rides and both have good climbs in them - I can't wait! - 4/12/2012   10:19:29 AM
  • 39
    Coach Nicole,
    Please forgive me, but I COPIED, a "PORTION" of your BLOG, for in part, my BLOG! Sometimes, I need a DAILY reminder, and your BLOG nailed it for me!

    Thank you, and again, I hope you didn't mind, my "borrowing" from your BLOG! - 4/12/2012   10:07:42 AM
  • 38
    Wow, such a simple concept, yet so powerful! This is a great blog to read again and again. I must share! - 4/12/2012   9:53:51 AM
  • 37
    Perfect, just what I needed today to break my goals down to smaller bites, can't eat an elephant in one pun intended! I have 100 lbs to lose, but TODAY my goal is to eat good nutritional food, take in my water, move my body, even if for just 10 minutes, and encourage my fellow sparkler! Thank you! - 4/12/2012   9:52:38 AM
    This is one of my favorite all-time blogs!!! I need to remember to break my obstacles down!!! - 4/12/2012   9:46:18 AM
  • 35
    Love the break it down - one workout; one pound. How true. - 4/12/2012   9:32:17 AM
    Excellent. It is about making the next right choice. - 4/12/2012   9:31:30 AM
    The title caught me off guard because we sing a song with the title "Keep Your Eyes ON the Prize". Even though the goal (In our case, Paradise on earth) is far off, Keep in expectation. But reading your article, I do agree. I use a walker and live near some fun hills as well. No where Near as massive but for someone just new to walking a MOUNTAIN! So yes, one step at a time and keep you progress (and gaze) FORWARD! - 4/12/2012   9:11:21 AM
    Great blog, thanks for posting!!!! - 4/12/2012   9:04:55 AM
  • 31
    Reading this has reinforced my mantra of one step at a time! Looking forward and not up I will achieve my goal! Thanks Nicole! - 4/12/2012   8:00:23 AM
  • 30
    This is one of my favorite blogs written by you. Bumps, Hills, Mountains during my journey will be looked at differently! - 4/12/2012   7:39:56 AM
    This is just what I needed to read today! :) - 4/12/2012   6:20:04 AM
  • 28
    I love hills! The best part is reaching the top and seeing how far you've come. - 4/12/2012   5:48:02 AM
  • 27
    I put this in my "Favorites" and posted to FB. Thank you so much for this reminder that it is the little things that will get me there! - 4/12/2012   5:47:50 AM
  • 26
    Thank you!!! Powerful message. - 4/12/2012   5:44:48 AM
  • 25
    Thanks, Nicole, for the reminder that any great journey begins with one step and continues one step at a time.

    My first husband, who I married almost 40 years ago, loved to hike in the mountains. I wasn't too keen on climbing all those hills but I loved him so I went along. One particular trail gained almost 500 feet in elevation in about a quarter mile. It was a trail (not a rock climb) but pretty steep. I didn't think I could make it to the top, but he told me to just take one step at a time and pick out the next place I was going to place my foot instead of wondering how much farther it was to the top. We made it to the top in no time at all and I didn't stumble. He took me to many beautiful places and it was all one step at a time. These are great memories for me.

    Now I can use the principles learned so many years ago on this journey to a better me. Thank you for reminding me....

    Keep on keepin' on! - 4/12/2012   1:14:31 AM
  • RUDY4447
    hey nicole im trying to lose fifty pounds but cant get into the mood help. - 4/11/2012   6:58:40 PM
  • 23
    Thank you for the great advice. I am training for a race right now. its a 12 K run with several hills some up and some go down i like the idea of looking forward and not at the hill you are dealing with. this hill can be a hill you are climbing while out walking. or the hill of weight lose. break it down in small section we know this but i know my self i need to be reminded if this fact often thanks for the reminder. - 4/11/2012   6:46:42 PM
  • AVR1003
    One step at the time. That's sth I need to remeber.
    My friend told me once : No matter if you walk or run you're still beating those who doesn't move from their couch. Now it's my motto. - 4/11/2012   5:18:29 PM
  • 21
    This is a GREAT blog! - 4/11/2012   5:07:28 PM
  • 20
    Great blog! That is exactly how I have approached losing weight--and tackling actual hills when I run, LOL! The amount I had to lose when I started two years ago was overwhelming (over 100 pounds), but taking it one day at a time, one choice at a time, the mountain has been conquered and I'm looking back in amazement at how far I've actually come. - 4/11/2012   1:28:04 PM
  • 19
    Love several of your comments in this one, but most particularly "... no one sets out to run a marathon thinking, "I am 26.2 miles from the finish line!" because so many people do set out to lose weight thinking, "I am 100 pounds from the finish line!" - 4/11/2012   1:25:33 PM
  • MRSJ953
    Great blog! - 4/11/2012   11:54:45 AM
  • 17
    I love this idea "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." - 4/11/2012   10:45:48 AM
  • 16
    Thank you for the reminder that we don't have to always "think big". I often find myself overwhelmed when looking at the large end goal, so I am changing my mindset. I am learning to reach for a small goal, savor the success, and use the energy of that success as momentum to propel me to the next small goal.

    How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. - 4/11/2012   10:10:56 AM
    This was such a powerfully written piece. Having NOT seeing the scale move the last few weeks this was very timely....I needed to read it. Thank you for reminding us that when you "work the plan the plan works" matter how long it takes. Thank you Coach Nicole! - 4/11/2012   10:07:49 AM
  • 14
    Wow, this couldn't come at a more appropriate time for me. I live in TN, which is just like Cinci in that every greenway/sidewalk/trail will have constant hills. I'm in a 5K training program (will be my first 5K ever!), and after 5 weeks into the program, I have shifted into longer run intervals and shorter walk intervals. Last night, my group met up and I was supposed to run a whole mile, walk/rest for 3-5 minutes, then run the mile back. I barely did it, and I dreaded every single hill. It's all mental, and I just need to keep working on my attitude. - 4/11/2012   9:55:00 AM
  • 13
    Love this blog! - 4/11/2012   9:46:22 AM

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