While my story and what I learned is very personal and poignant for me, its lessons universal. Here are five takeaways from my experience that may also apply to you.
Take Time Off
All work and no play doesn't just make Jack a dull boy; it also makes us sad, unhappy and less productive individuals. In order for you to reach any goal, you need to take time to recharge those batteries and relax. That's why employers offer vacation days to their workers! Whether it's a night off from the gym to go see a movie with a friend, or a long, hot bath and the end of an even longer day, be sure to take at least 15 minutes each day to do something just for you. If you're the primary caregiver in your house, this may seem impossible, but it's true that you can't take care of anyone unless you take care of yourself, so block off some me time and have some fun! Also remember that even the most dedicated exercisers and athletes need to rest and recover, so build downtime into your workout plans if you hope to take your fitness to the next level.
Don't Force It
You can't force things to happen. No matter how much you want something or how hard you work to make it happen, sometimes you just have to wait it out. Whether it's your perfect job or those last 10 pounds, life is a process. Instead, try to trust that you're on the right path, and keep at it. Slowly but surely, you'll eventually get there. Don't work harder, work smarter—and figure out how you can get to your goal without risking your sanity or well-being. You know what's not productive? Burnout.
Respect Your Limits
I learned this lesson hard during and after my marathon training. Despite a nagging hip ache, I kept running and stuck to my training schedule. Then, for the entire marathon, I didn't just endure 26.2 miles, but 26.2 miles of pain that sidelined me for weeks after the race was over. I learned the hard way that listening to your body is so important. If you're really fatigued, take a day off. If you're sick and have no energy, rest. Pushing through physical pain, emotional pain, and fatigue is never a good idea. Listen closely to what your body is telling you, and treat it like you would your best friend. Be loving, kind and respectful.