One Step Closer: A Journey for a Lifetime

By , SparkPeople Blogger

One of the valuable lessons I learned during my track and field days was the importance of running the correct pace for the distance. When running 100-meters, I would run as fast as I could right out of the blocks. If I were running 800-meters, I needed to start out at a slightly slower pace to be certain I could sustain the pace for the entire distance.

Sprinting requires a very fast pace sustained for a short distance. A marathon on the other hand is a longer, more arduous undertaking. Is your weight loss journey a sprint or a marathon? If you are not sure, perhaps that is where part of your barrier to success originates.

A sprinter approaches the line, sets their form, and takes off as fast as they can when the starting gun sounds. Many people approach their weight loss journey the exact same way. Something takes them to the starting line. Perhaps it is a doctor visit or an inability to fit into their clothes comfortably. Regardless of the reason, they step to the line ready to run the weight loss race. They start with their finish line clearly in sight, dedicated and committed to go all out to reach it. The line does not seem that far away and they do not question their success as they start. They take off fast, doing everything they can to make every step count so the scale will drop. Halfway to the finish line fatigue sets in, muscles tighten, doubt sets in, and the question of quitting enters their mind. They have burst into the weight loss scene at an unsustainable pace for long term success.

A marathon runner approaches the starting line with a finish line that is far from sight. Runners know they will have to rely on mile markers and directions throughout the race to navigate the course. As the runner prepares to start the race they take a deep breath, start their stopwatch to help them stay on pace and set off at a comfortable pace. Since the distance is longer, tough times are expected and the runner has trained to cope with them. Support from others along the way helps the runner endure and water stops are necessary throughout the course. This is a better approach for a successful weight loss journey. Starting slow, finding the right pace, using tools to help you stay on pace, relying on support, and expecting stops before the finish line are keys to success.

One of the biggest weight control mistakes I have seen over the years is people starting too fast with a finish line firmly fixed in their sights. Their commitment and eagerness for results takes them off the starting line at top speed. They change their life drastically in commitment to their goal. They dig in, push hard, and keep their eyes on the finish line at all costs, weighing themselves frequently and getting upset when the needle doesn't fall quickly. Unfortunately, they forget one key thing. This is a new routine for the long haul not something drastic for a quick fix. When that reality sets in, they soon realize their pace is unsustainable and begin to slow down and give up in defeat because it was just too much. If they reach the finish line, many of them quickly return to the life they had before the race began because they felt they were missing out. Oh, they would willingly attempt to run the weight loss race again, repeatedly. They may try a different racecourse (diet plan) but they take off in that weight loss race at the same pace and it quickly ends like all the others.

To find success you have to accept one important but simple truth. This journey is for the rest of your life! Yes, I said it and I know it is hard to let sink in. The finish line or reaching your weight goal is far down the road and does not mean the end of the race. It only starts the next one. There is no going back to how things used to be unless you want your weight and health to be what they used to be. It is very important to start the race in the manner you are comfortable finishing it and ready to start the next. Set yourself up for success by understanding that the journey never stops. Disaster can strike when you drastically change your life to reach a goal. This is especially true if you believe the change will only be for a short time before going back to activities and routines you love. We can do anything for a short period but when that time extends, it becomes a burden. When things feel like a burden, we lose our motivation for them and can give in to temptations and returning to our old habits and routines much more easily.

Accept that you are on a journey for your lifetime. Don't start restrictive routines and practices if they are not something you can sustain. Begin with the end in mind. Learn to crawl on your way to walking. When you have walking down and it feels comfortable with the rest of your life goals, then you can think about picking up the pace to a jog and then a run.

Do you feel like other life goals are on hold until you reach your weight goals? Do you think you have a healthy balance in your life or do your health and fitness goals tip the scale? Could your pace for weight loss/maintenance be too fast to keep your life in balance? What are you willing to do to change things?

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KHALIA2 10/26/2019
Thanks! Report
Thank you Report
Well said! Thank you! Report
Great article. Thank you for publishing! Report
Well said - thank you! Report
This is so true. This journey never ends. And that's not a bad thing! Report
Thank you for an excellent article. Report
Exactly what happened to me. Start too strong, lost 65lbs, then burned out, gained 25 back. I just lost that 25 again and will remain on a slow and steady pace with healthy sustainable choices to reach my goals ans beyond. Report
I have saved this article. What a great boost to my ego. Very encouraging. Thanks SP!! Report
I love this article it is profound! This time around I finally get it. No more getting upset because my stoamch is not as flat as I think it should be. If it takes longer than anticipated, so what. I'm a lot further than when I started and, more importantly, I feel great. I promised myself this time around I'll be patient and I will reach goal! Report
This article goes right along with what I have been dealing with the last few days...realizing this is a lifestyle change and not just a weight loss program. I have been trying to question myself and see if I'm up for the change. This article was a good read and it helped. Report
This article is stored in my list of favorites. Every now and again I go there and read this again and again it is by far one of the best articles I have ever read on this site. It speaks to me, thanks for writing it. Report
Bless your heart for your eloquent and accurate words! Report
Wow- this article puts things in perspective for my weight loss journey. Report
I LOVE this! I will print it off, put it into my success journal, and send it to my friends - encouraging them to start walking and set a goal of doing the Komen 5K with me next year. THANKS!! WONDERFUL!!! Report
Great blog...good to know I'm on the right track. Report
This is wonderful! Yes, I've been a sprinter, haven't we all. And we are so conditioned to want everything to work right away. The picture of the marathon runner needs to go on my fridge! I can apply this to so many aspects of my life and my work...thank you! Report
Fantastic article! It's good to remember that the changes you need to make to maintain a healthy lifestyle are not short - term, but are truly life-time commitments. Report
LetaLou 2 I want to loose my weight fast but I now I can't . Report
I love the analogy, very well put! Report
Thanks for this reminder. I have gotten a little tangled up in having reached a plateau and being tired because of some life stress. This has me discouraged and wanting to give up. I am a runner, and can totally relate to what happens when you start too fast and then simply have to stop because you can't sustain the pace. My best runs have been the ones where I start slow and take walk breaks. Those are the ones I finish feeling strong. I'm going to try to re-integrate that thinking into my eating, exercise and weight loss journey. Report
Your comments completely reinforce what I have been being told by others. I think I have been trying to be the sprinter, all the while 'telling' myself that I am the marathon runner. The timing for this is perfect for me. Thanks! Report
Whenever I take my attention off of my weight goals to accomplish another my weight suffers! It has been hard getting the balance much less keeping it.
I started off with the intentions of running a marathon, but like many new runners I did not realise my pace was too fast for me to sustain.
I have repeatedly tried to wean off tracking so I can get on to other things but I's gain weight.
I feel like a slave to this program at times. (ONLY AT TIMES)
I was satisfied that I had the right approach until the last few questions were asked.... Report
Balance is such an important word and one I need to continually remind myself! Report
you guys are doing great Report
I think life should lived and enjoyed now! Because tomorrow may never come. Report
Thank you for this blog. It's just what I needed. I am exhausted and sore today (discouraged as well because of a difficult trip to the doctor's office), but this blog inspired me to continue with my small steps today. Something doable and rewarding. Report
Excellent blog! Thank you. Even though I am not a runner (well, a runner wanna-be), your analogy resonated with me. Report
Excellent. Nothing you said was new to me and yet you said it in a fresh way. Thanks for sharing Report
Loved the article; very inspirational. I know I get discouraged when life throws a curve ball and I miss a whole week (or more) of working out. I just need to remember this article and keep going rather than getting frustrated and giving up and feed my face lots of junk, comfort foods. Report
"Accept that you are on a journey of a lifetime" - absolutely. This is very inspirational and practical Report
Oh, all those years of "dieting" and all the money wasted because the weight was gained back! We did not learn to eat for the rest of our lives as we have here on SP. Thanks to our founder and all those who work for him and keep us so well informed. Report
As a former long distance runner, I totally agree.....Slow and steady we can go the distance....It is for life and if we sprint we will tire out..... Report
Very good analogy. I've seen many people fail because of this. You can't sprint a marathon. And it's not a short-term solution. It's a lifestyle change. Those are very important and most people don't realize it and that is why they do not succeed. Report
I feel and think that as I make small changes in my lifestyle I am making real progress.

I am working to continue to make the changes so that by the time I have lost the amount of weight that I want to, I will have achieved the lifestyle that will help me to maintain that weight loss, and continue to be healthy and active. Report
Slow & steady wins the race. Report
I know I start out as the sprinter. Now I am realizing that this is a marathon, and something that I will have to do for the rest of my life, and now I am okay with it. At first I thought of it as a death sentence, but really the death sentence was the way I was living. Report
Though I've read/heard this same message countless times, for whatever reason, THIS time it seems to be sinking in!! Too bad its taken me 52 years, but better now than never! Report
Thank you for sharing this reminder!!! I need to remember that slow and steady wins the race!! This was very encouraging for me today! Report
Since I'm having trouble settling in to "Maintenance Mode", this was very helpful.
thanks Report
This is exactly what I needed this morning after gaining weight on vacation - thanks! Report
I almost didn't read this because I thought it was about running - blah! (No disrespect to runners but it's just not my thing). But what an excellent analogy! I know I'm not a sprinter in any aspect of my life but always move ahead with patience, persistence and focus. Great validation! Report
this is a great insight and one that I frequently lose sight of...
thanks so much for sharing! Report
Great post!

I think I am a bit of both the sprinter and the marathon runner. This is my second long distance race. The first time was 30-some years ago, and I had the focus of a sprinter. My vision was on the finish line, and my strategy was risky. Is young and stupid, and got there, nearly a year later, through sheer grit and determination.

That experience taught me alot. I paced myself well, focusing on getting from one landmark to the next, and that was a positive lesson. I waited until the race was over to adopt any form of lifestyle change - but those changes were focused on what I had to stop or give up to avoid having to run that marathon again, rather than what I had to DO.

It worked. For a while. For a fairly long while. What it didn't do was help be establish habits that would sustain me through life and body changes as I went through childbearing, child raising, health crises, injuries, and the metabolism and chemistry changes of midlife and menopause.

About 10-12 years ago, the weight began to creep back on. For several years, I would run sprints to drop an added 10 or 15 pounds. Exercise. Diet. Everything was a means to an end. I'd finish well, and a year or two later, I'd run another sprint.

Then life got crazy and my entire focus turned from myself to my family. I wasn't watching, and I wasn't taking care of me. I had retired from the sport.

Then 3 years ago, as I struggled to cope with menopause, I noticed the scale had crept back up to numbers near where they were 30 years ago, and I was facing another marathon.

This run has been paced. Yes, there is a finish line out there somewhere, but I am racing from one landmark to the next. A 10-pound mark, fueled by plenty of water and more vegetables. A second 10-pound mark, eliminating excess sodium and fueled by whole grains. A third 10, by replacing red meats with healthy Omega-3's. This 10 by establishing an ongoing training program that keeps my body primed and prepared for a healthy lifetime.

This time, it is not about finishing the race, it is about the journey. Report
A very good analogy and blog post; thanks! Report
What a great metaphor! I've definitely been a victim in the past of treating my needed weight loss as a sprint rather than a marathon. This time, though, I've been treating it more as a marathon. This was very encouraging! Report
I am taking it slow and finding time for more of what I enjoy and new things to promote my new life style. Report
Loved reading this - it sounds just like what appears to have happened to me - now I need to rethink, rejuvenate and restart :) Report
wow, something to think about hey... Report
Great article! I have yo-yo'd back and forth between weightloss journeys. I realized I was doing it wrong. I couldn't start out fast and that I couldn't just drop the weight instantly. It was going to take hard work and it was going to take time. It only took me until 2009 to realize this, but now that I have, I plan to lose all this weight. My deadline is near and I am not where I wanted to be, so I have to push that back, but it is okay because I know that I will reach that goal and be satisfied! Report