My feet pound the track and my breathing echoes in my ears. Only 200 meters left. I hear my coach telling me to open up my stride as my teammates cheer my name. What people don’t see, though, is the battle happening in my mind. I’m debating with myself – trying to figure out if a good time is worth the pain, trying to figure out how much I really care.
If you’ve been following me for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard me talk about running. It’s taught me a lot about humility, the Christian walk, and much, much more. Running has also taught me a lot about mentality. It’s proven to me this:
the way I think = how I perform.
Today, I’m going to share with you some practical ways to mentally endure when you want to stop running. Then, I’m going to connect the tactics to life in general like school, the Christian walk, or tough things you might be going through.
Here’s how to keep going when you want to quit:
Set Small Goals
Running: When running, pretend that you’re closer to finishing than you actually are. Set small goals (a corner, a tree, or a time), and as soon as you reach the goal, set another. If you’re not dreading the future but instead reaching your goals, you will push yourself instead of pitying yourself.
Life: In the same way, make goals for yourself in your daily routine, and trick your mind when you feel like something is too much work. For example, split up your school assignments into doable pieces, and if you have to give a speech in front of a crowd, pretend that you’re only speaking in front of your friends.
Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. ~Matthew 6:24
Just Take Another Step
Running: Just do the next thing. Focus on that next turn in the track, the next step up the hill. Pay attention to your form, opening up your stride and pumping your arms. If your goals seem intimidating, just. keep. going.
Life: When you have a crazy school assignment, just focus on the next word. If you have a tough day ahead, just focus on glorifying God in the next ten minutes. Trust God to handle the future and obey Him moment by moment.
Elizabeth Elliot often referenced a poem that echoes this thought.
From an old English parsonage down by the sea
There came in the twilight a message to me;
Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
Hath, it seems to me, teaching from Heaven.
And on through the doors the quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration: “DO THE NEXT THING.”
Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, and guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrows, child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus, do the next thing
Do it immediately, do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand
Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
Leave all results, do the next thing.
Looking for Jesus, ever serener, Working or suffering, be thy demeanor; In His dear presence, the rest of His calm, The light of His countenance be thy psalm, Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing. Then, as He beckons thee, do the next thing (From the Gospel Coalition)
Change Your Pace
Running: My coach once told me that when I’m struggling in a race, my body just needs a change of pace. Instead of slowing down, though, he said to speed up to a faster pace.
Life: Sometimes you need to change things up; maybe that means speed up, maybe that means slow down. You might need some time to rest and refocus. That’s the reason God gave us the Sabbath (Mark 2:27). On the other hand, you might need something to do with yourself to avoid being lazy, intentionally “redeeming the time” (Ephesians 5:16). Take a look at your schedule and find a way to change your pace this week if you’re in a rut.
Running: Sometimes you just need a distraction. Music works great, but in some cases (like a cross country meet), you have nothing to hear but the steady wind and the heavy breathing of your teammates. Psalm 139 got me through one of my hardest races last season. I recited it over and over, distracting my mind and making me more relaxed. Use your running time to memorize and review Scripture or pray for your friends and family – it’ll make the miles go by faster and help you focus on something greater than you and your pain.
Life: In the same way, if you ever have something painful you have to sit through or have a thought you’re trying to avoid thinking, recite Scripture and distract yourself with something good.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. ~Philippians 4:8
Remember the ‘Who’
Running: Run for someone you love, and remember the people who support you. Remember the hard work everyone has done to help you be who you are today, and then run like they’re watching.
Life: Don’t do this life alone. Surround yourself with loved ones who care about you and cheer you on. If you’re hurting, tell someone. If you’re working on school, write for someone. If you have a healthy body, help someone. God didn’t make us to be alone and life is a lot better with others.
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him. ~Genesis 2:18
Expect (& Embrace) Pain
Running: I run a lot harder if I expect pain and then lean into it when it comes. Take difficulty as a good sign and then ‘embrace the pain’.
Life: This point has come out a lot in my battle against pride. Eventually, I have come to realize that if I pray for humility, something painful will follow; whether that means a bad race or a realization of sin. But in the end, I know the pain is necessary. In fact, I must embrace the hard things God puts in my life by learning what he is teaching me and leaning totally on Him. I have to thank God for (fill-in-the-blank) and then run to Jesus for the grace I need. If I ‘embrace the pain’ (in this case, humiliation) by running to Christ, that’s when the pain is worth it; that’s when the pain fulfills its purpose.
Suggested: Run to Jesus
Remember Your ‘Why’
Running: I saved this point for last because I think it’s key. If you don’t know why you’re running, you won’t be able to push forward to your goals when it really starts to hurt. Figure out your why, and remind yourself of it whenever you feel like giving up. If you don’t feel so sure, watch the video below (it literally gives me chills!).
Life: This rule really applies to everything. You have to find a why for doing your school. You have to find a why for obeying your parents. You have to find a why for living. And God is the only place we find a ‘why’ that’s eternal. God gives us purpose for life and watches everything we do in His amazing grace and mercy. We were made to glorify God and enjoy Him; that’s the greatest ‘why’ you could ask for.
“God is the only place we find a ‘why’ that’s eternal. God gives us purpose for life and watches everything we do in His amazing grace and mercy. We were made to glorify God and enjoy Him; that’s the greatest ‘why’ you could ask for.” (Rachel Ward)Tweet
Suggested: What Does Glorifying God Really Mean?
In summary, mentality is important not only in running, but also in every other aspect of life. I hope this post helps you endure in both areas. I got a lot of feedback from you girls saying you like fitness posts and Christian living posts, so today I combined both. Let me know what you thought in the comments below!