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Building endurance | what writing & running have taught me

"Endurance is patience concentrated." ~ Thomas Carlyle

I'm officially two and a half weeks into my half-marathon training and nearly two weeks into the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge (friend me at Brittney Kristina)! I have never competed in NaNoWriMo before. At least, never successfully, falling off after three days. Nor have I ever trained for a long race. During these past couple of weeks, I have learned quite a lot about endurance, and have realized that running and writing are not so different from one another.


In fact, they go quite hand-in-hand.


First off, NaNoWriMo is an organization that organizes a challenge each November in which writers must write 50,000 words in a singular month or 1,667 words a day for 30 days. The idea behind this challenge is to push want-to-be-authors who want to write a book, yet have never made the time to actually do it and keep putting it off, to just do it, as the Nike saying goes. You cannot edit a blank page. By word vomiting nearly a couple thousand words a day, cultivating that writer's endurance, and building a daily habit, you're one step closer to the dream of holding the novel, that once homed your mind only, in your hands.


I've wanted to partake in NaNo for quite some time, yet as I mentioned earlier, always fallen short.


I do this in many areas of my life.


If you've read my blog posts, you may notice that I shift around from one challenge to the next, hardly completing any. I'll try meditating every day for a month and quit after two days. With running, despite being an avid runner for over a year, I generally avoided running a distance longer than 3 miles at a time because the task seemed too daunting.


Occasionally, I do hold through, such as with my KETO diet.


But most of the time I can be quite lazy--whoops!


When my dad signed me up for the Disney World half marathon (13.1 miles) for January 2022, I protested. The most I had ever run was 4 miles, and even then, I nearly died. How was I supposed to run 9 more!? But my dad only smiled and said, calmly, "You can do it." As someone who went from obese to running half marathons almost weekly in a short amount of time, my dad had always inspired me. I had always wanted to be like him; self-disciplined, ambitious, willing to put his strength to the test. So, I decided to believe him.


And I decided that, for myself, I was going to run a half marathon, something I had only dreamed of doing and never thought I could actually do.


Around the same time as the beginning of my training, which already entailed enough bravery in itself, NaNo was soon approaching. I had discussed wanting to start my next novel for years, yet had failed to put in the necessary effort. So, without any set-in-stone plan in mind, just a simple idea bulging in the back of my consciousness, I decided to partake in the 50,000 words a day challenge.


Without realizing it, I was participating in two ridiculously difficult challenges and had no idea what I was going to do for either. The only thing I had in common was an ounce of endurance. A desire to complete the task, and the belief that I could, if I put in the hard work.


I simply, began.


As of now, I am 2,000 words ahead in NaNo, having hit the daily goal every day since the challenge has begun. (Like, what!?) Miraculously, I am on the course to complete NaNo, something I have never thought I could ever accomplish.


Furthermore, just this morning I ran 6 miles for the second time in my entire life. The first time was this past weekend. Who could've thought I'd ever run 6 miles without stopping? Not me, that's for sure.


On the mission to do both of these challenges, I will admit: I feel exhausted. But, also exhilarated. My mind and body feel worn and yet, I feel more alive than I've felt in a while because I'm doing these things for me, and nobody else. I am giving myself the gift of completing two separate things I've always dreamed of completing.


As always, I don't have all the answers. I'm still figuring out life alongside you. But, I like to think I have a few methods for building endurance, as I've been doing throughout this fall semester in many areas of my life, but especially writing and running.


The following are a few simple mindsets and reminders that I have maintained in order to keep me moving at a steady yet strong pace toward my goals.


Remember: not every day will be the same.


In both running and writing, I have bad and good days. For instance, just after my run, I called Jared, my boyfriend, and he couldn't believe I had just run 6 miles, as I was hardly out of breath, only fatigued. (Trust me, I'm in shock, too.) Yes, I was pretty tired, my legs a bit sore, but for those first five miles, I was flying. Racing around campus, letting my thoughts roam wild, veering off paths to venture into new places near my university. It was, well, fun.


But, not all days are good. Last Saturday, I ran 6 miles for the first time. While the first three miles were great, the last three felt like liquified death. I felt nauseous, fatigued, and had a side stitch. I completed it, surprisingly, by just slowing down and going at the pace that felt right to my body.


After that run, I soaked in a warm, Epson salt bath for an hour and was sore for the next two days. It was horrible.


But, I did it!


This same principle goes for writing. Some days, I sit down to write and the words don't seem to budge. Other days, however, the words are fluid and flow with ease and I go far beyond the required word count.


Trust the process. Have patience with yourself. Not every day, week, month will be the same. Mental health also comes into play, making some days exponentially more difficult than others.


Go at the pace your body and mind will allow and don't push yourself too hard. Giving yourself grace will improve your endurance, as well as ease your mind in preparation for completing a daunting task, by showing yourself that sometimes the speed or the quality doesn't matter. What matters is that you got up, you did it, and you pushed diligently to the end.


Trick your mind: just one more!


During writing sessions in which a brick wall is pressing back on me, limiting my word flow, I will trick my brain. "Just finish this train of dialogue," I'll say. Or, rather, "Describe what the room looks like." When I do this, taking one little scene at a time, I normally find that brick wall lifts, just a bit, and before long, I am naturally immersed into the world.


For running, too. "Just one more mile," I tell myself. And when I run that mile, feeling somewhat okay, I'll tell myself, "Another one. You got this!" I also sometimes hold up the amount of fingers for the number of miles I have left, and seeing a mile as a single finger rather than as an entire stretch of land, well, it comforts me, somehow. Also, watching my full hand extended decrease to one finger is quite satisfying. "Just one more!" I'll scream out to the vacant path ahead of me.


Rather than look at the endless stretch ahead of you, at the 1,667 words for the day, take it one mile (or quarter-mile, even) at a time, and before you know it, (and after a bit of a mental battle) you're done!


Become your own cheerleader.


I hate to admit it, but sometimes, I find that I seek outside validation for my goals. I want people to congratulate me on what I'm doing!


But, disparagingly, you cannot rely on outside validation. Sometimes, people can become unreliable, and rarely will people's opinions be able to carry you through the long run. It's just you out there. You, your overpowering music, and your mind demanding that you stop.


The best thing to do is return to your "why" and remind yourself of it each time you begin to doubt yourself. Cheer yourself on as you go. You got this! Keep going! You're brilliant! You're strong!


Your mind is going to want to drag your down. I'm sure you know this.


One of the biggest things that held me back was my mind. It would slam down, trip me up, taunt me with false ideas and rude remarks. It wasn't until I pressed back against it, overcame it, replacing the doubts and fears with kind, gentle, cheering nudges, that I was able to run more than three miles comfortably, and write daily.


Try some affirmations, such as: I am creative, I am talented, I am strong, I can do all I set my mind to, I trust the process, ideas flow easily to me, I am as light as air. Yes, it's a bit corny. But I promise it does wonders. :)


Meditate or ease your mind.


I've been incorporating mindfulness into (most) days, in the morning or afternoon to clear my mind of junk and return to my core. With so many challenges and commitments, it's easy to get ahead of myself or stress myself out. But simply curling up in bed, turning on some calm music, and deep breathing for a few minutes each day has helped me to relax and not get too overwhelmed.


When I get overwhelmed, I often panic, freeze, and drop everything. I'm trying to avoid that this time.


I believe I'm doing a good job--miraculously, I've felt calm and stable through all of this, and I think I have mindfulness to thank for it.


Just do it. (Consistently.)


This is the second time I've referenced Nike.


It's a good moto, what can I say?


If there's something you want to do, the best advice I have for you, is to do it.


Get on a training program (as I've been doing), delve into a writing challenge (such as NaNo) or just set goals for yourself, daily, weekly, monthly, and so forth. It's pretty generic advice, I know.


But with running 3x a week, and writing every day, I have seen drastic changes in my endurance. It all starts with making that commitment to yourself and following through. Doing the task consistently, as often as you can.


Strap on those sneakers, settle down at your desk, and go!


 

Thank you so much for tuning in, and I wish you the best of luck with all of your future endeavors, whether it relates to writing, reading, or so on! :)


And of course, I will update on how my half training goes, as well as continue on my lil' NaNo series. Be sure to look out for that!

Probably writing (or running),

Brittney





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