Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Quitting Zone

Every single time I start, I enter the quitting zone. The first steps are the hardest, pounding a signal from my heals to my head… "Stop. Go back.  You'll never make it.  You can do it tomorrow. Next time. Next week. Whenever."  The urge to stop, the desire to quit, the mental trickery demanding that I give up, stop running and start walking, just turn around and go home… these are the self-taunts I must endure for the the first half mile of nearly every run I undertake.  I call that half mile the quitting zone.  As I train myself, slowly and surely, to be able to run farther and faster, I am also training myself to be able to plow through the quitting zone.  In fact, that is the hardest part, learning to defeat the quitting zone.

See Jeff Run. Run Jeff, Run

I never thought I would think of myself as a runner.  I've always struggled with my weight, complained about my knees, found excuses to quit before I even dared to enter the quitting zone. Then, inspired by my oldest son, I started to walk three or four miles regularly… and then began alternating walking and running, increasing the ratio of running until one day I found I was running the whole distance. Then, little by little, the distance I could run increased.  While my confidence has grown along with the distances I run, I still find myself facing the quitting zone, nearly every day.  Intellectually, I know I can make it past that half mile mark. I do it all the time, and then continue going for three, four, five, even seven miles beyond. Still, those first steps… that first half mile… the infamous quitting zone is a bitch every time.

Life's A Bitch Too...

I won't be the first nor the last to use running as a metaphor for other things in life, but it works (and, after all, what's a metaphor?)  The truth is that the quitting zone is everywhere.  It taunts and challenges us at the beginning of every task, goal and opportunity we face.  It is physics.  It is inertia. It is in our human DNA.  The hardest step toward any objective is usually the first step.  Standing still takes less effort than movement.  Reflection and consideration takes less effort (and feels like it holds less risk) than taking action.  We think, therefore we am.  We think, therefore we pause. We wait.  We procrastinate.  (And of course, when I say "we" I really mean "ME."  I pause. I wait.  I procrastinate.)  But maybe I do so a little less now since I have become "a runner."  Maybe I've become a little bit better at pushing through the quitting zones... and not just the one when I run.

How about you?  How do you bust through your quitting zones?

Photo Credit: © yobidaba -