By Diane Kukich
It’s a cold Sunday morning right after Halloween. I run 3.5 miles on a paved trail that follows the railroad tracks in our college town.
I tell myself it’s enough.
Later in the day, if it warms up enough, I may do an 8.5-mile bike ride on a quiet old road that runs through a park at the north end of town.
I will tell myself it’s enough.
Tomorrow morning, I’ll head to the Y and swim a mile.
Once again, I’ll tell myself it’s enough.
When we see social media posts by people who are finishing Ironman events, it can be difficult to accept that a 3-mile run or an 8.5-mile bike ride or a 1-mile swim is enough.
My running club friends are recording 20-mile marathon training workouts, while my weekly totals are less than that.
But I’m not training for anything but a healthy life and a fit body.
On September 12, 2019, I celebrated 30 years of daily workouts. That’s 10,950 consecutive days. I reached that milestone simply by getting up each morning and doing some form of vigorous physical exercise for at least a half-hour.
In the months leading up to the anniversary, I gave a lot of thought to how I would mark the day. All of my ideas played off the number 30.
Should I run 3 miles, bike 30 miles, and swim 300 yards?
Run a 3K, swim 30 laps, and bike a 30K?
In the end, I made a last-minute decision to keep it simple—I simply did 30 minutes of each activity in a mini-triathlon of my own making. I ended up swimming 1500 yards, running 3.1 miles, and biking 7.5 miles.
It was enough.
I coach an employee Couch to 5K program at the University of Delaware, and I’m constantly emphasizing the need for all of the participants to do their own workout—to do what works for them and not to worry about how far or how fast their fellow C25K-ers are running.
But I need to work at following my own advice.
Recently, my friend Kathy Nguyen of WRWY celebrated her 45th birthday with a 4.5-mile run, followed by a 45-mile bike ride and then lunch (and cake!). She invited a number of fitness-oriented friends, including me, to join her.
But I knew that those distances, especially added together, would be a lot for me, and I didn’t want to bike on roads with car traffic, so I chose to ride by myself on a protected path and then meet the group for lunch.
I rode 17 miles on a cold, windy day and then loaded my bike into the car, changed my clothes, and headed into the restaurant for the celebration.
It was enough.
The lesson in all of this is to stop saying “only” and learn what’s enough for you. If you’ve just started running and you finally complete your first mile without any walk breaks, then you need to claim that accomplishment as “enough.”
It’s not “only a mile.” It’s your first mile, and you should rejoice in finishing it.
If you’re recovering from a serious injury or accident, maybe taking those first few steps from your bed to the bathroom is your current goal. View it as “enough” instead of dismissing it as “only a few steps.”
It’s human for us to compare ourselves to others, and there’s nothing wrong with taking inspiration from others who have achieved remarkable things.
But it can be a fine line between being inspired by others and allowing ourselves to feel inferior because they have accomplished more than we have.
I’m gradually learning how to enjoy hearing about other people’s workouts without feeling like mine aren’t enough.
Diane is a retired science writer. She holds a senior fitness training certificate from the University of Delaware and a Level 2 Running Coach certification from Road Runners Club of America. She started running in her late 40s and has won hundreds of first and second place age-group awards in local, regional, and national races at distances from the mile to the half marathon. She swims, runs, or bikes every day and strength trains twice a week. Diane lives in Newark, Delaware, with her husband, Doug, her yellow Lab Jodie, and her orange tabby Pax.