Episode 287 – When Is Far Enough?

Written by Jonathan

I used to have a client that was well into his 70’s that ran in the Ottawa marathon every year from it’s inception in 1975. This accomplishment was a point of pride for him. Every year he put in 1000’s of kms of running training all for this single race, which he vowed to complete no matter what. He completed it rain or shine, injured or not and one year when it was especially hot, he zig zagged his way walking to the end almost passing out several times and against the recommendations of the paramedics supervising the race, they tried to stop him several times but he refused. Then one day before our session he said he wasn’t feeling very well so he cancelled for a few weeks when this phone call came,

‘Jonathan, I need to take a break from training for a while, I don’t even have the energy to get out of bed and I’m sleeping for over 14 hours a day. My doctor says I’m over training and shouldn’t do any exercise for a few months. I have rashes and sores all over my body.’      

Completing the marathon and running was ingrained in his identity, so much so that he ran himself into sickness, despite warnings from me, his doctors and the signals his own body was sending him.

I know a lot of you listening right now are unemotionally and objectively stepping back and thinking, who is this crazy guy and why on earth would he want to do so much running, but we all have our ‘running’ activities. For some people it might be an unhealthy obsession with getting a heavier and heavier bench press or deadlift to the point of chronic ‘on-again off-again’ injuries. For some people it might be an overly aggressive calculation of calories in and calories out, I think we’ve all witnessed and possibly been this person that meticulously measures their food, tracks very specifically the amount of calories they burn and weighs themselves every day, possibly multiple times a day. To stretch this a little bit further what about the person who works for 10,12 and possibly 14 or more hours a day on a consistent basis, because there are always things to get done, or what about the person who obsessively watches, just one more episode of a T.V show, 3 or 4 times an evening and sometimes over entire weekends where it consumes their entire lives.

As I go through these examples, it’s probably easy for you to unemotionally and objectively step back and say people that fall into one of those categories are imbalanced, until I got to the example that in some way applied to you and even if none of those examples did, there’s a good chance you spend more time than you should doing a single activity. You may be consciously aware of it, but you’re probably not, because most people aren’t until they see how it affects their lives in other negative ways. My question for you is, are you spending too much time focussed on a single activity or objective to the detriment of other things in your life, to use a running analogy, ‘Have you run far enough?’  

Have you run far enough?  

Is running 1 more km when you’ve already run 25, really going to help you become a better runner?

Is adding 25 pounds to your deadlift really going to make a difference when you can already lift 300?

Is measuring every calorie you consume making you an overall healthier person, especially when it restricts the activities you can do and the people you can spend time with?

Is working 1 more hour really going to advance your career, when you’ve already worked 12?

Is one more episode really going to offer you that extra escapism you need when you’ve already watched 2?

When is enough, enough?

I can’t answer this question for you, no one can and maybe running that extra km is essential because it’s your long run day and you’re training for your first marathon, maybe you’re in an event that requires you to cut weight and every calorie absolutely counts, maybe you’ve had an incredibly stressful week and 1 extra episode is exactly what you need. I’m not saying, it’s not okay to obsess about some things in the short term, but if it’s affecting your life in an unhealthy way over and over and over again, then it’s something you need to address and sometimes it’s not always obvious.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to see:

Does the rest of your life always revolve around this one activity?

If it’s fitness or exercise related if you don’t do it or if you have a really bad session do you feel like a failure? My client from the beginning of this episode one time pulled over on a road trip to a seedy motel, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the winter, at 9 o’clock at night so he could get his run in, just because he said he was going to run everyday, for an entire year.  

If it’s T.V shows, movies or aimless web browsing do you constantly feel guilt, shame or possibly depressed after you’ve spent hours ‘escaping’ from your life, but when the next day comes do you find yourself planning other activities around your shows or internet access even though you had such a negative experience before?

Just take a minute to think about your life and consider your relationship with all the activities you do on a daily basis and how you feel around them.

Which ones affect your life in a positive way?

Which ones affect your life in a negative?

What are the specific actions you need to take to improve?

There was a time in my life when I let T.V shows control it and in order to stop watching I cut the cable and removed all ambiguity from the other tasks or jobs I needed to complete. Once a job or task became crystal clear it became much easier to be motivated to do it and I wouldn’t procrastinate getting it done, and I let myself watch a show or a movie on the occasional Friday night. That’s how I deal with it.

If I could go back and change my approach with my client that was running too much, I would have tried to talk with him so we could work together to find more cross training activities he could do instead of running all the time.  I would have talked with him more and worked with him to find some other activities that were still active and fun, but way less demanding than running marathons, like curling or maybe playing bridge a couple times a week and cutting back on his running and intense training, because it not only would have made him a more well rounded person, it probably would have made him a better runner too, because it would have given his body a chance to recover

As you look at your life and how you could change it for the better, get as specific as you can about the actions you need to take to change and just having those actions can go a long way in helping you make a change that will actually stick.

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