How to use small wins to see build incredible progress
When I first started running, anything more than 2 or 3 miles was absolutely insane to me and not something I considered as possible.
I was a 6'4", 240-pound weightlifter, so if I somehow was able to ‘gut out’ 4 miles, I was extremely proud of myself and more so amazed that I just witnessed a miracle.
In fact, to that point, I don’t think I’d ever run more than a mile or two.
However, when a nerve injury abruptly ended my weightlifting career, I was forced to quickly find a new outlet. Having run before, I set my sights on running as my new choice to stay in shape.
At the start of my journey, I was big, bulky, and very inefficient. I was not a runner but instead was a weightlifter in search of a new outlet. Nonetheless, I was determined to get better and stuck with it long enough to see some results.
After weeks of persistent, consistent running, I did slowly improve. From huffing and puffing on a half-mile run to running a full mile non-stop.
Eventually, I even became pretty used to running 2 miles. It was a distance I felt comfortable with and was able to do pretty easily.
2 miles became relatively easy, required little preparation or warm-up, and was a workout I could complete in under 20 minutes.
At that point, a 2-mile run was my norm. A norm is the specific type or intensity of a workout that you are comfortable with.
Your norm is something that you’re used to doing at a certain frequency or volume. A standard, if you will, that you are able to adhere to easily. Something that you do so often that it requires little preparation or thought to complete.
That’s what running two miles was for me — my ‘norm’. After weeks and weeks of struggling with half a mile, and then a mile, I was eventually able to become comfortable running 2 miles.
Fast forward 2 years, countless hours, and even more miles, and I’ve now surpassed my previous ‘norm’. In fact, I completely built a new one.
As of today, I’m able to comfortably, and with little preparation or thought, run 7 miles. SEVEN MILES!
For me to even think about that is still surreal. I used to be a 240 lb. weightlifter struggling to run anything over 2 miles and now I’m 190 lbs. and running 7 miles with relative ease.
That’s the power of consistent, daily action. However, I wasn’t able to create my new ‘norm’ overnight. And it certainly wasn’t easy. It took two years and a lot of hard work and miles. But eventually, my body adapted, and running 7 miles started to feel like running 2 once did.
“Everytime we accomplish something we didn’t think we could, that’s like mental push-ups for the soul. You’ve then had that experience and your perception of your new normal shifts.” — Rich Roll
Creating your new norm
The concept of ‘norms’ is incredibly powerful in getting in better shape. Once you can identify your norm, or where you’re at now, you can slowly build to where you want to get.
How do you identify your norm you ask? Well, the process of creating your new ‘norm’ is not a complicated one, but it does require effort.
First, audit your life to find the frequency or volume of the act that you’re comfortable with. This is your current ‘norm’.
Next, all you have to do is make an incremental increase to your current ‘norm’ and perform at that frequency or volume until you become comfortable.
For example, if you’re comfortable running a mile a day, three days a week, that’s your current ‘norm’. Now, slightly tweak that so one of your days you run 2 miles. Then all you do is work at this adjusted ‘norm’ (1-mile x 2 days + 2 miles x 1 day) until you’re comfortable at that level.
Once you’re comfortable with this running schedule, congratulations, you’ve increased your ‘norm’! It’s really that easy.
Then once you finally build your new ‘norm’ you can continue to slowly stack one upgraded ‘norm’ on another. You’ll be surprised just how much progress you can make.
Using this concept of ‘norms’, I went from struggling to run anything over 2 miles to completing two half marathons and two full marathons in 2 years. It sometimes still seems surreal to me.
All in all, it’s really about staying true to where your fitness level is at now and slowly increasing what you’re comfortable with. If all you can do right now is walk one mile. Good. Keep walking one mile.
Eventually, one mile will feel like nothing and you can start walking two miles. Then, eventually, two miles will feel even easier. Then maybe try running half a mile. After some consistent efforts, running half a mile will become easier.
See how it works?
It doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s certainly not easy, but with consistent action and perseverance, you can slowly build your new ‘norm’ all the while becoming a better version of yourself.