Keep Your Eyes OFF the Prize


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  119 comments   :  66,697 Views

If Cincinnati is known for anything (especially among its many runners and cyclists), it is known for its hills. You can't run, bike, hike or even walk very far in this city without encountering multiple inclines, some of which are very steep! That is partly what makes our Flying Pig Marathon so notorious! When I run outside or hit the road on my bike, there is no avoiding the hills. And while many exercisers despise hills, I've come to accept them—even appreciate them. And no, I'm not a masochist.
On my many long runs these past few months (I will be running the Flying Pig half marathon this Sunday), I've climbed a lot of hills and had a lot of time to think about each one.  I've realized that we all have our own hills—in running, in weight loss and in life. Whether a hill slows us down or holds us back has less to do with its actual physicality (or our own) and much more to do with our outlook as we approach it.
Each time I reach the foot of another steep hill, I look forward, not up. When I look for the top it's far too easy to feel deflated. That end goal looks so far away and so difficult to reach! I tend to lose momentum and often get side-tracked with negative thoughts about how hard it's going to be. But when I keep my eyes directly forward, watching the ground just a few feet in front of me, it's amazing how my attitude changes. From that view, I can't tell how long or how steep a climb is. In fact, I can hardly even tell I'm going uphill at all. When I look forward instead of up, I maintain speed (and a much sunnier disposition), and I reach the top of the incline almost effortlessly. Only then do I look back and see how far I've really come. And remember: The view from the top is much better than the view from the bottom!
While each hill we encounter may feel like a roadblock, it's not. It's a challenge that, while perhaps long or hard, will eventually come to an end. If you keep moving forward, you will always reach the top. If you keep going from there, you will feel wind and gravity carrying you with speed and ease to the bottom. And once you're on a flat again, you appreciate it that much more. You harness that momentum from the downhill and keep pushing forward.

Eyes forward, I approach a hill like I would any other goal: one step at a time. Your goal may be big: to lose 100 pounds, to run a marathon, to pay down a large debt. If you only look at the end goal (the summit) from where you are now (the foot), it's easy to feel discouraged. But when you break it into smaller steps and keep your eyes focused on what you can do right now in this moment, the top doesn't matter anymore. All that matters is the next step you take.
Trust me, no one sets out to run a marathon thinking, "I am 26.2 miles from the finish line!" They take it one step and one mile at a time. And if you plan to lose 50 or 100 pounds—or whatever you goal—the worst thing you can do is focus on how far away that end goal is.
Break it down:

One step.
One minute.
One mile.
One workout.
One choice.
One bite.
One meal.
One hour.
One day.
One week.
One pound.
As long as you're moving forward, you will eventually reach the top.
Sometimes getting there will be labored, long and challenging. But it is the nature of any hill or challenge to make us stronger in body and in spirit. Every hill I ascend makes me appreciate the descents and the flats that much more. Hill training makes you stronger and faster when hills aren't present because everything else feels so much easier. Each incline I climb gives me a chance to push through a challenging situation (one that—let's be honest—I'd rather avoid) and build not just leg strength, but character as well. It makes you proud. It makes you realize that if you can do this, there is no limit to what else you can achieve.
Bring on the hills.

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  • 119
    One step at a time. That is what I have to remember. - 2/23/2018   3:15:44 PM
    Your article makes a lot of sense, Coach Nicole! Thanks! - 2/16/2018   11:52:45 AM
  • 117
    Great article, one step at a time. - 1/17/2018   10:55:12 AM
    Great article - 12/7/2017   1:02:38 PM
    Great motivation article! - 12/7/2017   5:36:15 AM
    Great article. - 11/11/2017   3:14:05 PM
  • 113
    Lots of hills in Seattle, too. Good points. - 10/27/2017   11:44:35 AM
  • 112
    Great reminder to take baby steps - 8/13/2017   10:08:23 PM
    Love the article. Thank you. - 8/12/2017   2:33:07 PM
  • 110
    thanks - 7/10/2017   5:22:09 PM
  • 109
    Thank you, Nicole. Personally, this is my first time ever reading this "Break it down" idea and I think it will be most helpful, if I can remember to alway keep it in mind. Much appreciated! - 12/11/2016   4:47:35 PM
  • 108
    Not mentioning anyone personally, but snarky comments aren't helpful to anyone; so kindly keep them to yourself and maybe try to focus on *positive* reinforcement...please? Thank you! - 12/11/2016   4:45:42 PM
    Wow... this article came right on time for me. I still have about 65 pounds to lose and I keep looking at the end goal. Thanks for the reminder to take it one step at a time, one workout at a time, one meal at a time. Very helpful! - 12/11/2016   3:13:38 PM
    You are fortunate to live in an area with lots of hills as you can add challenge and interest to your hikes or runs and vary them more easily. I love visiting my sister-in-law in Portland OR as we can walk the hilly neighborhoods and get an excellent heart-pumping workout so much more easily than in our flat central WI. - 12/11/2016   9:33:42 AM
  • 105
    Thank you!!! So needed this!! - 1/27/2016   8:48:46 PM
  • 104
    I'm so glad I read this today. I live in Pittsburgh, and there are a lot of hills so I can totally relate to what you're saying. I need to stop focusing on the end result, and be in the present moment--look straight ahead. Thank you! - 2/21/2015   10:03:00 AM
  • 103
    Excellent. I love the breakdown and I intend to use it. Well said. - 6/20/2014   2:48:24 PM
    LOVE this! Saving it to reread when discoyragement threatens to creep back in. - 5/29/2014   11:01:55 AM
  • 101
    Great blog Nicole! Thanks u r AMAZING! - 3/4/2014   4:02:23 PM
    I really needed to read this today, thanks for posting - 11/10/2013   2:38:28 PM
  • 99
    Thank you so much. That is very inspiring. - 11/10/2013   4:12:29 AM
  • 98
    Thanks so much! This is a very helpful analogy. - 6/26/2013   5:35:04 AM
  • 97
    Nice reminder.... - 6/13/2013   6:04:33 AM
  • 96
    i tell people this all the time take it step by step - 6/2/2013   4:00:15 AM
  • 95
    Thanks for a very inspirational blog. You said it so directly that it is easy to understand. I love that we need to Break it down:

    One step.
    One minute.
    One mile.
    One workout.
    One choice.
    One bite.
    One meal.
    One hour.
    One day.
    One week.
    One pound.

    That makes our goals so much easier to do. - 5/27/2013   1:51:24 PM
  • 94
    Thank you, Nicole!
    This blog is going in my "Treasure Box" where I'm gathering my favorite blogs, tips, articles, recipes, uplifting quotes, etc. I reach into this virtual box whenever I am discouraged.

    Oh, and the part of your blog that reads...

    "Break it down:

    One step.
    One minute.
    One mile.
    One workout.
    One choice.
    One bite.
    One meal.
    One hour.
    One day.
    One week.
    One pound.

    As long as you're moving forward, you will eventually reach the top."

    Well, I'm going to make that into a motivational poster with your name on it.

    Thanks again! - 5/27/2013   7:32:27 AM
  • 93
    Very helpful ideas on how to stay motivated! Thanks. - 5/9/2013   9:14:53 AM
  • 92
    Loved this blog. I always look at weight loss two pounds at a time. If I look at the "big" number I get overwhelmed but two pounds at a time is very attainable.

    - 5/8/2013   7:36:05 PM
  • 91
    Love this article, thanks! Its inspired me to reset my weight tracker, and to run more hills! - 5/8/2013   12:25:58 PM
    One step at a time to conquer anything is the sure fire way to accomplish goals and not stress about them. - 5/7/2013   5:12:09 PM
  • 89
    Super analogy, and congrats on your run! - 5/7/2013   7:32:26 AM
  • 88
    Thank you this can help! - 5/6/2013   1:56:50 PM
  • 87
    A seriously awesome blog. One of the best I have ever read on SparkPeople. Thanks so much! - 5/6/2013   12:38:38 PM
    This echoes a favorite motivational saying I have:

    The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time! - 5/5/2013   11:39:12 AM
    I totally needed to read this today! Thanks for the inspiration and motivation. Bring on the hills! - 5/5/2013   8:14:47 AM
    Bring on the hills! What a great thought, Coach Nicole! Thanks for your inspiring words! - 5/4/2013   10:37:43 PM
  • 83
    I really appreciate this article. I copied the Break It Down section and am printing it to keep in multiple places for the wisdom and inspiration it provides me. Thank you. - 5/4/2013   7:01:35 PM
    This is one of the best articles you've written. I like it and thanks! - 5/4/2013   11:43:09 AM
  • 81
    Just what I needed today! Keeping moving to the top of the hill, fast or slow it doesn't matter! - 5/4/2013   6:51:48 AM
  • 80
    Oh! I love this! I know how to do this in lots of parts of my life but right now I'm working on a fitness challenge and I'm just beginning to incorporate the "eyes forward" attitude as I strive towards it. Funny how it takes a while, sometimes, to see something's transfer-ability. Now, when I'm working towards my new fitness goal I'll think if you and remember - one step at a time. Thanks! - 5/4/2013   6:05:11 AM
  • 79
    Yet another recycled item....maybe Spark People need more bloggers or just ones who have the time to attend to their blogs...or at least allow us points for them, since many are recycled from articles published on the site a few years ago....

    Kind of telling when a "new" blog post can have more that 20K views in a couple of hours - 5/4/2013   1:27:45 AM
    Yes! Bring on the Hills!

    Your story is a reminder of the joy one has in overcoming obstacles one step at a time; one hill at a time; focusing on the now; finding joy in accomplishing the goal.

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. - 5/3/2013   6:12:26 PM
  • 77
    thank you - 5/3/2013   5:58:55 PM
    Thank you. - 5/3/2013   5:07:01 PM
  • 75
    Thank you. I remind myself of the small changes I make and try to keep my focus positive. Some days are more challenging than others which makes me appreciate articles like this. - 5/3/2013   2:11:00 PM
    Very well said. - 5/3/2013   1:39:25 PM
  • 73
    Thanks for posting this, it was a great motivator. - 5/3/2013   12:56:07 PM
  • 72
    Great advice, as always. I'm beginning to like running hills--do it enough and it begins to grow on you. Looking just a few feet or yards in front gets me to the top. See you at Flying Pig! - 1/17/2013   8:58:43 AM
  • 71
    Loved this blog! - 9/7/2012   7:39:44 AM
  • 70
    Great blog! - 4/23/2012   10:27:19 AM

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