Successful Life Change: How To Go Slow When You Want To Go Fast

© Gerdi Verwoert 2016

As a coach who likes to offer her clients the opportunity to have a deep and potentially life altering experience by not just coaching them but by coaching them while taking them into the mountains, I feel it is necessary to not just be in the best possible mental shape, but also be so in the physical sense.

So one early Thursday morning I find myself at the foot of a pristine snow covered mountain slope. There are nothing but animal tracks on it and nobody else is in sight. Perfect conditions!

I put the skins on my skis, click in my boots and start to slowly make my way up the mountain. Only 900 altitude meters (2,953ft) to go before I reach my destination. I set a pace for myself by breathing in on one step, while breathing out on the next. Though I find I want to pick up the tempo when the ground is (somewhat) level, I know it is a pace that will get me through the steepest sections of the trail and – most importantly – it will get me where I want to go.

[bctt tweet=”I know the right pace will get me to where I want to go #DareGreatly #BlazeYourOwnTrail”]

When I’m about an hour into my climb, I notice two ski-tourers coming up behind me. They are moving fast and unconsciously I find myself picking up speed thinking I should be staying ahead of them. After all they started (much?) later than I did! And besides they are older than I am; I should be in better shape than they are!

It takes considerable conscious effort on my part to bring my pace back down and revert back to the tempo I know I will be able to maintain. If I were to try and match their pace I would ‘die’ halfway up the mountain and probably never reach my goal.

Not half an hour later I get overtaken by another ski-tourer. Like the two before he is travelling fast and he too is older than I am. Again I find myself picking up my pace and again I have to very consciously make the effort of bringing it back down to a pace I can maintain.

Four more times on this tour I am overtaken. Only two ski-tourers overtaking me are younger than I am. Each time I have to very consciously make the effort to stay with myself and the pace I set myself.

While considering this tendency to pick up my speed when being overtaken and the considerable effort I then have to make to go back to a tempo I can maintain, it suddenly hits me!

I find myself in a classical Marathon vs Sprint situation.

Even though this is my first training session, I want to immediately be at my most fit and therefore fastest best (“Sprint”) instead of honouring my current condition and acknowledging it will take time to change that condition to the one I desire (“Marathon”).

I’m on the same timeline as those other ski-tourers, but they are further along. It may be they have been training all winter or they have been ski-touring their whole lives. They may have better technique or they are just more talented. Whatever it is, we are all on the same timeline; we’re just in different positions on that timeline.

Another realisation hits me!

[bctt tweet=”I can’t expect to be in peak condition when I’ve only just started training today #DareGreatly #BlazeYourOwnTrail”]

It will take time to build my fitness back up. Of course there are going to be people who are faster than I am and are therefore ahead of me on the same ski-touring timeline! Just as there are lesser experienced or fit people who are behind me.

It takes training to get better, to get in better shape, to move further up the timeline. I can’t expect to be as good or as fast as those who have been training all winter or have been doing this their whole lives. Nor can I be as good or as fast as I was when I was in shape because I had been training so much.

[bctt tweet=”Getting better, fitter and moving further up the timeline is a Marathon; not a Sprint! #DareGreatly #BlazeYourOwnTrail”]

Picking up the pace, rushing (“Sprinting”) for the sake of staying ahead of those ski-tourers coming up behind me, will bring me success for a couple of minutes but will then backfire on me spectacularly.

I will quickly run out of breath and strength and find myself reaching my goal much later than I could have if I reach it at all. I wouldn’t be able to sustain the change I made in my performance. (Believe me I’ve tried this and failed!) I’ll be stuck in the same position on the timeline and probably bound to be overtaken by those coming up behind me.

Taking a more deliberate and thoughtful approach (“Marathoning”) will actually get me to my goal quicker. By building up my stamina and strength I will get better and faster. I’ll be able to sustain my pace and even be getting faster because the changes I’m making are sustainable. This way I keep improving, keep moving forward along the timeline towards ski-touring mastership.

Marathoning vs Sprinting in Coaching

In coaching this concept of “Marathoning” versus “Sprinting” comes up, when my clients come to me wanting to realize a (major) change in their lives.

Looking or hoping for immediate results (“Sprinting”), they are – when not coached intensely around their expectations – disappointed when the desired change doesn’t materialize overnight.

What are some signs a client is acting as a sprinter rather than a marathoner?

  • They grasp at the first, immediate and obvious cause beneath their challenge instead of getting at the deeper cause
  • They make immediate and/or superficial changes that turn out to be unsustainable (going for immediate rather than lasting results)
  • They move very quickly to start with, only to find themselves soon starting to dwindle and eventually come to a grinding halt
  • They compare themselves to others further along the same timeline and feel they should be getting the same results right now
  • They start thinking of giving up when not quickly getting the desired results
  • They don’t adapt when the going gets tough. They give up on their stated goal rather than remaining faithful to it
  • They lose sight of the long term goal and/or have difficulty imagining what realizing their goal would look, feel, taste and/or sound like

Empowering my clients throught the “Marathoning” perspective

“Marathoning” is about making the case for sustainable change. It is not about mindlessly chugging along, but rather about the client being aware of the long term goal they have set themselves and all the small incremental steps that will get them there. Those small steps are what will make the change a lasting one.

“Marathoning” requires setting the right pace. Going too fast will result in burnout or giving up. When going at a slower pace the client is able to keep going and build on the experience they gain by doing so.

When “Sprinting” the client runs the risk of going so fast they miss the opportunity to learn from setbacks or mistakes. They don’t have time to adjust trajectory or plans. “Marathoning” on the other hand has a more relaxed but determined pace which gives them time to learn. Then they can make adjustments to plan and actions as necessary; making sure they stay on course towards reaching their  goal.

When “marathoning” the client is in it for the long haul and it can be challenging to keep the end goal in mind. Regularly imagining what it will feel, sound, smell and/or taste like when the goal is reached helps keep the focus clear.

Intermittently (every few weeks or so) going back to the timeline to see where they are now relative to their goal is also helpful to the client. It is a form of (self-)acknowledgement of the positive changes “marathoning” has helped them realize, an opportunity to learn from what didn’t work so well and a chance to adapt the plan for the next phase.

YOUR TURN! What was an occasion in your life when you found yourself “Sprinting” when “Marathoning” would have served you better? What is an area in your life where you would be served by “Marathoning” right now?  I would love to hear from you. 

Share your thoughts below and let me know what you think what you think. Be as specific as you can when you share your thoughts. Other people, Trailblazers like you, will be inspired by your ideas and actions.

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Thank you for reading and adding your voice to the conversation.

As always…

Go dare greatly!