Comparison Is The Killer of Purpose

By Shannon Franz

I used to compare myself to other people. Lifestyle, body, age… pretty much anything that could be compared. It took 30-some years, but I finally saw a quote that really impacted me and I have basically stopped it:

“Comparison is the killer of purpose.”

I realized that comparing myself to other people is downright silly and was robbing me of joy in my life. I believe there is a huge difference between comparing myself to someone and using that same person as motivation. Hoping to have a body that I wasn’t gifted with is irrational (i.e hoping I’ll grow upwards 8″ and become a supermodel is not healthy emotionally). However, viewing someone as an inspiration to achieve the best body I can for myself – that’s a great thing, in my opinion. We were all created to be unique. I used to compare my running times to other people – men, women, young, old, friends, strangers, relatives. I mean, if I compared my running times to an elite athlete, I’d be sorely disappointed every day for the rest of my life. I can use elite athletes as an inspiration. Granted, my goal is not to reach elite status, but I can be inspired by them to be the best version of myself.

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That being said, having this revelation before our son came into our lives, I believe was helpful in getting back into running postpartum (pp). I was stoked to receive clearance to run at 3 weeks pp (the surgeon gave it to me that soon because I was running before my pregnancy and I ran more than halfway into my pregnancy). Our birth didn’t turn out as we’d hoped (unplanned surgery), so my recovery was way more than I’d expected. I did my first pp run at 3 weeks and honestly, it was the worst time I’d pulled in recent memory, if not ever. But I ran. That’s what’s important. I ran 2 miles the first time out and came back home pretty disappointed. However, that disappointment didn’t last very long because I realized that was a great starting point on my road back. Adapting to a new baby in the house, I didn’t get out for another run for another few weeks. Another 2 mile run at 6 weeks pp and my time was better. The next time I shot for 3 miles and used that as a starting point for my 3 mile runs. My 3 milers became more frequent, turning them into 5ks. I decided to run my first organized 5k at 9 weeks pp. My one and only goal: to finish. Another goal in the dark depths of my mind: don’t walk at all. I finished, I didn’t walk and my time was 4 minutes slower than the previous years’ time (the same run), so I was pretty happy with that. I continually get faster times and will eventually use my pre-pregnancy times as goals.

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It can be hard to find time to run, especially with a new little one I the house. Stumbling and falling is expected, but what defines you is how many times you get back up and keep running. Finding the time, motivation, gumption – it’s challenging. I have some tips on how to get (back) into running/another type of workout. I hope other people find them helpful too.

1) Find a support team. Whether it’s as “simple” as one person or as “complex” as 15. I personally used a very minimalistic model – I found it less complicated. Find people who support your journey – someone who can help with the kiddo. Organize with them at the start of the week, planning out days and times for someone to watch the wee one while you go for a run. Of course, if your kiddo is old enough for a jogging stroller, that route is great too!

2) Communicate with your support team and ask that they communicate with you, especially if something comes up and plans need to change.

3) Plan ahead – have goals, long term and short term. Plan out your individual days as much as possible (I know, almost impossible with a newborn), along with your week (take Sunday afternoons and figure out who can help on which days and the times they are available). Long term goals – decide what length of run is reasonable in X amount of months, find an organized run that sounds fun to you, sign up for it and plan out your training to be ready for that run.

4) Be flexible, but don’t use that as an excuse. If something comes up for one of your supporters, ask if there is another time that week they could help out. If not, try to sneak in a quick workout with your dusty dumbbells, punching bag, TRX, and jump rope in your basement while the kiddo takes a nap.

5) Document everything you do so you can easily see progress and where you can improve. “Old fashioned” pen and paper, a heart rate monitor, or an app – keep track of pertinent information. How fast you ran, how much weight you bench pressed, how many calories you burned, etc. With time, you’ll figure out what info is important to you and what isn’t. Maybe you’ll eventually find a good groove and you won’t feel the need to track a single thing.

6) Have a role model. Whether it’s a friend, relative or a famous face, find someone who is an inspiration to you… but be careful you don’t start comparing yourself to them or envy could take over…

7) Post inspiration around your house and/or office. Use sticky notes or pictures in places you see every day to inspire yourself to get out and sweat. Wear inspirational jewelry that you can readily see. A few years ago, I made a ring and a bracelet that both say “Just Run”. Since making them, the ring came off only in my last week of pregnancy (bloating), other than that, I wear it every day and see it every day. It’s something that is constantly in front of my face and I look at it every day, dreaming about my next run.

8) Be patient with yourself and your progress. This is so important; you’re adapting to a new way of life with your baby – it will take time to figure it out and there will be bumps in the road to ride out. If you aren’t getting the results as fast as you were hoping, be patient. If you still aren’t seeing reasonable results, it’s probably time to change it up and integrate other things. Double check your diet to be sure that’s in an appropriate place to see results. Maybe trade out one run a week for a hike, yoga or boxing, etc. Are you too stressed out and running yourself ragged (maybe you need to actually slow things down a bit)? Maybe it’s time to invest in that personal trainer you’ve always wanted. Remember, just breathe… I tell myself that a lot. Stress is terrible for you on multiple levels. Always have gratitude for what you are able to currently do and try not to get frustrated.

9) Find a way to sweat that you love. What did you like to do as a child for exercise? Try that again – I bet you still like it! Didn’t have an athletic childhood? That’s ok – try new things until you find something you LOVE!!! If you HATE running, why would you do it? I’m not saying don’t exercise – I’m saying look around. Try new things – something you’ve always wanted to try. I bet there’s more than one sweaty form of exercise out there that you will love. I believe that if you find a way to move that you love, it will be more beneficial than if you do something you hate, no matter how hard you try.

10) Listen to your body. Did you get only 3 hours of sleep last night? Going on a hardcore run today may not be the best course of action to take. Do something lighter such as a fun bike ride around town, maybe a bit of relaxing yoga, or a delightful walk with your family.

11) As simple as this one sounds, if you are able, immediately dress in your running clothes for the day so you are ready to go, especially if plans change on you. They say getting ready to go is half the battle.

12) Even though it can be tempting to throw in the towel and call it quits on being healthy, remember you need to be the example for your kiddos. “If it was easy, everyone would do it”. They imitate what they see and hear! Involve them when they get old enough. When the Dr. gives clearance for your baby, you can take hikes (the little one in a hiking backpack, if needed), bike rides (there are so many great options out there for toting littles ones around – research and find one that works for your family), run with a stroller, etc. If your kiddo sees you working hard on your own health, they will be more likely to want to join in too.

13) Remember that whatever you do, it’s cyclical. You can feed it or you can fight it. Good actions harvest good results and when you get into a rhythm of eating well, being active, getting adequate sleep, etc, it will become a beautiful cycle. I find that they feed off of each other – if you go for an awesome trail run, you’re probably gonna feel on top of the world and you’re gonna want to find some healthy food. If you’ve sat around all day, watching TV, you’re gonna most likely feel like ordering whatever food you saw ads for on TV. Of course, you need time to relax, so do the best you can.

14) Get your exercise done as early as you can. I have found that if I put it off, it’s harder to get it done… 85% of the time, it doesn’t even happen if I don’t do it right off the bat. This will also set your day up for success, with feel-good endorphins to start off your day.

15) The most important tip I can possibly offer is: Enjoy your new baby!!! You HAVE to take care of yourself; I guarantee you will be much happier/healthier when you run (or whatever form of sweating appeals to you). Plus, you will be a good role model for your child/children. HOWEVER, whatever you do, do not get SO wrapped up in your training that you forget to enjoy your baby/kiddo! Time is so fleeting that it’s incredibly important to STOP and enjoy every single millisecond you’re with your precious family. It’s such a fine balance between finding “me time/sweat time” and making sure you don’t miss out on your baby’s life.

“Strive only to be better than your former self.”

(Be sure you check with your Dr. before starting an exercise program of any kind.)

Keeping it real: I wrote most of this 4 months after our Peanut entered the world, and soon afterwards, I hit stumbling blocks and didn’t run or workout very much for a while. I felt like a hypocrite if I were to send this off and wasn’t following my own advice, so I held onto it and didn’t send it for a while. I have however, followed my own advice on #15, thankfully. Truth of the matter is we are all human and we all fall down. A really smart man (my brother) once told me “Look at yourself in the mirror and if you are happy with what you see, keep doing what you are doing. If you are unhappy, change something in your life.” Here’s to falling down and getting back up.

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