It is 7:15 pm. The sun is setting, and I sit in my car at the trailhead, still in my clothes from work. I let out a long audible sigh, though nobody is around to hear it. I am tired, I have a lot of homework, and I would rather go home to make dinner and drift into a magical dreamland. But I have goals, dreams, and the will to be much greater than I am. And so the trail beckons and my footsteps soon hit the crunchy gravel.
Why do we do this? Why do we choose pain and discomfort over the regular mundane? It’s because adventurous people cannot sit still. We thrive from working hard, sweating daily, and that feeling of accomplishment. Adventurous people are both intrinsically motivated and intrinsically satisfied.
So, how do we do it? How can we pursue goals, adventure, and an outdoor lifestyle while still adhering to the expectations of the regular world? The answer is simple: finding balance.
I have thought about this often and thoroughly. But after watching a short film created by my friends and sisters in sports, Stephanie Howe & Ashley Arnold, I decided to put pen to paper and write it out concretely.
To attain balance, here are some tips I try to follow:
1. Be goal oriented.
I find I can pursue my absolute best when I set goals for myself. I like to make micro and macro goals. For instance, I ask myself, what can I do this week, this month? What do I want to accomplish? Is it a full work week with two long runs on the weekend? For my macro goals, I like to dream big. What exciting adventure am I saving up for? When I graduate, what career do I want to pursue? Sometimes those lofty dreams can seem super far away in the moment, so having micro goals help to keep the workflow going smoothly and to grant minor successes along the way.
2. Reward yourself.
Setting standards for yourself and being disciplined isn’t sustainable in the long run unless you give yourself a reward now and then. These can go hand in hand with your micro and macro goals. For example, I strive to do my school work diligently and adhere to my training schedule each week. So after I have finished studying and completed my long run, I will indulge in my favorite dark chocolate almonds or a mocha latte. My macro goals are almost rewards in itself. When I graduate college, I want to spend the summer in Europe training for my ultimate goal: The Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc 100 mile. Playing in the Alps will be my treat for studying hard and finishing my classes.
3. Be flexible.
It’s okay; life happens. Failing to do a task or not completing a goal is totally fine. Everybody goes through this, and it always provides a lesson. There are days when I cannot get out to the trails because of work or school. One day off will not kill you or completely set you back. Stepping back and relaxing is even encouraged once in a while. If you have too much going on, pursuing mental health and stability is of much greater importance.
Make it a habit.
As a student, my life is constantly on the go. But budgeting time and thinking ahead helps me get things done in work and play. Making things routine may seem to revert life back to the mundane and regular, but that’s where the reward system comes in to spice it up! I always change the location of my Saturday morning run to keep it interesting. They say it takes 21 days to create a habit. So when it gets hard, don’t lose hope. It WILL get easier.
4. Have fun!
The whole point of why we are out there is because we love it! Stopping to look at vistas, picking flowers, and jumping around on rocks lets me connect back to my original purpose of playing outside. Everything you are doing, you should be doing because you love it.
Around 9:00 pm, I arrive back to the trailhead. Breathless, sweaty, dirty, and with rosy cheeks. I am grinning. I ran fast up one hill, and I almost tripped on a few rocks. A flower, almost dead from a beating, is strewn across my hair. It was blooming in the sunset, and I just had to pick it. It is now dark, and I didn’t get to study as much as I wanted for that one test tomorrow, but the happiness and triumph from my heart furiously beating is worth so much more.
Written by SisuGirls Community Ambassador, Kelsie Clausen.
Kelsie is a college student studying to become a paediatric nurse and an avid trail runner with a passion for nature. As one of the youngest females in the ultra running community, Kelsie says she's inspired by and constantly learns from other women who set the bar high and hopes to be that kind of role model that girls can look up to.