Start Where You Are

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can – Arthur Ashe

I’m about to start co-leading a group as part of a project to get young girls to be more active and to live healthier lives, both physically and mentally. It has got me thinking about my own journey of getting started with being more physically active after having my kids. I enjoy running but procrastinated for ages about starting to run for a number of reasons. I had a one year old who didn’t sleep a lot, I was worried I would be slow, I didn’t like the idea of having to get through the hard bit where it is challenging to run and breathe for a while until I was fit enough to do both. I was struggling to motivate myself to get started. I kept thinking things like what it would be like to finish a 10k and tell people how long it had taken me to complete it. I was getting way ahead of myself on that one. I could probably only run a few hundred metres at the time and was imagining how my running might be in the future and what other people might think about it. How I might compare to others. When we compare ourselves to others it can make us feel stuck and can hold us back from living our lives. It stopped me from starting.

Starting something new can feel so hard because we want to be able to do it already; we want to be established and can find it hard to have to learn from scratch or practise for long enough until we can get going.

I knew that starting running would be hard because I was inactive and unfit. It would take a while to build up enough fitness to be able to breathe well enough to keep going. But somewhere deep down I knew that once I got past that stage that I’d enjoy it, that it would be good for me, and that once I’d done a run I would feel good. And once I did start I wished I’d started earlier.

I realised that no one was judging how I look when I run, or how fast I run. Most people are focused on beating their own pb’s (personal best times) and are pretty supportive of other runners. It’s about being better than you used to be rather than being better than others (unless you are a competitive runner). And it turns out that I’m not the slowest runner when I do a race. But I’m filled with admiration for those who are. Because they’re doing it. For themselves. And they don’t let what others think stop them from starting.

I read a few years ago that Mo Farah had greeted finishers at the end of the London Marathon who had been running for over 7 hours to finish. He congratulated them. One of them questioned why he was doing it and he replied that he had run for a couple of hours to finish and that it was amazing how they had kept going and going. He saw their perseverance and how hard they had worked to have been able to run for such a length of time. Often when we compare ourselves to others we are comparing what they are with what we aren’t. What they have with what we haven’t. And it makes us forget who we are. What we uniquely have to offer. People like Mo Farah are amazing. But not being able to run as fast as he can doesn’t mean that we can’t or shouldn’t run.

I’m not suggesting that you should start running, but what is there in your life where looking at others makes you feel stuck? Or makes you feel inadequate and forget what you’ve got to offer? What would you be starting or doing if it didn’t matter what other people think or what other people are doing? Start where you are.