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A good mindset helps, but it isn’t everything

Are you guys familiar with the show “How I Met Your Mother”? One of my favorite characters from that show is Barney, the overconfident player type, and one my favorite lines of his from that whole series, “You don’t train for a marathon, you just run it!” His training approach also reflects that mentality. It’s also SO far from the truth, because marathons totally take a LOT of training. I’m currently training for a half-marathon sparked by a comment thread with Our Next Life on one of their posts or ours, I forget really, but it gave me the idea and I set the goal. So, for 6 weeks now I’ve been training to run a half-marathon in 2 more weeks. While Barney’s approach that “it’s all mental” factors in somewhat, you definitely need to also put in the hard work.*

This past Thanksgiving the most distance I’d ever run at one time was 4.7 miles. I just couldn’t break the 5 mile mark. I was so envious of other people I’d see running effortlessly and for longer than 25 minutes and I thought, “if only I could hit 5 miles…” For non-runners, I can’t explain this feeling especiallyย since I’ve only recently admitted I like running, lol. I started where anyone starts when stuck on a problem and I googled, “how can I run 5 miles?”. I was struck by the plethora of forums out there for runners, running issues, proper form, pacing (wtf is pacing?), and so, I got more serious about it.

Until then, I’d treated running as a quick form of exercise but never with any thought about technique or “proper” form. I quickly realized my form sucked… Drunken Monkey was my apparent running style, so I started focusing on that, followed by working on slowing my pace. I ran like a sprinter horse because my “comfortable pace” was an 8 minute mile or about 7.5 mph.

Now that's a Drunken Monkey!

Now that’s a Drunken Monkey!

However, I’d be out of energy after a half hr or so and I couldn’t get myself to slow down. So I worked at slowing down, and slowing down a lot. I dropped 2 minutes off my pace and holy cow, I was able to run 5 miles no problem! Seriously, after focusing on my pace and form I was able to hit 4.75 miles on one run, then 4.9 miles in another run, which killed me because I was so close to my randomly set goal of 5 miles…. The next night I ran that same route and then a little extra to be sure and finally broke my 5 mile barrier! I realized I did it by educating myself “how to do it” and also putting in the work with my form and pacing.

Great, now that I’ve educated myself and gotten better form, I still worried about running the actual half-marathon distance of 13.2 miles. I’ve done a couple of 9 mile runs, and talking with other runners that have run half marathons, I kept getting reassured that I’d be fine for the last 4 miles, but I hadn’t accepted that mindset yet. However, last Monday night I went out to run 5.5 miles and I ended up running 13.4 miles! How? I didn’t let myself believeย it wasn’t possible. I was feeling good and I thought “if I’m feeling good, I should see how far I can go”. So I did and I kept going and when I got to 10.5 miles I knew I could finish the entire distance. I had a good pace and rhythm and so I just kept going, smiling even because I knew I was going to do it.** I didn’t just tell myself, “yeah I probably could’ve gone another 3 miles”, I actually did it. I ran an unofficial half-marathon distance without even walking! Yeah!!

That’s when I realized that training for a half-marathon is similar to FI in that I just needed to adjust my mindset that it is possible. I didn’t think FI was possible until I changed my mindset and broke that mental barrier that was holding me back. I also didn’t think 6 months ago that running 5 miles was possible, let alone 13.4 miles, and yet I ran that distance without stopping last Monday night. For both, you need to have a positive mindset that they are achievable, and you also have to put in the hard work to achieve either outcome successfully.

It took me a long time to get my mindset changed on our FFLC plan and for the longest time it didn’t feel like we were getting anywhere. Like with my running, we’re now in the “final 3 miles” of our FI plan, and the hard work is paying off.

Mrs. SSC recently changed her mindset that she was too old to learn the cello, and is now practicing and learning how to play. Nick at The Money Mine changed his mindset on half-marathons and ran one a few weeks ago – Congrats again! At The Frugal Farmer Laurie’s daughter Maddie changed her mindset and was able to fight her way out of a crowd of kicking, punching adults – whoa!

Do you have anything you changed your mindset on?


*After he completed his marathon, Barney’s legs quit working on the subway and he is stuck for hours riding loops around the city. Without the training his legs couldn’t handle the immediate shock of running a marathon.

** I still don’t desire to do a whole marathon because that just seems horrid and sadistic. I can’t picture myself smiling during a full marathon, so for now, I’ll just do half. ๐Ÿ™‚

19 thoughts on “A good mindset helps, but it isn’t everything

  1. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer

    LOVE this, Mr. SCC, and it SO spoke to me today. I’ve been on self-pity track about reaching FI, about dumping our debt, and I realized after reading your post that I’ve been subconsciously telling myself that we can’t do it and that that is where the defeatist attitude is sneaking in. Time to change my mindset. I need to take a lesson from you. Or from my kid. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for the mention!

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Awesome, I’m glad it helped you out! ๐Ÿ™‚ I find myself getting into that defeatist attitude sometimes, and then I have to remind myself that, “Sure, things may suck about my current situation, but good or bad, I’m still way better off than a lot of other people.” That mindset sort of prompted that post obout being happy for first world problems.

      Yeah that story about your daughter was pretty inspiring, because it just highlights how important a positive mindset can be.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Yeah without the work, you end up like Barney – stuck in a subway just looping around along for the ride, so to speak. ๐Ÿ™‚ Like I said, I’ve only recently admitted that I like running. ๐Ÿ™‚ I think it stems from playing soccer from 3rd grade until highschool, and having to run at practice so much. I’ve always seen it as a negative instead of a positive. Not anymore though.

  2. Brian @ debt discipline

    Love me some, wait for it…. Barney. A really funny character. Mindset change is really our breakthrough in our debt repayment journey. It wasn’t until we got our behaviors and attitude toward money right that we were able to make a change. Good luck on the half-marathon!

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Haha, yeah Barney’s great! Self five!! The big breakthrough for me on our FFLC journey was changing how I saw money and my relationship with it. Like your family, it’s probably what changes most in people wanting to end their current bad cycle of whatever it is they’re dealing with, whether it’s debt, gambling, drinking, too much tv, whatever it is, without changing the mind set it’s easier to keep doing what you’ve been doing.
      Thanks, I’ll let you guys know how it turns out!

  3. amber tree

    Running seems to be a popular mindset change. I also started slowly, building up to 5K and one day I reached 9K.
    Sadly, I now am a little injured at the knee… I will have to follow up with a doctor to figure out what is wrong. I still run, just less.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      I think unless you’re an athletic freak of nature, there’s no other way tos tart running, lol. I twisted my knee in a puddle a few weeks back and had to take 4 days off, icing it for a few hrs at night, but fortunately it didn’t linger. Lesson learned when running in the rain, run around puddles, not through them… ๐Ÿ™‚

      Good luck with getting your knee back to normal!

  4. Tawcan

    Running is something I haven’t been able to pick up. There’s just something about running that does not fit for me. Perhaps I need a total mindset change myself. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Mrs. SSC is the same way with running. It hurts her when she tries to do it, so she doesn’t do it. Recently, she found out it’s the way her hips, legs and knees are aligned that’s causing the pain. Nothing unusual or serious, she’s just not built for running. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Our Next Life

    Congrats on getting up to 13.4!! And no wall, right? That’s the only real difference between a half and a full — the wall. But if you run slowly enough and hydrate properly, you don’t even really hit that. I still bet you’ll want to do the full deal after you finish your official half. ๐Ÿ™‚ And same concept — it’s of course some prep, but it’s mostly mindset. Mr. ONL has run four marathons and I’ve only run 1, and I got injured training because I felt like confidence was the most important thing, and so ran 20, 22, 24 and 26 before the actual race so that I wouldn’t lack confidence on race day, and it turned out that was way too much running. Mr. ONL will only go as high as 14 or 15 before the full, and he’s had no significant injuries that way. So sometimes the mindset shift that you need is that it’s better to be underprepared than overprepared — definitely different from financial matters! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. TheMoneyMine

      My running coach actually recommended me to stop running 7-10 days before the race to let the body recover from all the preps. It seems that the main cause of injuries for marathon runners is … in the (over) preparation ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. Mr SSC Post author

      Thanks! Not only did I hit my goal of running that distance 2 weeks early, but I also broke the 2 hr mark doing it. I felt like it was a comfortable pce too, so hopefully, I can keep it up during the race. It was at night, and cooler than the race day will be but still it was a good confidence booster that my stretch goal is attainable! ๐Ÿ™‚

      As far as your race prep – holy cow… I’ve only run a few 9 milers, and then that one long run was definitely a one-off and not planned. I’ve had a stomach bug over the weekend, so i ran last night, but just a 5k, and then I plan to run this week just to get my blood going, and keep my body remembering that we have a race, but I definitely don’t plan on any runs over 6-7 miles from now until Monday, and I will just hit a 3.2 miler then before I stop and “taper down” for the race.

      I can feel it in my body when I do 9 milers and I usually need an extra day to feel “normal” again so none of those from now until race day. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. TheMoneyMine

    I couldn’t remember this episode of How I Met your mother until you mentioned Barney couldn’t walk out of the subway and got stuck there. I’d say this was one of the most hilarious moments in that series!

    I’d say that the mindset shift is critical in almost everything.
    Running is a good example, a journey to FI is another one, but really, how many things do we think we CAN’T do, even though when other people do, we’d say “oh, I COULD have done that!”.

    Now you have the proof your body is physically ready to run. Take ONL’s story for reference and take it easy for the next 2 weeks, over preparation can be counter productive.

    You’ll do great, please report back with your time ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Yeah when he realized his legs didn’t work it was hilarious. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      I definitely plan to take it easy this week, just doing 3-5 milers with maybe a 6 miler this weekend before shifting into prep-recovery-race mode next week. No running past Monday tops, if I do run then it will just be a 3 miler – easy pace, deal.

      I feel good though, and will let you know how it turns out. Running at night though is probably a different environment than race day, where there will be all sun, no shade, and more hills than usual, even though they’re still fairly minimal. Like you said, hills suck. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. The Personal Economist

    So true, I’m training for my first half marathon and often see the similarities between this and personal finance. I hated running as a kid but frugality meant I had to give up my gym membership so took up running, and now I’m addicted.
    I’m listening to FIRE podcasts so I’m motivated to keep running to finish the podcast.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Good luck on your half marathon! I took up running more seriously due to kids and schedules. I found I wasn’t doing much exercising since I would get home by 6pm, mess around with the kids and get them ready for bed at ~7pm, then have dinner, etc… So not a lot of time to exercise. With running, I can be out the door and going in 3 minutes after the kids go down, so I get in 30-50 minutes running and still have time to eat and decompress before bed.
      Ahhh, the joys of parenting and the hectic life with kids… ๐Ÿ™‚

      Good luck on your race and elt us know how it turns out!

  8. Elephant Eater

    I’m not a runner, but have always loved to push myself with physical endurance activities like long ridge traverses and high altitude mountaineering. At the same time, I’ve spent much of my adult life afraid to tackle challenges ranging from learning about investing to doing anything mechanical, especially related to cars. Our success with our finances has made me regain my love for learning new things and challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone in many new areas. These include varied activities from learning to blog, re-examining my Christian faith that I had for a long time given up on and even learning to change my own oil on the cars.

    Great post and good luck in the half. I’m sure it will be legend…..wait for it….dary!

    1. Mr. SSC

      Haha, I love Barney! Comment – Five!

      I find I’m comfortable challenging myself to a point. For instance that stupid AC overflow line that got clogged last fall. I was fine “You-tubing” it and trying those fixes, but when it got down to taking a hacksaw and going to town on my AC unit’ drain hose that is housed in my attic (idiotic design) I thought I’d defer to someone with more experience. After they “fixed it” and the problem appeared again a few days later, I was fine getting the hacksaw and chopping up the parts.
      By then I was way more comfortable with doing that for a few reasons. 1. I knew it had to be in that section, because it was the only one the guy didn’t monkey with… 2. I had the pieces I needed to put it back together because I watched the plumber do it on a different section. 3. I wasn’t paying another $300 to have someone do this for me.
      When I blew that section out with the garden hose in the backyard, I got about 2-3 cups worth of rust, sludge, and general crud out of the pipe and it went back together fine, and has had no issues since. That reminds me I need to dump some bleach in there soon though…

      That’s awesome that you’ve gotten into trying more things and challenging yourself in different areas. It’s all baby steps. The more you try the more comfortable you are and the more you try next time.

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