Focus and Effort

Minimizing the effects of those BIG projects.

Yesterday I completed the longest run of my life, covering 15 miles before I collapsed, sweaty and pleased, into a pile that I hardly moved from for the rest of the day.  I noticed near the end of the run that my fingertips were getting a bit numb.  Given the fact that I've had a history or poor circulation, and I'd been pumping my heart hard for over 2 hours, it didn't surprise me at all.  It did get me thinking though, about what prolonged effort and focus does to a person. 

My family and relationships have taken a bit of strain lately as my marathon training heats up (I plan to run my first marathon in NYC this fall!) and I'm having to negotiate, simplify, get help, and back-seat some things in order to make the time to do my daily runs.  As the runs get longer, I can feel myself slowly getting more focused on the path I'm hoping to take to November 2nd, and gradually losing touch with all but the essentials in the other areas of my life.  The edges are starting to get a bit blurry on my big picture, and I realize that I'm losing some sensitivity to things on the fringe.  It's a side-effect of intense effort, and one I'm prepared to deal with while I pursue a major goal of mine. 

Awareness is the first key, as in most things.  I can see what this focus is doing to me, and am trying to communicate clearly with my husband and kids to make sure they're willing to support me in it, and that I'm not neglecting their needs either. All of us need to be aware of the sacrifices and trade offs.

Another critical piece is having a specific end point, that all are aware of, after which everyone can take a break.  In my case it's the marathon on November 2nd, and I think my family is looking forward to it as much as I am, for many reasons :).  Perhaps you're dealing with a huge push to work extra hours and catch up on debt: make sure you clearly define the goal, before your whole family collapses from burnout.  Preparing to move? Changing careers?  Whatever the goal, name it and make sure everyone involved is on board. 

In the running program I'm following they emphasize that the most important workout is the rest day, which comes after each intense "long run." If you don't let your body repair after intense activity, it will undo all the benefit you gained, and most likely injure you in the process.  Rest is a critical balance to intense focus. It allows you to see where you're at, regain a bit of perspective, and just plain take a break!  We're not so different than a tired toddler who misses a nap when we don't take that bit of advice.  Take breaks. 

One last bit that I can't leave out, and maybe should have been the first thought, is do what you love.   In my case I love running, and a good challenge, and my goal happens to fit both quite nicely.  Something like paying off debt might be an unpleasant goal, but choosing the perspective of "I love to be free of debt" as your focus while you work it off can make all the difference in the world.  Find a way to love at least some part of it.  If you do, the stresses on you and your family will be greatly reduced!  When it's all said and done, and you're flushed with success or limp with exhaustion and relief ... celebrate!  It's a great way to include those who felt the blur of your effort, and to announce your return to the land of the not-quite-so-focused.  Have a great ride!