I hate running. A lot.
It’s hard work, it does not come naturally to me and I find it boring. Finding it boring makes it even harder work because there is nothing to distract me from the fact that I’m finding it difficult. However, a few months ago I decided that it would be good fun to run a 5km with my hubby. I suggested this to him and we agreed we would go for the Manchester Colour Run 2016.
At the time I thought this was a great idea because a) it would mean doing something with my hubby (a definite win), b) it would help me keep fit, and c) how hard could it be to run 5km anyway?
As it turns out, very hard indeed. At least it is when you hate running as much as I do.
I started using the treadmill more at the gym to build up some stamina before running outside (where there are hills and roads and stuff – scary). At first I could barely run 1km without it nearly killing me but slowly I could run further and further. I managed 2km…then 2.5km…then 3km…and then I hit a block. I just couldn’t seem to run further than that.
There was one day during the summer holidays when I’d had a really good night’s sleep, a reasonably long lie in, a good breakfast (and time for it to go down) and decided to go for a mid morning trip to the gym. On this occasion I magically managed to run 5km!! Granted, the last km nearly killed me but I did it and I was so pleased with myself. I thought that would be it then, I’d do it again and again, I’d get faster and it would feel easier.
The next time I went I was back to that 3km road block again. And the time after that, and the time after that, and so on for 8 long weeks.
I lost heart pretty quickly; I do not like not being able to do things I feel I should be able to do.
It has been a very long, busy week at work. Every day this week I’ve been in early and left late. So when I got home today, going to the gym was absolutely the last thing I wanted to do. I moaned about it, pulled faces and posted a *reluctantly heads to the gym* tweet.
I decided I wasn’t going to push myself too hard (I really was tired) and agreed I would slow my pace a little and just set the treadmill to do a 25 minute run. I would do what I could.
As I was running, I started thinking about all the year 11 students I work with at school. How frustrating it is when they choose not to put in the effort. How maddening it is when they say they just “can’t” do it, when I know that they can, or that they could with just a bit more focus and hard work.
I realised that that mindset really does make all the difference.
[Growth mindset is one of our big ‘things’ at work this year; I’m not going to go into it all now but if you’re not already aware of it you should go and look it up. It’s a simple yet brilliant concept!]
As I was thinking about this and what I could do to motivate these students, to get them to think positively about themselves and their abilities, I somehow, without realising it, ran 2.5km without much effort. (Usually by that point I’m already flagging in a major way.) The treadmill switched automatically to a cool down…but I wasn’t done thinking.
I reset it for another 25 minute run and kept going.
I realised that they way I feel about running is probably how a lot of the kids I work with feel about school; it’s hard work, it’s boring and it doesn’t come naturally. But I know, in spite of these barriers, that these young people can achieve something to be proud of.
I was wracking my brain to think of things I could do to re-engage them with the process of learning. Getting them to understand that making mistakes is part of getting better, and to use those mistakes as tools for improving.
That’s when I hit 5km.
It was a good feeling but, honestly, I was less interested in what I’d achieved and more interested in how I’d done it. By slowing my pace by a tiny amount (0.2km/hr) and keeping my mind busy, I had managed, with relative ease, to do something I had been struggling with for months. Could I find a way to apply this to my students learning? Or rather get them to apply it to their own learning?
I haven’t quite come up with the answer to that one but I’m sure it must be possible. It will certainly be in my thinking when I’m interacting with students from now on.
There was one more thing I learnt during my gym trip tonight. The woman I was running next to was running faster and had run far further than me. But that didn’t matter. I knew that what I had managed was a big achievement for me. And I need to pass that on to my students. I need to find a way to say: Ignore the person in your form who seems to be getting A* after A* with very little effort ; you don’t know what they put in to get there. Ignore the person next to you who has written 3 paragraphs for your 1; more isn’t necessarily better. Comparing your work to others is unhelpful; compare your effort instead and just focus on putting your very best effort into your work. If you are still struggling, slow it down a bit but don’t stop and don’t give up.
This ended up being much longer and much more convoluted than I intended, but somehow it felt like and important message to share. Because it applies to us all in whatever context we find ourselves. Whether you are training to run 5km, 10km or a marathon; whether you are preparing for your GCSEs, A levels or degree; whether you’re working towards a promotion, trying to keep your house clean, writing a book or raising children (or several of these thing at once), keep going, slow it down if you need to, don’t compare yourself to others and DON’T GIVE UP! Your journey is your own and it’s just as important as the destination.
If this girl can, so can you.