What Now? How to Not Accidentally Quit After Reaching A Big Goal

A runner crosses the finish line to confetti and applause. NOT THIS AUTHOR. Photo by RUN 4 FFWPU on Pexels.com

Congratulations! You’ve reached your goal!!

But instead of elation, or maybe alongside it, you feel tired or depleted or ravenous. Maybe you’re conscious of the “what now?” or “what’s next?” thoughts.

Or maybe… what’s that? Grief? Confusion? Your identity has been associated with that big goal for months, maybe years. If you no longer have that goal, who are you?

A Personal Story

In mid-2007, my sister and I decided we would make the audacious goal of training for a marathon for the first (and only) time when I was visiting her on vacation. I recall that I was hoping to lose weight and feel strong in the process of training for the race.

I also thought it would be an awesome accomplishment. I’d never done anything even remotely close–a couple 5Ks and one 10K years prior. How cool would it be to actually run and finish a 26.2 mile run?

We quickly embarked on the journey, looking into training programs and calendars. We started by running a few laps on the track near her house.

We lived hundreds of miles apart, so we continued training on our own after I left. But my sister suffered a training injury and was forced to stop within the first couple months.

I managed to slog on, growing to love, even while dreading, the longer and longer Saturday runs. The six-month plan (somehow) got me well-prepared for the January 2008 marathon.

The start of the race in and of itself was an adventure. Or maybe a horror show? I got nerves and had to remain in a port-a-john for some time. At first I could hear the crowds, but then it seemed to get quiet. Puzzled, I came out and everyone was gone.

The race had started without me! It was terribly defeating starting the race in absolute last place! Still, I managed to complete it (6,077th out of 6,499 people–so not dead last) and felt incredible relief and pride afterward.

I put my feet up the next day in celebration–they were sore. So was my right ankle. I had a couple blisters.

I kept them up the following day. No big deal. That was a big accomplishment. I deserved a rest. Then another day passed. And another.

As I had hoped, marathon training helped me to lose a tremendous amount of weight in a short period of time. But more and more days passed without running or movement being a part of them.

I had essentially run the race, met my goal, and since I didn’t have another goal or vision or plan for my health and fitness future, I stopped. I just stopped running.

I continued to eat like I was training for a marathon, however, so the weight that I’d lost came right back. I was eventually up to a weight higher than where I’d started.

As proud as I was of having trained for and successfully completed a marathon, when the race was over I essentially ghosted my “inner athlete” for a couple years afterwards! How the heck does that even happen?

Lesson: It’s important to have longer term goals beyond an event or a goal weight, and maintain process goals that take into account your current situation.

What That Looks Like in Practice:

  • Before the completion of a race (if that’s the goal), register for another race or have a clear post-event training plan in place.
  • Maintain a training schedule that takes into consideration necessary rest and recuperation.
  • If you plan for a break, consider your energy consumption and change your eating to align with your training (or lack thereof).
  • Plan ahead to address obstacles and challenges so that even if you don’t meet your goal or “something comes up,” you have a back-up plan to get yourself back on track.
  • Remember your process goals, such as “Go to the gym after work on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays weekly for the next three months,” or “Meet 8,000 steps per day weekly average with a minimum of 7,000 steps on any given day for the month of August.”
  • Build and maintain motivation by having small, easily achievable goals to succeed at every day: “Listen to 5-minute affirmations recording prior to beginning work,” “Set intentions for day prior to breakfast.”
  • Utilize your support network! Reach out to friends and family to schedule an activity or find something you would like to work towards together.
  • Remember that you’re human. Show yourself some grace.

And go well!

The resources and information shared here are the author’s own personal experiences, are for informational purposes, and aren’t intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition or disease or provide any professional advice. Discuss any changes in your activity and eating patterns with your primary care physician prior to pursuing.

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