We like to think the people we look up to are perfect. Whether it’s a celebrity, an athlete, an activist, a role model, an influencer, we look at them and decide that they’ve got it all figured out. That they couldn’t possibly struggle with ANYTHING.

But deep down we know that everyone is human, with their own behind-the-scenes drama and issues and *shit* that don’t make the highlight reel.

And I’ve got news for you: I’m not perfect. I don’t always practice what I preach. And today I’ve got one of those what-the-hell-was-I-thinking stories for you to illustrate EXACTLY how tricky it can be to get caught up in doing #allthethings. 

So, there I was. In the midst of training for my first half marathon.

Before this half-baked plan of mine, I hadn’t run more than 3 miles. I used to struggle to finish the mile under the allotted time limit during the Presidential Physical Fitness Test in grade school. (Remember that??) I used to lag behind on warm-up runs during volleyball practice in high school. I used to huff and puff and want to crawl the rest of the way.

I was feeling pretty damn good about myself that – not only was I DOING this thing – I hadn’t walked a single step during any of my training runs. I dutifully stuck to my schedule, short runs during the week and tackling my long runs before 8 a.m. every single Saturday morning.

Training for a distance race is no joke, friend.

I spent literally hours every week not just running but making food and eating said food to fuel my runs, mapping out my routes, doing laundry so I had clean, non-stinky clothes to wear on my runs, sleeping so I had energy to run for two hours, stretching and foam rolling so my muscles didn’t give out on me, KT-taping my ankles and back so they’d hold up just a little bit longer, finding the right playlists to keep me motivated when logging miles was the last thing I wanted to do…

So it totally made sense when, one day, I decided that I was going to go gluten-free vegan overnight.

(Very formal-sounding disclaimer here: For the purposes of this discussion, I will use labels such as “gluten-free,” “vegan,” “plant-based,” and/or “vegetarian.” I in no way endorse the use of such labels and do not recommend labeling your way of eating. I sure as hell don’t.)

You might be thinking, “Good for you!” Or, “That’s admirable.” Maybe even, “Better to kill all the birds with one stone, cast a wide net, some other animal-type metaphor here…”

No. Just no.

I was doing the exact opposite of what I’m always climbing up on a soap box about: I was trying to do too much.

If I could turn back time and coach myself, here are three things I would have reminded myself.

Focus on your goal.

I should have had one big goal and crossing the finish line fully upright, maybe even smiling and waving to the crowd of very supportive folk, not throwing up or passing out, or having my muscles completely seize up should have been that big goal. 

By tossing one more thing on my plate, I was taking focus away from that one goal. I couldn’t give as much attention to my actual training because I was now also constantly thinking about if there was gluten in that sauce or if I could somehow order a vegan dish at my favorite Mexican restaurant without having my food spit in or if I was eating enough calories because, holy shit, sometimes it’s hard to eat thousands of calories of plants.

If I had given all my attention to the necessary parts of my training – the actual running, fueling, and caring for my body – I probably would have shown up as a slightly faster, better, stronger runner with a strong AF mental game that would carry me for 13.1 miles.

Instead, I was stressing myself out, worrying about this extra, self-imposed limitation. The time and energy I spent agonizing over my new diet should have all been directed right at my running – the original goal that was big enough I shouldn’t have tried to mess with it.

One big goal deserves all your focus. The more attention you give it, the faster you’ll reach it and the smoother the process will probably be. 

Now is not the time to experiment.

If you aren’t a runner, let me quickly run down some of the things you shouldn’t be doing as you get closer to the race or even on the day of the race:

  • Wearing new shoes
  • Wearing new clothes
  • Running with a hat if you never trained with one
  • Wearing your race shirt before you cross the finish line (#sorrynotsorry)
  • Changing your schedule
  • Switching up your workout or adding in extra stuff
  • Trying new race fuel.

The days leading up to a race are not the time for experimentation. That shit needs to be done well before you’re in the taper stage because you don’t know WHAT’s going to happen.

You could totally get tons of blisters from your new shoes and they might not heal quickly. New clothes can chafe something awful and rub in allllll the wrong places. Wearing a hat can distract you if you’re not used to it. Your body could get confused and sore if you start messing with your schedule and throwing some strength training at it. Not to mention, ummm, you could get hurt and not even be able to line up at the start. Messing around with your race fuel can mess with your digestion, meaning a potential Porta Potty pit stop at mile marker 2.

All of these make for a pretty uncomfortable run.

By the time I decided to switch up my diet, I was only about a month away from race day. Not as panic-inducing as, say, the week before, but there were still so many variables AND WHY TAKE A CHANCE?

By adding some other random thing I just had to do, I was seriously jeopardizing my big goal. I didn’t think so at the time – I just thought, oh, hey, this will be fun – but now I know I should have been confident in my ability to actually finish the race before challenging myself with something else.

If this is something you still want to do, you can.

There is, of course, absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to change your diet. But there’s a time and a place for it.

The weeks leading up to a big race? Before a big vacation? After a life-changing event like a birth or death? The days right before a huge deadline at work? Probably not the right time or place.

But that doesn’t mean you CAN’T ever do it. 

For me, I probably should have waited until after the race, after I gorged on all the beer and oranges and bananas available to me at the post-race party, after I recovered from my lost toenail, and after I settled back in to my everyday routine to try out a gluten-free vegan diet.

I should have asked myself if it was something I really wanted to do and, if it was a resounding “HELL YES!” I should have picked a date in the not-so-distant future that would have allowed me to give more focus to IT as my one big goal.

Because having more than one big goal at a time doesn’t do justice to any of the goals. 

Take a look at your current goals. All the things you’re doing. All the things you want to do be doing. What’s one thing that might actually be hindering your progress? Holding you back? Keeping you stuck?

Ask yourself which goal deserves your focus right now. Honestly ask yourself if all those other things are things you want to be doing or things you think you SHOULD be doing because, you know, all the cool kids are doing it. 

Pick one big goal and work on that one big goal until you and that one big goal are thick as thieves. Laser focus, my friend. You can come back to that other stuff if you really want to when the time is right.

Got so many goals you’re not even sure which one deserves the spotlight right now? I can help you narrow down your goals to ONE BIG THING so that you actually make progress on your goals. And I do that with my 1:1, totally customized to you coaching program Health.Simplified. If getting some support sounds like a resounding “HELL YES!” (much like my admirable if not well-timed attempt to go gluten-free vegan), head on over here and claim your spot.