A couple of years ago I started running for exercise, and Iíve tried to be consistent with it. I quickly built up to longer distances and durations than when I started, but then I hit a plateau and stayed there for a year or more. I found it difficult to increase my endurance beyond a certain point, and I found it particularly difficult to increase my speed.
Then about a month ago I went for a run with a friend whoís been running for years and is in excellent shape, and I asked him to critique my running.
with smaller steps I could maximize efficiency, move more quickly ...
ďIf you take shorter strides than youíre taking now and let your feet move more quickly,Ē he advised, ďyouíll last longer and your running speed will pick up.Ē
That hadnít occurred to me before. I hadnít been trying to move in any particular manner, but just let my body take me where and how it would. When I started paying attention and focusing on taking smaller steps, I found that I didnít really have to try to move more quickly; it just happened. The change wasnít dramatic, but enough for me to tell I was making progress.
A month later my running has definitely improved. My breathing is less labored, my energy level stays higher, and my speed is increasing. This morning I ran the same distance on the track where I made my discovery, and did so in considerably less time, even without consciously trying. Best of all, I didnít feel like I was straining, struggling, and short on breath. I felt relaxed and enjoyed it from start to finish. In fact, I felt that I could have just as easily kept running.
While praying one morning shortly after my discovery, it occurred to me that I should test the same principle in other areas of my life, particularly my work. I like to think of myself as a ďget things doneĒ person, but I have to admit that I have a problem with procrastinating. Itís not that Iím lazy. Iím happy to work hard and put in the hours, and I relish few things more than completing a project. Yet I find myself habitually avoiding the initial dig into large or long-term jobs, often putting them off until I have to cram to meet a deadline.
Recently I figured out why I do that: Iíve always assumed that I needed to make progress on big projects in big strides. But Jesus helped me see that by applying my running principle to my work, with smaller steps I could maximize efficiency, move more quickly, cover the same distance in less time and with less effort, and not be so exhausted at the end.
Ino longer wait until I can clear a seven-day block on my calendar before starting a seven-day project. If I have an hour or two today, I can use that time and make a startóa small stride. Then I can work on it a bit tomorrowóanother small strideóand a bit more the next day and the next. Working that way, I find myself getting to the end of what initially seemed like a daunting project, even without having devoted huge blocks of time. And I donít feel like Iíve run a marathon. The job got done because I picked away at it with small steps. And as itís happening, I can breathe! Iím not desperately playing catch-up. Iím not struggling to get in the mileage. Iím learning that sometimes the best and most lasting improvement is made not in one dramatic move, but bit by bit and step by step. Shorter strides make for faster progress.