True confession: even before Corona Time, I would occasionally lose track of what day it was.

I am definitely a creature of habit; I’ve been known to eat essentially the same breakfast and lunch every day, for a week or more at a time. Is it a little boring to do the same meal over and over? Yes, but it tastes good, fills me up, and meets my nutritional needs. Plus I can prep it without really thinking about it, which frees me up mentally to focus on other things.

When I get caught up in the grind, it can be easy to lose my place. Is today Thursday? Friday? The 15th? 21st? I’m not sure. It can be a bit of a blur sometimes – and that was before “normal” went out the window. So, how do you track your progress? How to know if you’re getting anywhere? One way is to look back at where you’ve been. Trace your steps and find your path.

The Hill

There’s a national hardware chain with a big blue sign close to my house; separating it from the residential neighborhoods is a large berm. This has been a popular sledding location for years, although that has been mostly shut down since the slope is steep enough to send sledders shooting into the parking lot. Apparently kids careening into cars is considered a safety risk?

It also serves as a great workout spot. While Kansas is not as flat as people think, it’s not exactly mountainous terrain either. So if you have a race coming that presents altitude issues, you find what you can. The mountain isn’t going to come to you, after all. There’s a few options around here, but it all comes back to hill repeats. Since this hill is close to home (even though it’s not as long as Argo and Ogg, or as technical as the Sisters) it’s a good place to get work in. As I am that creature of habit (and youth baseball has been on hold), this has become a regular Saturday morning event.

It’s a grind, for sure. As a workout, it’s a microcosm of that “same shit, different day” mentality that can wear us out. It’s just one hill, as my friend likes to say. But it’s that one hill over and over and… you get the picture. Some folks think we are crazy for putting ourselves through it.

Now, I’ve been called crazy for a lot of reasons. I tend to wear that with pride; I mean, it’s not exactly untrue… The thing is, once you do the hill, you’re likely to come run it again. Why? Cause it’s tough – but it works. Run the hill a couple weeks and then run a regular flat(-ish) course. You will see a difference; you will be stronger and faster.

I was tagged in this picture recently. Now, I’d love to say that’s all me, but the truth is that path was worn in before I got there. Still, I’ve put my fair share of footprints on that sucker.

The standard session plan is to alternate – run the hill once up and down, then back up and down with a sandbag or some other weight form; rinse and repeat. I tend to lose track of the number of loops; at some point it’s irrelevant, after all. The hill is still there; I’m still there. So back up we go! Keep going for an hour, as many times as you can. Sounds like fun, right?

It looks a little something like this when you’re done… Not an exciting path, not a scenic journey – but you will walk (limp?) away knowing that you have done something, for sure.

I love the path marking on training apps. Like I said, a great way to know where you are going is to look where you’ve been. Compare an old photo to today, look at the run you completed, track how your PR time has progressed – sometimes it’s hard to see the changes when we are in the middle of it. Looking back makes it much more clear just how far you’ve come.

Your path isn’t always going to be a straight line. The trail will twist and turn; progress can come in fits and starts. It may not be a smooth process, but life isn’t always smooth.

Sometimes there may be blips where you didn’t get a reading at all. GPS isn’t without its flaws; neither is life. Those jumps don’t mean you weren’t working or making progress; they just mean you were off the grid for a bit. As long as you come back having learned something, you are moving the right direction. Just keep working that pathway forward.

Cover photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash