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Start Today!

By Justin Dickman

A quote I always try to keep in my mind is that "procrastination pays off now, but hard work pays off later." In contrast, I often run into people who seemingly live life with the mantra, “why do today what I could put off for tomorrow?” Obviously, managing family, work, a social life, and other obligations is challenging and proper balance is important; however, I see too many of my friends putting off fitness or personal goals because it may not be convenient or it may seem like a tough hill to climb if they were to begin working towards them now.  

We are all guilty of this in one way or another. I'm going to start stretching…tomorrow. I'm going to start training more…tomorrow. I'm going to start getting more sleep or eating healthier…tomorrow. The older I've gotten the more I've realized that, to a large extent, happiness and chasing after goals is something you must start today…everyday. If you don’t create a mindset to allow yourself to be happier and restrict other circumstances from limiting your happiness or achieving your goals, you will surely never find happiness or achieve those goals. 

Running is an activity I have participated in most of my life. It makes me happy. I've met a lot of people and seen a lot of things through running. Getting out the door has always been a priority for me. I'm also an incredibly competitive, goal-driven person. As a young runner, I first wanted to make it on the varsity, then I wanted to make it to state, then I wanted to be all state, then I wanted to earn a scholarship, then I wanted to a personal record (PR) in this event and that event, and qualify for nationals or win a conference championship. I've been chasing these goals my entire life. Now that I've been out of college and law school a few years, I still find myself chasing running goals. My goal still for this spring is to break my modest 5k and 10k PRs of 14:55 & 31:04 before I turn 30 in June (gulp). 

I started running when I was cut from our elementary school football team in fourth grade. Yes - they actually cut elementary kids from an organized sports (yet, for some reason my high school football team was terrible?). Can you imagine if a little kid was cut from a team now? I won’t go into the “participation trophy” debate but I’d guess that very few elementary school sports teams cut kids from the team. Anyway, instead of sulking forever, I joined a running club and started running two miles home from school every couple of days. I wasn't very good at first, but I made a point of putting in the work. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither does achieving my goals. Hard work pays off.

Simply putting on your running shoes and getting out the door each day is a major accomplishment even if you aren't setting out to run a PR. Maybe you just want to get into better shape so you can keep up with your grandkids. Research shows that putting in some sort of physical activity every day is important for your mental and physical health. While Americans are starting to become more health conscious, we've got a long way to go to battle obesity and other health issues. The benefits of exercise have impacted me in ways I could've never predicted.

Creating a routine and sticking to it is a good way to find a healthy life balance and ability to get into shape. Many of my friends have had a hard time training after college when they don’t have a coach or teammates to hold them accountable each day. The saddest aspect to me is my former teammates and running partners that have given up the sport for various reasons. I realize it's a young individual’s sport, but if there is proper balance, it can be done for the majority of our lives. I understand that people get burnt out after many years of competitive running. And, when you are no longer part of a team, it's very easy to put off going for a run and instead go to a happy hour with co-workers. Nonetheless, at times, it is difficult for me to understand how my old teammates can run every day for over a decade and then just not do it anymore. I realize not having a support system with teammates would be challenging, but if you need a support system, find one. Make one. Start today!

I met my wife Rachel, who I've been married to for over four years while on a run. It was a hot, steamy, Washington, D.C. June evening after we had both finished our internships in the summer of 2008 and we met for a group run with college interns, many of whom ran in college. My wife didn't run collegiately at the time.  I was wearing split running shorts (short shorts) and my wife who was a good runner, but not on a college team was wearing longer shorts than me. For some crazy reason, I decided to strike up a conversation with her. If I hadn't decided to head out to the Georgetown group run, there is no way I'd be where I am today. 

I'm not saying to go out and spend all of your time running.  But, maybe try to step out of your comfort zone. Explore some new places and push yourself a little bit further in 2017. You never know what you might see, where you might go, or who you might meet.

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