Comparisons Kill Joy:An Athlete in her Fifties

an athlete in her fifies

I am an athlete in her fifties. Today I went running with two people fitter and faster than I am. We ran about 2.5 miles and did some HIIT training (high intensity interval training) on a big hill we call Heart Break Hill. It’s as steep as the name suggests and longer than it looks.

It’s not the first time that I have run since I took a bad fall and re-injured my leg, but it’s pretty close to it. It is the first time that I have run with others.

I channeled a Buddhist teacher I used to know who would say “comparisons kill joy” whenever my thoughts veered into what other people do, what other people have, what other people think.

Comparison is the death of joy. –Mark Twain

I also could hear my old coach’s voice saying “athletes don’t jog, they run.” (Even an athlete in her fifties?) This sentence has slowed me down too often to count.  It kept me from walking when that’s all I could do to stay fit and from jogging when that was all I could do. As helpful as the phrase was when I as competing, it is not at all helpful now.

Who gets to define an athlete in her fifties?

Going up that hill I channeled something I attribute to Don Kirkendall who had worked with my college and national team. “People don’t know how strong they are.”

I think that’s true. We quit on many things way before we should whether it’s fitness or in other facets of our lives.

So, I ran at my pace way behind the others. I ran up that hill for my intervals. I pushed myself hard today. It felt great once I put down any need to keep up and fought through the desire to quit on myself.

The interesting thing is that neither person really cared what pace I ran or what I did. If I had quit it would have been fine. That I was slow was of no interest to either. Each was focused on her own pace. Going up that hill, each was focused on her own pain. When we finished each of us was assessing our own workout and supportive of the other.

We talked about food, our jobs, how great the trail was, how often we should do that, and other things.  We agreed we need heartbreak hill once a week to contribute to our fitness plans.

Tomorrow I run alone. After all I am an athlete in her fifties and I also treasure time alone.

Recommended reading on your fitness journey: Peak Performance

Buy the book Peak Performance

Comparisons kill joy


an athlete in her fiftiesI am on the road all the time now traveling to work with great companies, coaches and teams. Mainly I travel by car. Podcasts, books on tapes, many hard to hear phone calls (my apologies friends), talk radio, music, and silence, long periods of silence, these are my companions.


One debate that comes up often on podcasts and interviews revolves around habits and will power.

The debate: Does will power erode with continual use or does it strengthen if you rely on it for your changing habits? In other words, can you strengthen it by using it?  Do you lose resolve with too much dependence on it?

There are many people who write and think in the habit space that are much smarter, much more informed than I am. Read them for a deeper dive into habits and the many techniques you can employ to change them: Gretchen Rubin, James Clear, Daniel Pink, Charles Duhigg, Stephen Covey, as well as numerous academics and coaches who discuss their ideas on habits embedded in their bigger performance ideas.

Or, the newest recommendation I just came upon:

an athlete in her fifties

Back to life on the road….

When coaching I always started a season fresh and with good intentions to stay fit, but my will power absolutely eroded during season and especially on the road. Or, perhaps my attention did. There was too little time, too much food around, fatigue and too many other priorities.

These same variables can appear now with a life on the road. There’s food everywhere in America and most is either not healthy or “fake healthy.”  Some of the worst is the most available–cheap and quick. Time slips by quickly each day. Social support is limited when far from home. It’s super easy to think you “deserve” things.

But, my intention and commitment has deepened and after being on the road for almost three weeks now I have started to notice a few things:

At the moment of commitment the whole world conspires to assist you.” Goethe

Subtraction is Easier:

I have an easier time maintaining the things that I’ve eliminated from my life.  I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t eat meat, I really limit bread and sugar. These things I am doing really well in my life on the road. I have established my work-arounds for the inconvenience factor. I am committed.

I find social support in reading and listening to others on the journey.

Willpower has deepened when I’m tempted.

Adding is Harder:

But, I have a hard time adding hard workouts and commitments to my schedule. Even if I have open gaps of time.

I don’t lift as often as I have been at home. I walk up to the door of a big gym and frankly I walk away. My plan was to buy a two week membership but nope.

I’m not getting any hill runs or distance running in. I go to the woods to walk, but I miss my heart break hill and hard climb hill training buddies.

When I’m home Saturday I will jump back in that routine, but I do not add it into my schedule on the road.

Willpower, or motivation perhaps, has eroded when it comes to these habits that require I add to my schedule.


Although I would like to be writing about how I solved the exercise conundrum some time this year, for right now I’m actually not beating myself up over this. I acknowledge it’s hard to find the right place to workout.  Though lifting and running would probably add to my energy I have compassion for the fatigue inherent in my schedule.

Don’t waste any energy on self recriminations.

This simple act of compassion has made it easier to continue on with more of my good habits.


I no longer behave as though it’s hopeless.  Carol Dweck’s growth mindset technique involving the word “yet” works for me.

Just add that to the end of your sentence. “I have not figured out a workout schedule on the road, yet.”

Of course, Dweck, herself would remind me not to fall into the trap of thinking that trying is enough. My commitment is to actually figure it out, but it may take many iterations to get there.

That was certainly true when it came to healthy eating habits.

Good luck this season and take care of yourself coach.

Since I wrote this little post my running group has convened every Saturday or Sunday morning that we are all in town. I look forward to it and dread it throughout the week.

We even made t-shirts.

Two movies I recently watched that I was thinking about on today’s run. Highly recommend both.

Game Changers


Dr Strangelove which was great. How have I not seen this my entire adult life?