Hills

Since I live in a very hilly neighborhood, my morning runs are basically hill training. There are many routes I can run, but the main question for choosing a route is when to do the uphill and downhill portions.

If I do the uphill first, it’s harder starting out, but then the second half is a breeze, coasting downhill all the way home – often towards a beautiful sunrise.

If I do the downhill first, the first half hour is so nice and flowing, a lovely way to run on autopilot, but then I turn the corner and have a sweaty uphill climb to return home. During the summer months in Vegas, it’s typically 80-85º F (27-29º C) around 5am.

After many years of running these hills – I’ve lived in this neighborhood since 2007 – I realized that it doesn’t really matter when I do the hills. I could do them first or second, but either way I’ll still do them.

What matters is that I commit to the hills. If I don’t commit to the hills, I won’t run.

If I do the uphill first, this commitment needs to happen when I first start running. That’s a good approach for when I’m feel energetic and ready to face that hill early. I did that this morning, and it felt great to conquer the biggest nearby hill during the first half of my run, note the beautiful sunrise, and float downhill afterwards.

But when I’m not feeling as motivated, and I just want to start out a bit easier to build some momentum, I can do the downhill first. When I face the uphill portion 30 minutes later, I still have to do it to get home. So my next choice is this: I can run uphill while resisting the experience. I can run uphill while surrendering to the experience. Or I can run uphill while embracing the experience.

That’s the nature of an action commitment. Doing or not doing is already decided. You’re going to do it. You’ve committed your body to the task. You will take the action. That part is a done deal. Once I put on my running shoes, tackling some kind of hill is inevitable.

But there’s a second layer of commitment. Have you committed your mind too? If you grudgingly complete a task, I’d say you haven’t really committed your mind, so you’ll probably be fighting yourself internally – all the way up that hill.

Why tackle a hill each day? I could say there are some fitness benefits to running those hills, but I also like what these runs teach me about framing. The challenge reminds me to choose my mental commitment, not just my physical commitment. And this benefits me in other areas of life too.

There are plenty of unpleasant tasks in life, but if we’re going to physically do them anyway – sooner or later – doesn’t it make sense to mentally and emotionally commit to those tasks as well?

You could look upon your tasks with the attitude “yuck!” Or you could look upon them and say “yum!” Finding the yucky framing often happens by default, but it’s not the only framing you have available. Surely you could find a yummy framing if you look for it, and you only need one.

Where do you procrastinate on a task, but you still end up doing it anyway eventually? Maybe it’s doing your taxes. Maybe it’s dealing with a conflict at work. Maybe it’s handling a thorny relationship issue. What’s your hill of inevitability?

You could climb that hill now, or you could postpone and climb it later, but you will climb it eventually. You know it’s just a matter of time. And perhaps it doesn’t even matter that much when you finally do it – just that you eventually get it handled.

You can look up at that hill and hate it. You could look up at the hill and tolerate it. Or you could look up at the hill with some form of gratitude and appreciation. To do the latter takes practice – it’s a different level of commitment.

If you’re going to tackle that hill anyway eventually, why not get your mind right first, and truly commit to the experience, not just with action but also with attitude?

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