Friday, October 26, 2012

How to: Long Distance Relationships (Lessons from running)

I have people often ask how my boyfriend and I make the long-distance work. I am no expert and I respond honestly that there is no hard and fast rules. We both make a conscientious effort to make our relationship a priority and to put in the time. I think the long-distance is bearable for me because of the outlook I take, and when writing this post I realized some parallels between this approach and my approach to running.

1. Keep the end goal in mind

When it comes to running, whether you are hoping to lose weight, get a new PR, or just become a healthier person, thinking about this goal and visualizing the end result makes getting through the tough training runs and other rough patches much easier.

Same goes for long-distance relationships. My boyfriend and I hope to one day be married, and start living our lives together - in the same place. We know that the distance right now is necessary to get our careers where we want them so that when we do start our lives together we can have the life we want. Talking about the type of home we want to have, cities we would want to live in, where we would want to get married gives us both a visual that reinforces why we are doing what we are doing.

2. Be realistic with your expectations

You probably won't qualify for the Boston Marathon in your first attempt at the distance. It is important to set goals that are realistic and attainable (but still a challenge!). If you set the bar unrealistically high, you will continue to disappoint yourself and lose the motivation to try.

When your loved one is far away you also need to be realistic about what you expect out of the relationship. I know that in college my boyfriend and I would often text throughout the day and then talk on the phone at night (unless we were together). It was an adjustment when we both entered the real world and found ourselves busy with work throughout the day and balancing studies and social lives in the evenings. It was easy to compare our communication to what used to have and think that the decrease is a sign of a weakening bond. If you look at it from that perspective you will continue to be disappointed with your relationship. I try to acknowledge small attempts of communication throughout the day now as both of us making a point to let the other know, no matter how busy we are, we are always thinking about each other.

3. Do not compare yourself to someone else

When you get to the starting line of a race, it is far too easy to compare yourself to the people around you and feel inadequate. There is always someone in better (looking) shape, someone with better racing gear, and someone with more people in their racing entourage. This is an easy time to start doubting your own ability. DON'T! Who cares if they have nicer gear or have skinnier legs - you can, and very likely may, beat them! Focus on what you have, how good of shape you are in, and be proud of yourself!

It is also easy to compare your long distance relationship to the relationship those around you have. It can be difficult not to be jealous when your coworkers leave work to meet their significant other for dinner, or when your friends get picked up from your night out by their other half. It is natural to feel this way. However, it is important to be thankful for what you have! Be thankful you have someone special to call when you are lonely and be thankful you have someone to miss!

4. Do the little (but important) things

You can do a lot of mileage but in order to be a really successful runner you need to eat right, rest, and stretch. Without the little things, the big mileage won't amount to much.

If you want to make the long distance work, don't forget about the little things. Say I love you, tell them you miss them, send a letter (an actual letter, not an text or email), surprise them once in awhile, and remind them how happy you are to be in this relationship, even if it is long distance.

Here's to some day!

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