The Girl Who Hated P.E. Now Loves To Run…And Other Mysterious Keys To Happiness

September 17, 2012



You know how you can totally love something, but some days it totally sucks? That would be me and running nearly every day, but even when I’m slugging through a mile on a hot, hilly road or on my elliptical death-staring at the counter until the damn thing hits 3 miles, I know I’ve made the right decision to get out there and get sweaty.  Daily actions transform the big picture.  Even when running totally isn’t fun, for some reason, it’s the best un-fun I could have.

I recently picked up The Happiness Project by Grechen Rubin (yes, I know it’s amazing I’m the only one who hasn’t read it yet) and  in one chapter, she details the importance of goals and challenges in our life. Goal setting for happiness is common knowledge, but she makes an important distinction where many us go awry in plotting our happiness- it’s not the achievement, it’s the process, and it’s biologically proven.

Goals and are essential to happiness- but it’s the challenge of meeting it, not the actual completion that brings us bliss.  So, even when you hate trudging along, mile by mile, that is the measure of happiness, not the finish line.

Though we tend to fixate on the goal as being our key point in measuring our bliss- boarding the plane for a Hawaiian vacation, getting a stellar performance evaluation at work, or, in my case, finishing my first half marathon, our brain generates the “happy vibes” from our process, our journey towards the goal, not the destination.  As I was reading the chapter about how the goal creation process is the key to happiness, not the attainment of the goal, I was a bit miffed… how could crossing the finish line of my first half marathon not be what makes me happy? How could the countless sweaty, breathless miles and the challenging physicality of the process be my bliss-strategy?

Then it hit me- every time I’ve made a goal, as soon as I hit the goal, the happiness was short lived and I was already focusing on the next milestone.  When I sat down to think about it, overcoming the little challenges that lead to the bigger accomplishment are what brings me the most joy.  I can think of the last two months of half marathon training-  the very first time I laced up my shoes and could barely run around the block, but I still was glowing that I did it, or when I ran my first mile, my first five miles, then I had my best mile time, then when I hit six miles… those were hard victories, but they felt damn good.

For the very first time in my life- I am enjoying the process of goal achievement, living in the now- not delaying gratification until the goal has been met.


I’ve always been a type A personality- I plan out my years down to the months and weeks.  For most of my life I told myself, “I’ll be happy when…” to graduate with honors from undergrad, then to graduate with honors from graduate school, to find a loving partner, to hit a level of recognition on my blog. I feel like I was holding my breath to be validated by goals instead of enjoying the process- but running has changed not only how I feel about my body, but how I feel about my life.

Trust me, when you start as slow as I did and try to kick 25 years of couch potato habits if you can’t find joy in the process of getting fit, you’ll never make it to 13.1 miles.  Running has built up my soul’s endurance, but also the bliss you can feel from daily challenges, not just goal posts.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still no athlete- but I don’t care.  My life has been transformed.  When I started running, I told myself, “I just need to run the Tinker Bell, I just need to be able to do 13.1 miles and prove everyone, and myself, wrong.”  But what I began to see is that the greatest accomplishment isn’t the one day you hit that mark, it’s the hundreds of other days you prepare for it.

Everyday, in everything we do- that is the victory.  When you live to confront your truth every single day- that’s the long victory of having a goal, not the one day it takes to cross the finish line.


Running has helped me recognize my truth.  It reconnects body to mind and makes you, sometimes painfully so, confront the limitations of your mind, body and spirit.  Then, it pisses you off enough to break through those limitations- or at least attempt to.

So now, three months into my training I’m not only surprised by the transformation of my body (hey look at you sexy legs!) but also of my entire attitude.  The process can be daunting, but it’s a daily assessment of my grit and a trial against complacency.  I know crossing the finish line of my first 13.1 mile race will be a victory, but the forging of a new character and chipping away at my limitations every day is truly the greatest reward.  Even when I hate it, I love it.


Are you a goal junkie or do you love the journey? Were you always that way?

What makes you truly happy?

20 comments so far.

20 responses to “The Girl Who Hated P.E. Now Loves To Run…And Other Mysterious Keys To Happiness”

  1. I totally feel ya on this – I LOVE running, but I usually hate life while I’m actually in the process of it. The only saving grace is – like you said – hitting goals that you never thought you possibly could. One of these days, I’ll join ya in the half marathoners club…

  2. I still hate running, but it’s not as bad as it used to be. LOVE the emphasis of this post on goals/goal setting. I have just recently started setting micro goals for myself and it has done wonders for my self esteem.

    • Shannyn says:

      HAHA…I feel you! I am actually surprised that I’ve fallen ass over teacup in love with running, but I have. I still HATE strength training, hate. HATE. HATTEEE it, but I’ve been told it’s essential to hit that 13.1 along with micro goals!

  3. Well allright, it’s true that the destination really isn’t what makes us super happy, but it DOES make me really happy. I’ll sit on a recently accomplished goal for a few days to a week, just soaking in my glory, and then I’ll finally get up and set the next goal. The challenge is awesome and working through the challenge is awesome, but damn, accopmlishing the challenge sure makes me feel GOOD!!

    • Shannyn says:

      Amen, amen! The challenge can suck, but there are days the challenge is golden. I’ve had days I hate the goal, I hate the process…but it all comes full circle when you reach the top and head down hill.

  4. This is a great way to look at it — enjoy the process.

  5. I enjoy the process so much more when I have mini goal built throughout. Training for a marathon is long, so I take new joy in every new high mileage week or PR on a short training run.

    • Shannyn says:

      I agree- that’s why every time I hit a milestone, like shaving down a mile time or adding a mile or two with my “long run Sundays” it’s really elevating for my overall mood. Gotta hit those milestones!

  6. Janine says:

    I’m definitely a goal junkie, but it’s always good change perspective and enjoy the journey. Running is something I have wanted to get into, but never have — it sounds like it’s really rewarding. Congrats on all the progress!

  7. Harry says:

    Great post on goal setting.

    You may want to check out, a very nicely built web app designed for tracking goals, habits, and todo lists, and supports time tracking too. It’s clear, focused, easy to navigate, and most of all, really works!

  8. Aaaaahhh I love this post! (And as someone who was about to skip the gym today, thanks for the reminder!)

    Right now, I’m loving the process I’m going through on my way to opening my own shop. First step was to start my blog, followed by using my blog to gain employment in my field. Now that I’ve been offered full-time after I graduate, my next goal is to end this semester with a fully loaded business plan (which is actually the subject of my independent study).

    There’s so much uncertainty in my goal process! Because I don’t think I could find yet another amazingly patient, smart, sweet, handsome man, I’ve decided to prep behind the scenes for my shop, but wait to commit to the when and where. He’ll find out this spring where he’ll be teaching, and I’m planning to wait about a year after that to be sure it’s where we both want to be. But there is DEFINITELY joy in the time I’m spending planning and just being with him!

    • Shannyn says:

      Amazing… you are just amazing. Yes, enjoy the journey- some days that’s hard (I imagine what you’re working on is full of great points and stumbling blocks alike) but what you’re doing as a trailblazer is going to be an amazing story when it’s all done. Keep going, so excited for you!

  9. I really would love to start running again.. I know that if I can step over that initial pleateau of boredome and leg pains, that it really can be a very rewarding hobby.. I have a bucket list goal to run a marathon at some point in my life, but at this point– training even for a 5k seems to be a chore..

    • Shannyn says:

      Ya, there are some days when I feel training is a chore- it’s just hard to get up and get started…but underneath that is my passion for running. If you’re not feeling it, perhaps trying something else to get the fire stoked like yoga or swimming…maybe watching your fave show while working out.

      I would encourage everyone to try and work through it, but at the same time if you’re just not feeling it and it’s more of a drain to your life than something that fills you up and intrigues you, I wouldn’t suggest it. You’ll find what works for you physically and emotionally!

  10. Allison says:

    I am trying to be you – I recently got one of those couch-to-5k apps because I was tired just walking on the treadmill and not feeling accomplished after. I’m just taking it one run at a time and before I knew it, yesterday I ran for 10 minutes straight!

    I don’t know if I’d say I like running though…I think honestly (and not in a OMG I’m so fat kind of way) I need to lose about 10 pounds to become a better runner. That extra weight is holding me back as far as stamina, endurance, breathing. But I already feel better when I run, and I am optimistic about the coming weeks!


  11. Jennifer R. says:

    I just started training for my first half marathon, and I’ve never felt better! About a year ago, I started training for my first 10k, and since then I’ve run multiple 10k and 5k races. I love hearing that running is having the same impact on others that it has had on me! Congratulations, and keep going! 🙂


  12. Tara says:

    I’m training for my first 1/2 marathon, too. It looks like we’ll be running our 1st 1/2’s together, as I chose Tinkerbell as my first 1/2 marathon. I figured it would be a good destination race for myself and the family.

  13. Louis says:

    Enjoyed the reading! Such posts are real motivation for beginners like me. I am also searching through internet for other interesting blogs for athletes, and one of my favourite ones is They write a lot about proper nutrition, workouts and exercising. They also share various researches in this sphere, which could be interesting and useful for all athletes


Get Updates Via Email

Join The Frugal Beautiful Update List!
Get Posts Sent To Your Inbox...subscribe below!