I walked down my driveway and accelerated into my normal running pace as I crossed the line separating the concrete of my driveway and the asphalt of the road. I was excited to head out for a Saturday morning run, the target distance being five miles. I hadn’t run outside much lately but I had been doing a lot of treadmill running, and was sure it would all come back to me.
Except it didn’t.
I was expecting an effortless run, as I remembered enjoying so many previous times. What actually followed was seventy minutes of alternating between running, walking, and cursing the idea of even trying to run on that hot and humid morning. I had completely forgotten how different running outside on asphalt was, and how much planning and preparation I normally put into my Saturday runs.
I thought back to last Summer when I was training for a marathon and doing Saturday long runs of 12-18 miles. I reminded myself exactly what I had done each week to successfully complete those runs.
Being only six payments away from eliminating $109,000 of credit card debt, I feel like I’ve been running a financial marathon. I couldn’t help myself from drawing comparisons between a Saturday morning long run, and what we’ve had to do to get this far in our Debt Management Program.
I normally start mentally preparing for a Saturday run a few days ahead of time. I would remind myself several times each day that I am going to be waking up on Saturday morning, and going for a run. I also keep reminding myself that I will be running for a significant amount of time. I envision starting, and successfully finishing.
Before starting down a path of paying off your debt, we had to have the right state of mind. We knew it was going to take us close to five years, and we had admit to ourselves that we were going have to make major changes in our lifestyle to be successful.
Setting intermediate goals
I break my run down into smaller pieces. When I was marathon training and my Saturday long runs were 12-18 miles long I would break my run into four mile pieces. As I completed each piece I would make sure I congratulated myself and fist pumped into the air in a physical display of victory.
I broke down our debt management plan into milestones of time including one year, two years, and halfway through our program. When we reached a point where we had only ten payments left, we began counting down.
Hydration, Lubrication, and Rest
It’s important to stay hydrated while running long distances. Each intermediary goal would end back at my house where I would drink Gatorade waiting for me in a cooler, apply lotion to areas that may chafe, stretch for a minute or two and then begin the next piece of my run.
As we’ve gone through the last four and a half years, an important part of journey had been to find things that help keep us motivated to keep going. Encouragement from family and friends has been key. We also occasionally pause to re-evaluate all our expenses and make additional cuts in our spending. These efforts have given our budget a shot of extra funds that reinforces that we are headed in the right direction.
When a long run is planned, beginning with an all out sprint is a horrible idea. You’ll expend all your energy and won’t have a chance at finishing. I personally start out at a very slow pace, let my legs and body warm up and get into a rhythm. I seem to just naturally and gradually increase my speed to my normal cruising pace that I can maintain for long periods of time.
I had read about people who go full frugal, cutting all discretionary spending from their budget. While that may work for some people, I could not personally maintain that kind of pace for an extended period of time. Our debt management program requires a sizable payment every month. Vonnie and I decided that in order for us to be successful and stick with our program, any funds that were left over after paying all our bills would be used to enjoy life.
This weekend’s target distance was 6 miles, and I decided to utilize all of these same strategies. I woke up Saturday morning ready to run. I took off down the driveway on my first of three legs of my run, leaving my cooler of supplies next to the front door. After miles two and four I stopped back at my house for hydration, lubrication and a bit of rest. I completed my six mile run in just under an hour feeling great.
In six more payments, we will complete our debt management program. We will be successful because we’ve used many of the same techniques as I use to prepare and execute my Saturday long runs. We will also stand at the finish line with a similar feeling of accomplishment.
How have you approached your get out of debt journey?