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Keeping It Simple: Challenge Yourself

With the pandemic life can feel a bit lackluster. A lot of the normal excitement isn’t happening. But here’s a tip to counter that. Challenge yourself!

Create a new adventure to shoot for, a new goal for personal change. But keep it simple. Here’s a “challenge yourself” example from my life.

As you know I spent years training at pretty high levels in triathlons. Then at the end of 1996 I closed out my 15-year racing career with a final race in Thailand. As I packed my bike to come home the though struck me: I would never be this fit again my entire life! I was 38-years old. “This is the most fit I will ever be for the rest of my life!” It was a sobering thought.

I gradually dropped my training down over the course of a few years until I finally found a level that seemed to be enough to be healthy but not so much that it would burn me out or be unsustainable.

That level has ebbed and flowed since then. When I turned 50, which was 12 years ago, I had the idea to run 10-miles straight. This sounds like an easy task for an IRONMAN Champion right! Well, I hadn’t run longer than 3-4 miles since retiring from competition and 10-miles sounded pretty daunting. Yes, during my career I could do a 10-milers any day of the week, but now it sounded like a frickin’ long way to run!

I didn’t go out and run it though. In fact, I put the idea on the back burner for the last 12-years.

But then COVID hit. Suddenly being chained to the mile radius from my house to the grocery store shifted the whole way I was looking at daily life. There was little change in day-today routines. No travel. No gatherings. Only me, my laptop and a handful of workout options all based around my house. On top of that the surf stopped cooperating. Small, barely surfable days were followed by even flatter waves. It’s hard to challenge yourself on dinky surf that barely qualifies as exercise!

I would have run more but I had an ankle that was sore for no apparent reason. So I decided I’d try walking.Yes, the IRONMAN Champ went for walks.

But I gave them a good effort. They were not strolls but focused walks. They were time on trails near my house where I could just take in the air and the color of the trees. I could also feel that my right leg with the sore ankle attached at the end of it was not engaging the same full muscle groups that the left leg was.

So I focused on getting both sides to work the same. In less than a week the ankle started to feel better. And then even better still. I eventually got up to nearly 8-miles one day walking around San Francisco with my significant other. I was doing some video shooting for Tonal and she joined me up there.

That was groundbreaking. 8-miles of walking and an ankle that was good to go!

And then the 10-miler idea came back to me. It was time to challenge myself.

Sunday August 16th was going to be the day. I went to my trails, walked about 5-minutes and then started to run. Run Forest Run! I had no idea how it would feel or if my body would hold up. But my mantra was indeed “Challenge Yourself”.

My pace was slow, but I didn’t care. Covering the distance was the goal. I got to about 40-minutes and actually felt good, then 50-minutes, then over an hour. The miles were adding up. Finally I looked down at my iPhone and the golden number appeared. I’d run 10.2 miles!

This may sound like a small stretch considering my history of running. But I had not run that far in 24-years! And it felt amazing.

What can you do to challenge yourself? What simple goal to do something intrigues you? It could be something to do with in your training. It might be a commitment to nourish your soul by taking time to just be quiet for 10-15 minutes a day for a week or a month. Maybe there’s something you have been procrastinating putting in place in your life that you want to finally get on and do.

Whatever it is that will be a good challenge for you, give it a shot. Let it inspire you. Have it spice up your life. It can be a very private goal with no outcome that anyone other than you will even be aware of. Or it could be like me doing that 10-miler. I’ve been telling everyone one I know that I just set a new World Record! It’s a personal record but a record just the same. It was fun. It was simple. It brought me better physical health and a great positive outlook. Challenge Yourself!

Challenge Yourself and join us at Mark Allen Coaching.



  1. Wow !! What a great experience… @ 62 (Mark) ? … & after all those years off .. I once 3 rounds again for da very time again almost 2 yrs ago on a punching bag . I thought my wrist (after a long absent & working physical demanding jobs) would break !! But I surprised myself & finished w a compliment for a gym employee 👊👊 . I try to read all your post (Mark) .. thnx for sharing your experience.

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