Pace Yourself

“Rather than grind yourself into the ground, learn to pace yourself properly, so you have the staying power to get everything done.”  – Laura Stack

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When my little brother was in elementary school, he was one of the fastest runners in his school. He ran in a competition and my family was allowed to attend. He had a tendency to start out strong and run hard, then lose steam over time. Some of the runners who started out full blast would stumble early on, some even just a few steps into the race. When the whistle blew, Shannon took off running at full speed. One of his teammates was clearly concerned because she started yelling at him, “Pace yourself, Shannon! Pace yourself!” I don’t know if he heard her or not, but he did slow his pace. 

There were a lot of kids who started off ahead of him and it seemed like he would lose the race. At about 3/4 of the way through the race he increased his speed. While the other runners who started out running with all of their strength became tired and their pace began to slow, because he was reminded to pace himself, he had preserved his energy. As he increased his speed at the end of the race, he passed all but one of the other runners. He came in second place that day. I do wonder if  he would have started out with a set pace if he would have been able to come in first place. I like to think that by having his teammate remind him to pace himself, he was still able to place in the race.

Have you ever heard of a race pacer? I learned about race-pacers a while back in the break-room at work. As someone who is not a runner, this is a new concept for me. According to, a race pacer helps you to complete a race in a predetermined, set amount of time. “The pacer’s job is to set and maintain a specific pace, but you must choose a pace that aligns with your training and experience.” The concept of a race pacer can be applied to other areas of life. You can either establish routines and reminders that allow you to pace yourself or you can join up with an accountability partner to work as a pacer in your life.

I can share ways that I pace myself that seem to be successful for me. I am a planner and I while I can deviate from a plan to an extent, I prefer to stick with it as closely as possible. There are some tools that I use to keep myself on the right track. I keep an old school planner that I color-code so I can see what my week looks like at a glance. I can open my planner to a given week and see what I have going on without having to filter through reading what I have written down. I also keep a weekly to-do list at home so I can make sure that everything I need to do will actually get done. I like to bask in the joy of highlighting to mark off a completed task. At the beginning of a semester, I tend to take my syllabi and make spreadsheets of assignments and due dates, giving each course a tab, and yes, color-coding the assignments. This allows me to see if something is due on a given week so I don’t have to search for the information and worry that I will miss an assignment. This can work well for other deadlines too.

Do you want another tip?

When you make goals, but surround yourself with people who consistently distract you from where you are going, it slows your pace and you may even get bored or even too stressed and drop out of the race. Other people may surround themselves with people who push them to a breaking point and cause them to stumble because they started out too hard too fast. You don’t want to burnout before you really get started. I like the concept of a pacer as an accountability partner because they can help you find a pace that suits your lifestyle. You may need time to be around people, but also get work done. It is great to have someone who is in the race with you so you can get together to work on your goals. 

Sometimes in life, we set out on a journey and think that we have to plow full speed ahead. If we are not careful, we will experience burnout quickly and lose steam. It is important to pace yourself in a way that will preserve your energy. If you struggle with keeping a steady pace, you may need to establish some pacers in your life. As the new year begins and you set goals for yourself, remember to include a steady pace in the plan. 

“Life is a marathon, not a sprint; pace yourself accordingly.”   – Amby Burfoot

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