I’ll be running (and hopefully finishing) my first half marathon in a couple of months. Having played sports like basketball for most of my life, I’m no stranger to tough workouts and feeling physically exhausted. Marathon training is a little different in that it is not collapse to the floor physically draining, but it is LONG and TEDIOUS. The workouts themselves aren’t tough individually, but the challenge lies in staying focused throughout the workouts and being able to do them consistently day after day. This reminded me of the effort it takes to pay off my student loans as well.
Besides the fact they both can make you want to puke, there are more similarities between student loan repayment and marathon training:
Both require a plan. Training for a half marathon can’t be done haphazardly for most mere mortals. It helps to have a training plan a few months before the race to get your body and mind ready. At the least you should have an idea of how many times you want to train per week and how you want to ramp up the distances you run. Not having a plan can greatly decrease your chance of finishing a race.
The same thing is needed to pay off student loans. You have a certain amount of debt and you want to get out of it as soon as you can. You can’t just make random payments and hope they’ll be gone soon. On top of making the minimum payments for all of your loans, apply anything extra to the highest interest loan to get the most bang for your buck. This is called the Avalanche method and is the only sure fire way to pay the least amount of total interest and get out of debt sooner. Ready for Zero is also a great program to get you on top of your debts and can even tell you the exact day you will be debt free.
Take one day at a time. One of the more frustrating parts of running for me is the monotony of it. I could play basketball for 10 days in a row and have a different experience each time. But with running each day is more or less the same, especially if you use a treadmill. But it’s really important to remember to take one day at a time and focus on making a great effort on that day. That’s because every day of training will contribute to your success (or failure) on the day of the race. If you give a consistent good effort on each day of training, you will most likely be able to finish the race and run well. Each day you run well prepares your body and mind a little more for that race. It may be tough to detect on a day to day basis, but your heart will work more efficiently and your muscles and tendons will be able to handle all that pavement pounding a little bit more.
Keeping the big picture in mind is also important when paying off student loans. Even if it’s going to take a few years to pay off those loans, realize that some lenders want you stuck paying minimum payments for 25 years! It’s definitely tough seeing that big balance go down slowly, but each payment you make will get you that much closer. Since most of your payments early on will be paying a lot of interest, it seems that the principal is not going down that much. But for every payment you make the principal goes down which means you will pay less interest on the next payment. Each payment is definitely making a difference so it’s important not to get lackadaisical and miss some payments here and there. As time goes on you will see that principal go down faster and faster, which will hopefully motivate you to make some more money and pay the damn thing off!
The end will be oh so sweet. When training for a race it’s important to visualize yourself finishing the race and how good it will feel. If any of you have trained for a race and finished it, you know what I mean. It’s a great idea to try to bottle that feeling and go to it whenever you lose motivation or decide you want to take today’s workout a little easy. It’s also important to celebrate your accomplishment. Go out and get something nice to eat and relax for the rest of the day. You’ve earned it.
I imagine making my last payment on my student loans. There will be fireworks and fan fare and a marching band. Or I will just click the mouse and quietly ride off into the sunset. In either case, it will certainly be a great feeling that I can’t wait to experience. Though it may seem far away, having a plan certainly helps because I know each months payment will get me closer and closer to that fateful day when the heavens will open up. Keeping that day in mind keeps me going on my plan and wanting to get rid of these loans even faster.