Quit before you're ahead

After last night's post on the discipline of stopping, I was still thinking about whether I had made a point worth making. "Am I talking about moderation? Everyone knows that moderation is a good idea. Am I saying, 'Quit while you're ahead?' Well, duh."

And then I realized: What I'm really saying is, quit before you're ahead. Just when you start to see results, have the discipline to let it go for now.

I ask a lot of questions when I'm teaching. "What strategy are you going to use to practice this?" I'll query, hoping that she'll be able to articulate the concepts I've been drilling over the last eighteen months.

"I'm going to keep playing it until I get it right!" she says confidently.

"NO!" I say, pretending to be a severe turn-of-the-century schoolmarm. "You will play it correctly the first time, and then repeat it only as many times as necessary!"

We don't want mindless repetition. That is bad. Either play it for fun or play it for results - if you've got neither of those, just stop. And of course, the same goes for running. There is a nimbus of good stuff just outside your comfort zone, but if you venture too far outside of that, you have reached the point of diminishing returns. The trick is that, for most of your training, you will end your run feeling like you could have done more. And that is good.

Or is it? I'm probably an expert at teaching music lessons (I've put my 10,000 hours into that for sure), but I'm not an expert at running. I'm just an experiment of one. But I know that last night, when I stopped running at 1.64 miles, I felt like a stronger person even though my legs have gotten weaker.

Where else should you quit before you're ahead?