Now, where did that New Year’s resolution go? No matter — here’s how to (actually) find fitness.
Since we’re about two weeks into the new year, it should seem appropriate to have a little talk about restarting those resolutions that you bailed on four or five days ago, or right after our friend asked if we wanted her extra blueberry pancake.
Most resolutions, particularly those started by those looking to make dramatic life changes for the better, end up quickly forgotten, justified somehow by any number of arguably reasonable and logical explanations. And on top of all that, we’re beating ourselves up over our failure.
It’s just really hard to break old habits, and it is even more difficult to make new ones stick. There’s really no way to gloss over it. Especially if we are used to, say, a few hours of tv or internet surfing every evening while we knock out another “healthy” quesadilla recipe we tried from some cooking magazine we got at the grocery checkout. Those practices, those habits, have over the years become wired in to our systems and to change them is really uncomfortable, and highly unlikely, unless we first change our mind so that we can change our health.
Around here, in Austin, running events are kinda the thing. Whatever the distance or type, almost everyone has done at least one. It’s just part of the athletic culture here. And if you haven’t done one, you know someone who has, which means that at some point she’s going to go all evangelical on you and try to get you to join.
So you resolve, once and for all, that you’ll do the half marathon with her, because the thought of accomplishing something like that excites you a bit, and you really do need to get on the healthy train and you also, secretly, want her off your back. And then you realize that the half marathon she is talking about is in, like, nine weeks.
So you do the training you took from the running magazine you saw at the grocery checkout, struggling a bit with trying to wedge all the requisite running and such into your already packed day, not to mention that prior to the training, you were running, on average, maybe twice a month tops; and finally completing the event but swearing no mas, there’s no way you’re doing that again.
And this is pretty much how it goes. You bite off more than we can chew. You think that by going whole hog, by diving in head first, you’re gonna, you know, just do it! Because that’s the way we’re told to do it; because that’s the way the magazine that you got from the grocery checkout told you to do it.
But it doesn’t always work out like that, does it?
Which is why I think that we should take baby steps.
First, we have to put running, or whatever we’re going to do, in context of daily life. We developed our poor habits over the months and years. So it certainly seems reasonable that we’re going to have to develop good habits over the months and years. We need to develop a practice that will eventually become habitual. We need to take baby steps so that we can allow ourselves a little more leeway when we miss a day, or whatever.
Rather than setting a goal with a finite end, which gives us the perfect out not to continue, we might be better off setting a goal to do something every day. Something. We could do a 30 minute walk. We can do 20 squats. We can do a circuit workout on the track. We can climb 5 flights of stairs. We can do a yoga class. By mixing it up a bit, we give ourselves some variety that will keep us interested and engaged. And by making the goal a daily goal, we use frequency to begin to establish the pattern, to create the practice that we can continue beyond a number of days.
And when we miss a day, for whatever reason, we shouldn’t bludgeon ourselves with hatred or disgust. We haven’t failed. If we can think about our exercise in terms of consistent, frequent activity rather than as a specific training, then we’re more likely to allow ourselves to look at it without undue pressure. The wiser move is to acknowledge that we missed a day and carry on. The Japanese say Nana korobi ya oki. Fall down seven times, get up eight. Get up, brush yourself off, rub some salad on it. Start again where you left off, where you fell down, but start again.
Soon, we notice that we have a month of doing something every day. And we notice that now we can do 30 squats. Or that we can jog for a few minutes within our 30 minute walk. Or that the 5 flights of stairs no longer requires us to catch our breath before we go into the meeting. Baby steps. Soon, we notice too, that we don’t need that extra grande Americano in the afternoon. Soon, we notice that we have to snug up our belt just a bit tighter when we put on our jeans. And then we notice that we have two months of doing something every day. And then we notice that we’re sleeping better. We notice that we feel just a bit better–a little healthier, a little lighter. And then, soon, we notice that we’re asking our friend if maybe she wants to do the 5K with us.