I enjoy running. I really do. Even when it’s hard, even when I’m out of breath, even when I just want to quit, running is a positive activity for me. I often find when I’m stressed, angry, or upset, my first reaction is to go for a run. And the feeling of accomplishment when I go faster or further than I could before is incredible.
But sometimes, I still don’t make it out the door.
Aerial, on the other hand, I love. And I consistently have no trouble making it to class four, five, or even six days a week – sometimes twice a day. I feel like I could spend all day, every day in an aerial class and I would never get tired of it. Well, my muscles would get tired, but my brain wouldn’t! And that’s what brings me to Part 6 of my indefinitely long series of reaching fitness goals:
It’s fun talking about things that happened nearly a month ago and all, but at some point I feel like I should start getting into where I’ve been for the past two months and why I was barely blogging. I do have a few good semi-decent excuses (I went to boyfriend’s house for Christmas and didn’t bring my laptop, I was on a cruise without internet access, etc.), but those only cover part of the time that I’ve been MIA and only tell a very small part of the story.
The short version of the story is that I sorta just let everything in my life fall apart. But that version sounds sad, and the real story isn’t that depressing, so I’m going to take it upon myself to tell it in full.
Over the summer I read a book about habits which taught me about something really important: keystone habits. Keystone habits are that one change you make that then spirals outward into a whole bunch more habits, all as a result of that very first one. Ideally, and in my case, that habit and the ones resulting from it are positive. So in January of last year I started training for a 10k. That meant running on a regular basis, which led to learning about and starting to implement proper training habits, which led to improving my nutritional profile and starting to do strength training, which led to losing weight and feeling awesome about myself, which led to flossing and using mouthwash every night to be even more awesome, which somewhere in there led to using a to-do list to track everything I needed to get done (i.e. blogging) and do it on time so that I fell into super-productivity and amazingness.
It was incredible. I felt like I had every part of my life super under control – and it had all started with a random inclination to run a 10K in Disney World. The one small problem with this method of habit forming, though, was that as soon as one thing fell apart… it all did.
You know how last week I wrote a post saying I’d been really tired lately? And it sounded like it was just a really long, lame excuse for not keeping up with my blogging? Well on Tuesday night I went to bed at 8:30 pm, and I didn’t even feel bad about it.
For the record, I am not a go to bed early person. If a year ago you’d told me that a year from then I would have either run a half marathon in just over two hours or gone to bed at 8:30 pm once, I would have picked the half marathon. Seriously.
But anyway. Fitness goals.
You hear a lot of talk out there about fitness accountability, and for good reason. It’s pretty easy to be like, “you know what, self? I’m not feeling that five mile run today. Let’s skip it.” And your self will be like, “I was thinking the exact same thing! I’ve got some serious couching to do today.” But it’s a lot harder to call up a friend and be like, “you know what, friend? I’m not feeling those plans we made to exercise together. I’m just not gonna show up.”
The problem with this is that I strongly prefer running on my own; it’s my me time. And I know I’m not the only one who prefers exercising all by their one-some. So the good news is that exercise with friends is not the only way to hold yourself accountable!
At the very end of my last fitness post, I mentioned the importance of having goals that make you feel like you’re exercising because you want to, not because you feel like you have to. And that is absolutely one of the most essential elements of keeping up with a fitness program; you have to be doing it for the right reasons. Let me explain.
When I first started going to the gym on a regular basis, I was doing it to lose weight. That’s a common goal, and I was serious about it, but the problem was that I had limited motivation for doing it. I mentioned last time that I had several mental breakdowns out of frustration – I was losing weight, but slowly enough that I couldn’t see a visible difference, and I had never been overweight so I didn’t feel like it was that important that I continue to lose it. Essentially, weight loss was too slow to seem like I was making any progress and not important enough for me to accept that progress would be slow.
I did keep going, in part with the help of my boyfriend’s emotional support and in part because I was training for a 10K and I didn’t want to hold back the friend I would be running with, but working out absolutely felt like a chore and I had to use mind tricks to get myself to continue doing it. I wish I had known at the time that there’s a better and easier way:
Set Readily Achievable Goals Unrelated to Physical Appearance
In my last stay in shape post, I talked about how in order to reach my fitness goals I had to stop making excuses. Back when I wrote that post, I had just run a 10k. Now I have a casual birthday half marathon under my belt and am training for an actual half marathon race in October. Not making excuses has been a really important part of making it to that point!
But, it’s not the only thing I’ve learned; far from it, in fact. So here’s part two – with another really important lesson: it’s going to suck at first. Probably for a while. Keep doing it anyway.