Few things in life hold less meaning for me than a New Year’s Resolution. In my thirty-five years, I can count on one hand the number I’ve ever kept.
There was the year I promised to be a nicer person (that worked for mere hours.) Then, the year I was going to give up chocolate (I substituted with sugar cookies instead.) The year I was going to write down everything I ate for at least six months (I think my record is six days.) And, can’t forget the year I was going to work out every other morning in my apartment with that new yoga DVD (I made it about ten minutes before I realized the woman was a gumby with 2% bodyfat and the exercises were most certainly NOT designed for a “weight loss” regimen of more than 5 pounds, as someone with 100 pounds to lose most certainly couldn’t hold a plank pose for more than 2 seconds.)
What I’ve found, instead, is that over the course of a year, the slow, steady work it takes to maintain a fit life (or even, to begin living one again) is something I enjoy. So, though January first is typically a day to resolve to do many things, I’m settling for that quiet, long-term, liberating goal I KNOW I can achieve: a personal Revolution.
Revolution is a big word. When I hear it, I think about what our American forefathers did to break free from jolly England: the uncertainty they faced as they thought about living a life without the restrictions of someone else’s rules; the courge it took to defy a government so powerful, so rich, that they knew they’d be facing unthinkable challenges to stand alone; and the intelligence that they brought to bear to craft a new way of living, with new rules, a greater government that was balanced, and represented the will of the people.
Maybe it’s a stretch, and perhaps it’s just my political science background coming through, but I think that creating a Revolution in your life requires many of these same attributes. First, you must be willing to deal with the uncertainty of what lies ahead. Will you find relief, and strength, and enjoyment on a track, running through the woods, or climbing stairs? Maybe you’ll hate it, and have to find something else – paddling, or swimming, or basketball, or tennis. Will you be comfortable throwing off the chains of your existing life, habits, and the things you enjoy with others? Who knows. But if you can handle the uncertainty – and make the most of finding the activities you like, you’ll have one key facet of the Revolution process handled.
And what about courage? Maybe you think you don’t have much. Perhaps, like me, you’re thinking that the last time you displayed any was when you went mano a mano with the Daddy Long Legs residing on your windowsill. But believe me, you might not be defying a government – but you are defying the life, the habits, and even, sometimes, the people around you who don’t quite get what all the fuss is about. Sure, you’re big, or slow, or you like your couch a lot – but that’s okay, the establishment says. Accept who you are! Embrace it! (they say). And yes, they’re right. You should be able to look yourself in the mirror and truly see what’s staring back at you. But you should also have the courage to break free of the hold of the TiVo, of the kids’ homework, of the requirement that you continue to live a sedentary life. And yes, that takes courage. It takes strength to try something new, and to know you might suck at it – but that you’ll keep trying until you find something you’ll like. It takes courage to always finish last at your running or walking group, or to show up to the gym in your faded sweats, with a red face, and a jiggly stomach. But that’s courage you HAVE. You just need to give yourself a chance to use it.
And what about intelligence? Does engaging in your own fit Revolution require intelligence? Hell, yes. This stuff doesn’t happen overnight. Becoming fit requires a lot of things – not the least of which is figuring out how, in today’s day and age, you’re going to overcome all of the excuses you have for NOT doing this. You’re going to have to assess your life, and be smart enough to realize that the Revolution takes time. It doesn’t happen in one day, or even one month. It starts with dipping your toe in the waters, to decide if this is what you really want. It continues when you realize that feeling strong and powerful is what you deserve in life. And it becomes a part of who you are when you get up each day and find a way to move one step forward to the new life, the one without restrictions.
My Revolution starts anew every year. I examine where I’m at, review what I’d like to accomplish, and set short-term goals to help me get there. Today, I went to the gym for the first time in 2010. I walked for thirty minutes on the treadmill, and did 45 minutes of physical therapy, which I haven’t done in quite awhile. Then I walked downstairs and signed up for the Masters Swim Team, which meets 2 mornings and 4 other days a week. Did I display the traits I just discussed? I think so. The gym has 15,000 square feet of options – many of which are intimidating as hell. When I arrived this morning, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I walked around for a bit. Should I join the pump class? Nah, too hard. What about the pilates class? No, I didn’t really like it last time. The treadmill was open, but could I do thirty minutes with a broken toe? Let’s try.
And maybe it’s not courage to sit in an open-ended workout room, doing abdominal and strengthening exercises for all the world to see, but it sure felt like it to me. And then, there’s intelligence.
You see, I know my fitness personality quite well. I do very well when I have a group to meet, or a goal at the end of a program. But I’m not training for anything right now – just building a base of healthy fitness activities. I’ve had ZERO success getting to the gym in the morning, which is when I would really prefer to go. So today, I checked out the Masters Swim Team (which is a swim program where you can still kind of suck, and be permitted to swim with a team). They meet twice a week in the morning, from 5:45-6:45, and four other times too. For $100, I can join for three months (did I mention that cash motivates me?). So I signed up. And now, at least two mornings a week, I’ll have my swim workout – with a team. Couple that with my running/walking group, and I’ve got three days a week of activity. Add in at least two days of outdoor activity, and I’m up to five days a week of steady, fun, fitness.
That’s the best I can do to plan my Revolution. It’s how I stay motivated and accountable, and engaged. It’s what works for me. Maybe your Revolution starts in your living room, or at a local Weight Watchers meeting, or on the bike you haven’t ridden in four years. Wherever it begins, remember this: you have the skills, the courage, and the intelligence to succeed. Your Revolution has just begun.