It’s frequently said that the hardest step we must take to improve our health is the first one. It’s the step up off the couch and out the door; away from the unhealthy food and towards the good stuff; and into a void that is frequently neither comfortable nor easy. And yet, with a courage and determination that is bottomless, we do it. But let us be clear: it is the first step (repeated, for most of us, every day) that is the hardest.
Exercise, they say, is habit forming. But for most of us, a lifetime of bad habits are teasers, tempting us back to the easy way out. I thought of this tonight as I got ready to head for a swim at the local rec center. I had set myself up well today to get moving – my stuff was set aside this morning before I left the house because last night, I was at work too late to hit the gym.
So today, at my front door, were my goggles, flip flops, watch, swim cap, bathing suit, towel, and a bag. When I left this morning, I left them there, rather than shoving them in my bag, only to have to change out of pantyhose and a dress at the gym. That dog won’t hunt, and I knew it. But I left work at a reasonable hour tonight, made a light dinner, did some more work at home, and at 8:00, headed to the pool. I swam 800 meters in about 25 minutes (which included a warm up and cool down) and I shimmied into my lycra and headed home.
And yet. The hardest step I took was walking away from work and getting out the door.
So what got me there tonight? Three things, and if you, too struggle to stay committed to your plan, I encourage you to consider them:
1. I told at least 4 people today that I was swimming tonight. I’m the kind of person who likes to be held accountable. So when I tell someone I’m going swimming, you can be DAMN sure tomorrow I’m going to want to brag about it. And right now, I’m happy to do so – because I have a race in September, and I’m making sure that I’m going to be ready. Plus, I’m loving the endorphins of being back in training, and sharing that feeling makes me feel good.
2. My scale is inching slowly upward. Yes, you read that correctly. I have never been a scale hopper. I dont’ do it. And yet, I notice that the number is inching up, and not in a good way. I have decided that the time for intervention is NOW and I’m not messing around. It’s got me motivated.
3. I have a race in September. On my birthday. It’s an Olympic distance triathlon, and I’m not messing around with this one. It’s in downtown London, and I am counting on the city being mostly gridlocked for 6 weeks leading into the race; so I’m getting a head start and a good, solid base before I have to get creative about training. It’s got me focused in a way that I NEVER am without a goal.
So if I’m not the only one challenged by putting one foot in front of the other, I’ll just reiterate a few tips:
1. Tell people what you’re going to do. Do it. Then tell someone you did it. The accountability (and, sometimes, the “atta girl”) will not only keep you honest, but it will help improve your pride in yourself (and give others a chance to be impressed, too!).
2. Find a metric that matters to you, and watch it. Maybe for you, it’s not Lbs. Maybe it’s your cholesterol, or the number of drinks you have every day, or the number of cigarettes. Find one that matters, and build it into whatever you’re trying to change. Need help? GET IT.
3. Sign up for a race. I know, I know, I’ve said this before. But honestly, if you don’t have a race on your calendar that challenges you, what exactly are you waiting for? I heartily advocate for signing up for at least one “A” race (your BIG event); “B” race (a build-up or fall-back race”) and a few testers every season. They keep you honest and the shiny medals are good for picking up hot men. Or something like that.
So that’s it from this side of the pond this evening. I know, it’s not too much in the wisdom category, but hey, at least there was a workout today, right?
See you on the path!