How To Win at Fitness

“Slow down...are you OK?”  I didn’t realize how I was behaving until Ava said that. I had just finished setting up the Christmas tree late Sunday afternoon and I was apparently moving through the house very deliberately and quickly.

I get that way when I feel time pressure. The week ahead was looking overly packed and I suspect I was ramping up to attack it with laser like efficiency. Except to everyone else my “efficiency” was simply obnoxious.

I slowed down and apologized, but it didn’t change what I was facing. In addition to my regular schedule, I would be adding taking my daughter, Emma, to drivers ed classes every day and two club volleyball practices.

69Additionally, Ava’s daily breast cancer radiation treatments started and I didn’t want any of this extra stuff to fall on her.

All of it simply made the entire week feel packed with very little margin. And, that made the 20k One Year Step Challenge feel even more challenging. It was Week 14 of this goal to get at least 20,000 steps every day for a year without a break.

But, here’s the thing. I never considered not reaching that goal and more importantly I never doubted I would. Please know, I say that with humility because in the not to distant past neither of those statements would have been true. That for me is the biggest win of all.

I’m learning that winning at fitness is mostly a head game. We make a decision to get fit. Just making that decision feels great and we begin the journey with a ton of motivation. Sadly, the emotional fuel slowly, but surely, evaporates. All it takes is a road block or maybe just a speed bump and the fitness journey is sidetracked. And that adds one more failure to an internal loop that continuously reminds is that we don’t have what it takes.

Does that feel familiar?

The good news is that it is possible to win at fitness even if the list of failed attempts is overly long. Winning at fitness is as simple as building a chain.

Fitness doesn’t happen in a single chunk. Instead, it’s built one link at a time. It’s the accumulation of each link that makes it a chain. It’s also the accumulation of intentional movement over time that leads to fitness. But, here’s the thing. In the chain you’re building, the links don’t represent exercise, they really represent wins.

Over the past several months I’ve added a new link to my chain every day. Each link represents a fitness win. Some of those links were easy. The weather was nice, my schedule was relaxed, and I felt great. But, some of those links were hard. Those were days when I wasn’t sure I could reach the goal, but didn’t give up.

As the chain gets longer the internal tape begins to change. A history of failure is slowly replaced with a new history of wins. Now, when I face a day or even an entire week that would have felt impossible now feels different. I just need to work on making “laser like efficiency” a little less obnoxious. 

It really is possible to win at fitness and step-goals are a fantastic way to make that happen. If you want to get started I offer this caution, though. Don’t start with a goal too big. In fact, you need to start small. Very small.

Wednesday’s blog post will help you understand why that is. And, then next week we’ll examine whether you should take a break from your step goals over the holidays.

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