As part of my goal reassessment plan GOGOBEAR, I need to address my physical activity. I have potato-ish tendencies. I am not a slug, just my preferred methods of relaxation are reading and watching TV, both of which are preferentially done from the seated position. At work, I spend a great deal of time seated in front of a computer. It isn’t something I’ve planned, just the way things have worked out. Working out or running was never something that crossed my mind as part of stress relief or even daily life. However, my propensity toward melancholia-induced caloric ingestion and my desire to cause a smaller permanent depression in my mattress, warrant some increase in physical activity.
Things working against me.
Life gets in the way. Over the last two years, a lot of life happened, very quickly. Moving, getting married, having baby, finding a new job, moving again, starting a new job all worked together to form create the perfect life storm. Going from single, to married, to father was a big shift in time allocation. It was a shift that I sought out and cherish, but the result was a reduction in personal time, the time I could use for physical activity. The reprioritization of life’s activities sent purposeful physical activity way towards the bottom near haircuts and learning to juggle. When I do have some personal time I tend to spend it doing things I want to do more than working out: writing, building, thinking.
Running out of juice. All of those little parts of my life consume energy and at least for me mental and physical energy are interconnected. At the end of day, thinking toxicology and combating the Katie chaos, energy reserves run low. I don’ t subscribe to the idea that being more physically active will increase my energy levels. Even during times when I was being more physically active, I never felt energizer or motivated, just tired. Good workouts don’t pump me up, they just drain me. To be more physically active as part of an overall plan to be healthier I need to make it a priority.
Not a gym guy. For many, being more physically active means going to the gym. I’m not a gym guy. I don’t enjoy watching other people sweat and struggle (without a ball being involved). I don’t want to grunt while I lift the equivalent of a refrigerator. I prefer to sweat and huff and puff without an audience. Plus, most gyms are scams designed to lock you into some sort of ironclad contract; requiring a blood sacrifice and about half a paycheck to walk on treadmill three times a week. Gyms are out.
Getting stuck in my head. Like many things in my life, one of thing things hanging up my physically active life is too much thinking. Not the good kind of creative thinking or projected imagery that drives you towards a goal. It is the wishful, self-defeating thinking about what I should/could be. The thinking gets hung up on ideals that are historical, fantastical, or far-fetched. The chasm between my physical reality and these headspace-derived ideals becomes so great that the easiest option is to do nothing.
How I get past the bullshit and become more physically active.
My grade school band director, Mr. Lumie (sp?), drummed into our heads “results not excuses”. And while I a few years later quit band for choir (which required no actual practice – at the junior high level), the lesson stuck. In this case, I’m only making excuses to myself. My activity/inactivity does not really impact anyone else1, it is personal and internal. So the focus needs to be on results, not excuses. Even in the results are small, they represent progress and potentially momentum.
How do I develop goal around that? How do I combat the do-nothings, get more physically active, but at the same time remain in balance with the rest of my life? So in thinking about this I came up with these goals.
Find the time and energy. This certainly won’t be easy, but if I want to be more physically active, I have to do this. I think, at least at first, this will mean doing things at home and at odd hours. I’m not a morning person, but the morning is when I can make a little time and have yet to be worn out from the day. At least right now, Katie is a bit of a late riser so I can go for morning walks or do some exercises without really disrupting anyone else.
Develop a routine/pattern. This is the hardest thing for me, but if I can develop an activity routine, it will be better in the long run. One thing that I’m doing currently is starting a morning walk the dog routine. Rio is much better at developing a routine than I am. After a couple of days of getting up early to walk her around the neighborhood, she now wakes me up before the alarm clock, ready to go out. So far, it has only been about two weeks, but I’m getting used to it.
Take small steps to build on the routine. Once I’ve established a routine, it will be easier to build little things into it. The idea is to build slowly. First the walking, then maybe add some calisthenics (getting the blood pumping). This is where those short burst exercise routines may be good. My plan is to try to add something every two weeks. Since time is limited and I don’t want this to be an integrated part of my life (not the focus of my life), I’ll try to keep it in a limited time frame. It isn’t going to develop into some 2 hour every morning workout, but maybe I try to increase the distances and keep the time the same.
Understand that progress may be slow and set back might occur. This is the “just keep swimming” theory. This is just a part of my whole life, at times it may need to be set aside. Routines might get broken up by life events. When the opportunity reemerges, make sure to hop back on.
Be somewhat flexible. While routines are great, the reality is that sometimes life takes precedents. Maybe I can’t get out in the morning, but an afternoon walk is possible. That is OK. Maybe I can’t walk, but there is time later for a bike ride. It is OK to have exchanges, but the “somewhat” part comes from knowing myself. I can’t allow myself to make cheap promises. The idea of “I’ll sleep in this morning, but I’ll go for a walk this afternoon” is ok, but I know that afternoon walks don’t always happen. If nothing is really impeding the routine, I need to not make these kind of trade-offs. This also can go for being flexible inside of a routine. Doing some different things inside a routine, to keep it from getting boring.
Track it. I love my Nike+ app on my phone. I keep track of the miles walked (I’m over 500 since I down loaded the app – with the majority coming in 2013-14). It gives me a tangible feeling of accomplishment. I can see the number from the week/month/year and know that I’ve be physically active.
Take advantages of opportunities to be physically active. If I can reasonably walk to the grocery, I should. If I can spend a day paddling my kayak, I should take that opportunity. If there is time in the afternoon for a walk with Sara and Kate, I should do that. These don’t occur every day, but being open to them when they do occur will go a long way towards building my physically active life.
Set some physical benchmarks to achieve. While the tracking gives a feeling of progress day to day, setting some physical benchmarks provides something to strive for. There are many I can set, in the intermediate term, but these are the main benchmarks I’ve thought about.
- Walk 30 miles in a month, 365 in a year.
- Be able to go up two flights of stairs without being a huffy puffy mess
- Be able to run/jog one mile in under 15 minutes.
- Be able to walk/jog a 5k in 45 minutes
- Be able to walk/jog a 10k in under 2 hours.
- Be able to do 25 pushups and 25 sit-ups in a row
Keep it up and in balance. Perhaps the biggest thing is to keep being physically active in balance with the rest of my life. Once I’ve started to do these things and met some of the physical targets, I have to remember that those are just benchmarks. Points along the way to let you know you’ve improved your physical shape. They are not stopping points. But at the same time, they don’t need to be escalated. I just want to reach a point where I feel good, and am physically active enough. I don’t want to become the world’s strongest man or the world’s fattest marathon runner, I just want to be able to run around with Kate.
So that is it. Those are my goals for a more physically active life. Hopefully they will coincide well with my healthier life goals to produce a more durable Jason. A Jason who, despite being 39 at the point of his daughter’s birth, will still run and play and coach and laugh and roll down hills with her for many, many years to come.
1This is true to a point. As long as my health and ability to act fully as a father/husband/employee are not impacted, my level of physical activity does not impact anyone else.