One of the problems I have with most fitness type goals is that they have an end. The whole “This is day (X) of (XXX)” defines an end. And while there is some merit in doing this with certain types of goals…
Are you done? In some cases, as with a race goal, yes. You are done. Which can actually be a negative. Anybody ever experienced PRD? Post Race Depression? I have and I know many who do. It’s the big let down after the months of work and anxiety leading up to an “A” race. Once the runner’s high is gone you are left empty and feeling like you have to start all over again with some new goal. It can be overwhelming and frustrating.
I think this is even worse with weight goals. You work hard and change the things you need to and all the while you have a number in mind. “I’ve lost 12 of 30 pounds!” Great! What happens when you get to 30? Then what?
The danger is… you stop. You know… “Hey! I made it! Now gimme a beer!!!”
The point is, in my feeble mind… Deadlines, countdowns and the like imply a finish line that, in pure fitness terms, doesn’t exist. Once you achieve a goal like a weight loss target YOU ARE NOT DONE! You are never done. The reason so many people (myself definitely included) fail at fitness goals is that we don’t think long term. Even a year is SHORT term when you are talking about fitness. Success comes only when you die at your target weight. Until then, it is a constant, day by day, minute by minute, struggle.
I know that is not a pretty way to look at it. But that IS reality. Once you start up that hill, walk like you mean it, because you have a long way to go. Like the rest of your life. NOT that 30 pound goal. Once you hit that goal, you are just starting. Maintaining it forever (or as long as you think it’s important) is an even bigger challenge. And one that most people, including athletic trainers, fail to address as a reality.
I know, I know. What’s my point?
I was just thinking about all this as I was swimming this morning. I think it’s one of the many things I have been doing wrong. And I’m NOT saying you shouldn’t set number goals. God forbid I should even insinuate that lest my number junkie friends lynch me. What I am saying is numbers and distances can’t be what it’s all about. You will either hit them and then have to start all over with something else or you won’t get there and be constantly frustrated by them.
I don’t know. Maybe I want or need to think globally and act locally right now. The global goal is to be in the weight classification the government considers “healthy”. With the ultimate goal to be right in the middle of that range. But right now, today, this minute, all I can do is the small things. Start to change my eating habits. Eliminate alcohol. Exercise. That’s all I can do today. In technical and cold terms, I need to operate at a caloric deficit of approximately 500 calories per day. But even that leads to foolish manipulation of eating habits, skipping meals and doing that extra workout, just to meet the numbers.
But on a very personal level, I just need to breathe. Sometimes hard, sometimes not so hard. I need to eat. As best I can given where I want to be. And… I need to relax. I need to bring the joy back to my runs and rides and swims and hikes and whatever other crazy things I decide to do.
See, what I finally realized was that it was the numbers that caused the stress. And with me, and this is my WORST habit… food is comfort. And so is beer, wine, etc. Every deadline, timeline or waistline I missed drove me crazy. I hated myself most of the time I was training. Nothing was good enough. So I ate and or drank to make myself feel better. See the ugly cycle there? There is no chance of success in that scenario.
So today, I swam. Yes, I know how far I swam. But it doesn’t matter. I was there. I saw friends I hadn’t seen in months. And it felt good.
Tonight, I am going to the gym with my son. We are going to start lifting again. The irony here is that we are going to do max lifts tonight to set our (VERY) structured program with. Some things still need numbers… 🙂 He is old enough to lift bigger weights but still young enough not to know how far to push and I personally believe you can’t screw around with a weightlifting program or you risk serious injury. However, we WON’T be setting any max GOALS. We need to know where we are. Where we go depends on things we can’t even see yet. So we’ll just have fun with it and see where it goes.
And finally, I am starting a stretching program with my wife. We are using The Whartons Stretch Book. It is almost, but not quite, yoga. And it has stretches specific to triathletes in it to work the areas we neglect the most. This is something I should have done 30 years ago.
So let’s review.
What I am saying is:
- FOR ME, timelines, deadlines and countdowns are not working. If you like them and they motivate you, move along. Nothing to see here.
- FOR ME, timelines, etc. define an end that doesn’t really exist. I want to hit my goal weight in less than a year but I want to maintain it until I take my last breath (if trying to achieve it doesn’t kill me first…). That’s the only timeline that is important. That means the changes that I made were permanent.
- FOR ME, the process has to become the most important thing. I have to pay attention to my habits and choices every second. Those are the things that have to change. Otherwise it doesn’t matter how far or fast I can go. I’ll still never get where I want to go.