I got on a treadmill about 2 years ago and couldn’t run a full mile. I was shocked.
I had a mental image of myself as a physically fit person which shattered with the panting, sweating reality. This state of being needed to change both for my body and my spirit.
I was carrying a few extra vanity pounds but (thanks 5th floor walk-up) I was not overweight. I was, however, obviously not healthy or active. I started with making my sporadic Bikram practice a priority and hitting the treadmill. My only gidea was to get to running a full mile without stopping… that means I’m in good shape right?
The turning point came a friend suggested that we sign up for a 4mi run in 4 months time. Yes. A true goal and friendly competition. I can work with that.
By the time the Jingle Bell Jog came and went I was hooked on what exercise could do for my body but also what it does for my mind.
Looking over posts and social media presence over the last year I have been surprised at how much I’ve talked about my fitness goals. I never thought I would be that girl – not even to think about a gym rat – but here I am tweeting about lifting and facebooking about triathloning.
It is common to see bloggers and lifestyle designers working on their bodes as well as their businesses. Pushing physical limits beyond conformity (hello obesity epidemic) seems to come with the territory of breaking other social norms for life path. There is the idea that we just want to be around for a long time, stay up later, do more, so we begin to take care of ourselves physically. There is escapism and vanity but there are two additional big reasons for this correlation.
Why do we do it?
1. The Finish Line
2. The spirit-mind-body triad
Setting goals for myself physically — from that first race through 10K to the tri and now on to Savannah — provides real benchmarks to hit when there aren’t those guide posts in other areas of my life.
When we are constantly reinventing and changing, it is difficult to provide ourselves a definitive structure, path or framework. When we dance outside the norm there is no guidebook.
A physical challenge gives us concrete numbers to work towards. There are clear objectives. Hell, we get to run through a damn finish line.
Even in training, completing a solid run, completing that extra set or kicking ass in Fight Club can shut up the voices in our heads asking what we did on the day. Active accomplishments give us little or big victories to kick our proverbial can down our path.
Sets, time, reps, weights, splits are yardsticks to see how far we have come. The pride in the finish is the best balm to get us through bad moments. The physical challenge overcome gives us confidence. Attaining the physical gives us something concrete — something we and we alone have control over –to measure ourselves against and achieve.
The medal, the picture, the tweet let us say “hey I did this!” and lets others share our sense of joy and pride. Saying “I finished my first tri” is accessible to our friends and family and our own internal voices in ways that, I dunno, say “I made some amazing connections at this conference” or “I came up with a blueprint for an email campaign for my side project” or “I am only 200 points away from an around-the-world ticket” often just don’t.
The latter three might be more important to our spirits and future selves in the long term but it is the first that will bring hearty and un-eyebrow-raised kudos. The finish provides the little and big victories our ego needs to keep going.
Define a goal. Work towards it. Accomplish. Repeat.
Physical feats are mental and emotional work manifested.
It took the work of all three to get us to a better split, a longer race, a new PR — just as it takes all three to achieve our other personal, professional, life, love, happiness and journey goals.
Ask an athlete. It takes as much emotional strength and mental endurance as body ability to run a marathon or do an ironman. To the emotional and mental fitness benefits I would add this addictive fuel: clarity.
A long run, a hard bike, a solid workout gives us time and space to think.
Being out, pushing your bodily self, is a way to be IN.
If we sit for 2 hours belly-button gazing we will often feel like that time is wasted. Not so with a long run or workout. Not only does the activity shut up the “go-go-achive” voice in our heads but it often unsticks us in other ways.
Moving our muscles moves our mind.
I cannot tell you how many times I have had a moment of clarity, unlatched an emotion or unwound a puzzle — not to mention composed a post — during a workout.
Remove the physical by engaging in it and the mental and emotional fits into place.
Travel tip – if you’re on the road, a good run, cycle or jog allows you to internalize and find perspective on all you are doing while at the same time soak in more pretty scenery without being all creepy or appearing too touristy – just be safe
Where’s the big finish?
So if you are not setting some type of physical goal for yourself I’d offer that you should. Get moving in your physical world and I guarantee it will move you emotionally and mentally. Even if it is just a half hour walk a day. Great. Now sign up for a 5K in 3 months. Or commit to doing a nature walk with an outdoor group. Set a date that you’re going to achieve your defined X.
Put a date and goal on your calendar.
Share your finish line with others — friends and family – or you can use the handy comments box below to make it concrete for yourself. There is your objective, work the plan to get there.
Fair Warning: it addictive. We finish strong. We enjoy our beer. We wake the next day with sore muscles, heavy legs yet lighthearted and we ask “what new dragons are there to slay?”
Got a goal to share? Running high or thinking I’m a little crazy? Gimmie some comment action! I respond to every non-spamalicious one.
PS – I’ve got an extra special blend percolating for Friday so if you haven’t already, make sure you sign up to get the weekly insiders brew delivered to your inbox. You can also follow @CoffeeBooksBeer for realtime news of my fitness and other adventures.