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We all want better fitness, and have some goals to that end. But not all of us succeed. Here’s a look at how to set better fitness goals, and actually meet them!
We all struggle with the must-do and the want-to-do categories of our lives and days. Any given day is flooded with a bunch of duties and responsibilities, and then there are the ones that we would love to indulge, but cannot, for various reasons.
Most of the time, we do things that we are meant to do. Including cooking dinners when you’d rather be curled up reading a book, and babysitting kids when you’d rather watch a movie, and going off to work when you’d rather go play ball with your toddler on a bright sunny spring day. We do them because that’s expected of us. Those are really the inconsequential little details that make up most of our lives. We kick a fuss, grieve, then accept, and move on.
There comes a time when these little-sies become so huge that you feel like you are stuck in the story of how a million ants fell an elephant. The every-days are so huge, so monumentally nagging, and seem so adept at sucking away little bits of your time and energy, that one day you wake up and realize that months have passed by, and you have not really done what you wanted to do; that goal is now covered in cobwebs and you are left wondering.
Happens to me every now and then. That’s also because I have many goals. Just many small hills to climb, not one huge mountain, because I know my limitations.
My new recent passion has been cycling. Yes, I cycle like my life depends on it. It does, but that’s another post for another day. So how did I fall upon cycling? Because that’s the only thing left safe for me to do before my knees buckle me down and I am confined to the chair and home.
Within a month of starting to cycle 3-4 times a week, I went from zero miles cycled to 33 miles!
Me, with weak knees and not exactly a sporty woman in her early 40s, and with a zillion things that weigh her minutes down a day, managed to put in the mileage on the trails. Alone.
I did not know I could do it. Heck, I did not even know where I would go or how far I would go. All I knew after the first ride was that I liked it. I liked the feel of the wind on me, the way my strong calves pedalled me forward, the rush of balancing and striving hard to hold that balance and not topple down. I liked seeing fit and able bodies race past me on the trail. I liked their bodies. I liked the purposeful look in their eyes. I liked the way they included me in their space, and the encouragement that the cyclist forum gave me, a beginner.
I liked the childish glee with which I tweeted and Facebooked the maps and my mileage, and how I felt during those hours. I liked people being happy for me. I liked the messages and emails I received, telling me that I was an inspiration. I liked how surprised and shocked I was that there were many out there who were holding and grabbing onto straws for inspiration. I liked me panting in home after a brisk 20 mile ride. I liked receiving encouraging texts and congratulatory notes from my husband and my kids.
I liked the look in my daughter’s eyes when I told her I cycled these many miles. I liked being her role model.
I liked the look in my daughter’s eyes when I told her I cycled these many miles. I liked being her role model. I liked that feeling of accomplishment with every mile marker I passed. I liked how my body started looking and feeling, the legs being limber, the muscles in my back sturdier, the abs just a bit tighter.
I liked the way my arms bronzed and darkened with the sun’s rays. I liked that I was able to do small goals, and how much things came together so I could accomplish them.
I started with a simple goal. I had to go out and cycle every day.
When I got that under for a week, I upped it to 15 miles.
Then I added in one more mile. It got to be 18 miles.
Then I decided to up the speed. I went 11 mph, instead of a leisurely 10 miles per hour.
Then I said, I needed to not be afraid of hills, and I changed my route a bit. I hated the hills. With a passion. My knees hurt, but then there was no turning back. I had to do hills at least once or twice a week. At first, I jumped off and walked.
Then I said, nope, I’m cycling no matter what, and I cycled. Slowly, but steadily, I balanced and kept my body straight on the cycle, and pushed and goaded myself with a countdown and the mantra “go, go, go, go, go” – I muttered and cursed and chanted till I reached the top!
Then more miles.
Then riding with other avid experienced cyclists, so I would not stop, but keep in pace. When you do not have a choice but to keep pace with the other stronger ones alongside of you, you cannot help but become stronger. No one likes to be left behind.
How did I do it?
One big mountain can only be scaled by small measurable goals. So here’s what I did:
I told myself and wrote it down every morning – what my goal was. Nothing vague like “I will ride today”. Instead it was “I will cycle 18 miles today” , “I will ride the slope without getting off my bike” and so on. Very clear. Small goals. Not many at one time, but one thing to focus on.
Write it down, clear and bright.
So to be able to ride 18 miles – I had to be prepared. I ate better the night before – less carbs, more protein. I stretched in the morning so my calves and hamstrings would be limber and not cramp. I forced a bottle of water so it would last me through the time. I checked on the weather, so I could plan my time and avoid traffic to get to the trail on time. I made sure I had a healthy lunch at home when I came back tired. I made sure the phone was fully charged and I had all my gear in the van ready to go.
Support your goal to help you achieve it.
Cycling was all I would think of in the hours preceding it. It became an obsession. I would talk about it, haunt the forums, clean my bike, visualize my trail, obsess over Google maps while plotting the route, look back at my earlier rides and see how I’ve done, and so on.
The reason I was doing it was it made me feel accomplished. There was a purpose to why I woke up. I was never an athlete despite my mom’s genes. I was sporty enough, but nothing much as an adult. More importantly I felt the need to do it because I finally found my aerobic calling. I couldn’t run because I had bad knees, and cycling was my saviour, to squeeze in the panting and sweating and getting heart beat fast without injuring and hurting my knees. I was ecstatic!
Ask yourself why you are doing this? You must know why you are doing what you are doing.
It felt so good to read back on my days, victories, defeats, pain, and the difficulties. The good stuff eggs you on, the bad stuff makes you swear to never experience that again – so you will plot and ensure you will lessen it! I had my google maps of the rides charted, the smallest details in my journal – the miles, the times – and the pantry stocked. (where healthier food options started becoming stable). I was victoriously changing my lifestyle, and I was happy seeing my progress.
Writing down helps you visualize your road map better.
You and only you own your goals. You are responsible for their success and for their defeat. You are the performer and you are your own audience. Your mind is judging you and you want to look better in front of your own eyes. You will strive hard, because by now, you must want it, and want it real bad.
Practice loyalty. The goal is yours, and you belong to your goal.
For some, these steps come easy enough. Some need some restraint and discipline, and for some, who love to indulge in a million things and get distracted, it is excruciatingly hard. Staying committed takes a lot of gut, discipline, sacrifices, and pain, but when the smallest of victories change you from within, the smile that comes through your heart, the sweat, and grimaces – it will feel like it’s all worth it.
Goal-setting is easy. Sticking to it is the challenge. Once doing it becomes a habit, it’s really just another hill to scale, so what if we aren’t familiar with the terrain, we stick to what we know, and we will scale the next one, and the next. And the next!
Pic credit: geezaweezer (Used under a CC license)
Rads lives in the suburbs of Washington DC along with her husband, three kids and
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