I had a great e-mail from an old friend yesterday, a guy who never feels as fit as he looks. He’s an old friend, but a young man, a busy business owner. There’s always more he can think of doing, day or night to build and promote his business, and taking time “off” to exercise is a difficult choice. He’s figured out how to fit exercise into his day by working out in shorter blocks, twice a day..
This guy is a natural goal-setter, but he’s got a twist on setting fitness goals, a twist I thought was very helpful and well worth sharing, with his permission:
“For me, weight loss has to be about the commitment instead of the plan. Plans (as a whole) are somebody else’s invention. My commitment is my own and I have dueled with being overweight long enough to know what I really need to do to lose weight. I try to exercise twice a day, an aerobic and an anaerobic exercise.
“When I exercise, my goal is to get going, and then I will set micro goals during the workout to keep me challenged and motivated. Lots of times in the past I would get going on an exercise routine and then quit after I was supposed to run five miles but couldn’t. Now I just get jogging, get a feeling for what my abilities might be on a given day, and then set a goal. If I reach the micro goal, I (more often than not) will raise the next challenge. If I don’t reach a micro goal, I will make a compromise with myself and set a more achievable challenge.
“My only promise to myself is never end a work out on a low note. I weigh myself daily in the morning– and if I go up in weight, I analyze what I might have done to gain (sometimes it’s a very sensible but salty meal and I’ve retained water). Then I forgive myself, and set a new daily goal.”
There are two things I loved about this guy’s method
He’s developed an ability that I understand high-performance athletes share — Listening To Your Body. All the combined medical research reveals very little about how our bodies react to new challenges like diet and exercise. Each of us as an organism reacts differently. Our bodies react in their own time and in vastly different ways to reduced calories, carbs, or fat and increased demand on muscles, bones, heart, mind.
When you get used to exercising regularly you know that you have powerful days and slow days that sometimes have obvious causes, and sometimes are completely inexplicable. When I’m having a hard day at the gym I try very hard not to berate myself or think of myself as naturally lazy.
I am learning, but not yet skilled at not judging myself at all, but instead taking a pure and studious interest in what my body is experiencing. On Monday of last week, I was a powerhouse. By Wednesday the same exact routine had me trembling and falling over. Yesterday the elliptical machine killed me. Today I could have kept going forever.
Showing up is half the battle. His goal is only to begin to exercise every day. He has larger goals, but showing up is the main thing. I have another friend who has set that goal for herself for now. Just show up at the gym several times a week. What she feels like doing when she gets there is the next question, but for now showing up is a great goal and a great gift to herself.
I believe our bodies want to be fit, I believe yours will guide you through your exercise to peak fitness. It’s a fantastic machine that will self-correct if given the chance. This week I’m going to focus on working out mindfully, being objective about my progress, listening to myself, and gently encouraging myself to reach. And of course, showing up.
Good luck with your micro-goals,