New Year, New You
Go Forth and Conquer Your Fitness Goals
I’m a person of extremes. I love to jump into any new venture headfirst, with a whole lotta gusto. But, this can make for rough goings when I’m tackling a new goal that I don’t have an immediate aptitude for. When I was younger, if I wasn’t instantly great at something, I would think, “Well, I guess this just isn’t for me,” and I’d give up and look for the next metaphorical mountain to throw myself at. Now, with the wisdom of life experience behind me, I know that it’s okay not to be an immediate savant when tackling a new goal or skill, and that not everything will come easily. In fact, some of my favorite activities are things that I didn’t excel at easily or instantly.
My maternal grandmother was a track star in her youth. And, when I say star, I mean star in that she set records in her area that have yet to be broken and was an Olympic contender. Standing in that long, long shadow growing up was not always easy, especially for someone like me who wasn’t considered the most athletic. I played sports and was fairly decent at them, but was always made fun of for being kind of slow when it came to running. However, given the fact that I was a top-tier student, I pretty much assumed that my strength would be mental, and physical prowess just wasn’t in the cards for me. As I got older, this justification lost its power. I didn’t like that there were certain areas in my life where I didn’t feel accomplished. I wanted to be able to run a marathon — or at least a mile. I wanted to be able to conquer my fitness goals.
So, how did I manage to keep plugging forward when the going got tough? Well, I did what came naturally and took things slow.
When taking on a new fitness journey, you have to accept that for the majority of us, it is going to be hard. If you’re someone who is starting over completely from scratch, your first few workouts will probably not be fun. I know for me, I kept thinking, I hate this, I hate this, I hate this for the entirety of any workout during the first month of my foray into athleticism. But, I knew that if I just kept at it, my stamina and endurance would grow and things would get easier. I wasn’t supposed to be able to instantly tackle any physical feat because that’s just plain not how the human body works. Sure, some people are genetically predisposed to be more athletic than others, but every single athlete and physically capable person has to work at it.
Getting into shape or tackling a fitness goal may feel daunting. But, you should never allow that to stop you from trying.
I did just that, I worked at it. I accepted my own physical limitations and started from there. Yes, I wanted to be able to lift the 20-pound weights when doing an exercise just like the trainers at my favorite workout classes. But I couldn’t, so I needed to start at 8 pounds and work my way up. I was embarrassed when I would have to stop mid-workout to take a breath or a drink of water because I couldn’t keep up, but that was what my body needed at that point, that was the limit of my stamina and endurance at first. However, there is a difference between a break to catch your breath and not being willing to push oneself, so I made sure to try to walk the line between self-care for my body and self-indulgence, stopping because I just “didn’t feel like doing it.” I made sure to grant my body these little allowances while still pushing as much as I safely could. And, I was actually surprised by how far my body was actually able to go in my workouts. I had always given up so easily when things had gotten physically hard, even when I was not aware of what my body was actually capable of.
Just as I had hoped, the longer I kept at my workouts, the easier things got; even better, I was able to take on more physical challenges. As my muscles built up, I was able to take on heavier weights in class. As my endurance and stamina grew, I didn’t need to take as many breaks and I found myself able to keep up with the other members of my group fitness workouts. In 2019, I was able to tackle a 5-mile run without stopping. Recently, I even managed to run a 9-minute-mile — something I never thought I would be able to do.
But, it all started with baby steps. One workout at a time, taking each facet of the workout piece by piece. I needed to accept that this journey was going to be tough and was just that — a journey. There’s a reason people say “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” when talking about taking on lofty goals. If I had admitted defeat in my fitness journey any of the times when I felt defeated, I wouldn’t be as physically fit as I am today. I feel strong, I feel capable, I feel athletic — something I never thought I could be.
For your own fitness journey, you need to figure out what works for you and take baby steps toward your goals. For me, running was always the hardest exercise, so I decided that was the one that I wanted to conquer as a result. You may decide you need to start with something you actually enjoy, like swimming or Zumba, and that’s okay. If you won’t keep exercising unless it’s an activity that you actually like, keep that in mind. You want to keep going; that’s the only way you’ll accomplish your fitness goals. So, start with where you are and what you can do.
Nowadays, there are more resources than ever to help you tackle your fitness goals. Apps like Couch to 5K help users chip away at their fitness goals in easy-to-tackle workouts that increase in difficulty as your body adapts. During quarantine when gyms and workout classes were shutdown, I really loved the immersive quality of Zombies, Run! to help motivate myself to get out and tackle my daily run. Some days, due to work and, well, life, I wouldn’t have the time I wanted to dedicate to my workouts. So, I would take on shorter workouts on those days instead of skipping them entirely. Again, it’s all about accepting what you can do with what you have.
Getting into shape or tackling a fitness goal may feel daunting. But, you should never allow that to stop you from trying. Taking each goal piece by piece can help keep you from feeling overwhelmed. You need to be able to take steps that you’re actually capable of and that actually fit into your life. You don’t want to get overwhelmed, because then it’s too easy to convince yourself to quit. Achieving your fitness goals should feel good both mentally and physically. And, one day, you’ll look at the day you decided to take on this fitness journey as the first day of the rest of your life.