It’s been almost two months…time for an update on my 2013 resolution. I have not stepped on the bathroom scale yet, and I won’t. Not until January 1, 2014. (If I even want to at that point.) Not that it hasn’t been tempting. A friend actually suggested I give my scale to her, to keep in her closet until 2014. Not a bad idea…
It’s not about the scale, of course. Avoiding the scale is just one, tiny, powerful catalyst toward the main idea, the purpose.
The purpose is, of course, to separate the habit of exercise from the desire for a certain weight, size, or body type. The big question is this: If I live in this body, exactly this size and shape, for the rest of my life, do I want to be a person who exercises, or not???
Do I want to run 5Ks and 10Ks if I look just like this?
Do I want to go to yoga classes if I look just like this?
Do I want to hike and bike and play ultimate frisbee all summer if I look just like this???
The answer is a loud, enthusiastic, resounding YES!!!
The photo you see above is a snapshot I took from the book Run Your Butt Off! by the editors of Runner’s World magazine. I admit, I haven’t read the book. I’ve flipped through it like a magazine, but I’m not into all the math of figuring out how many calories I should eat each day, logging every bite, logging my weight — obviously! — and all the other calculations that one could do. The book seems to hold two purposes: to help the reader lose weight, and to help the reader become a runner. I’m totally on board for the second purpose. I love the “stages” of running workouts. They are simple, easy to remember, and attainable. The beginning stages are mostly walking, with little intervals of running. The teacher in me loves this part the best: They meet you right where you are and nudge you forward a little bit. They also are flexible: In theory, you could get through all 12 stages in 12 weeks. Or, you can stay in the same stage for a few weeks before moving on. Especially if life happens, you get sick, you miss some workouts…you just hang out in your current stage for another week or two. Or you back up a stage. I find that if I’m in the right stage, I leave the gym feeling like I did some good hard work, but I could definitely do that again tomorrow.
The photo is my goal. Specifically, the highlighted sentence. “Repeat this sequence throughout your whole life.” For me, the habit of exercise is the hard part. I don’t know why. I don’t think it’s some big, psycho-therapy breakthrough moment. It’s not that I’m flawed in some way. It’s just…I haven’t built the habit. To go back to my ever-present metaphor: I have built a habit of brushing my teeth. I have done it for enough days (weeks, months, years) in a row that it is not a big deal, nothing I spend time thinking about or motivating myself to do. I just do it because I do it. I have built no such habit with exercise.
I have, unfortunately, spent YEARS exercising only for the purpose of controlling what I look like. Changing the number on the scale. Inevitably, I reach a moment when I don’t care about the number on the scale, and I feel the joyous freedom of not caring, and I stop exercising. However, I generally don’t stop eating fruits and veggies when that happens, because when I don’t care about the number on the scale, I still care about all the things good healthy food does for me…feeling good, keeping me from getting sick, making me grow healthy cells, etc. Eating healthy is separate from desiring to look a certain way or be a certain weight. I want the same mindset for exercise: I would like to not care about the number on the scale, but CARE about exercise. The two need to be separated.
So, two months into this project… I am going to yoga about twice a week (when snowstorms don’t screw up my plans) and I love it. For me, right now, yoga is the best strength training I could do. It’s 55 minutes of hard work, followed by 5 minutes of bliss. Lovely, quiet, hard-earned bliss. I also run on the treadmill two to four times a week, which is its own kind of joy. I usually watch an episode of something on Netflix on my phone, so I’m on the treadmill for about 45 minutes. A guilt-free way to spend time watching my favorite shows? Yes, please! 🙂
The habit is not built. I have heard that 21 days, 28 days, 30 days make a habit…but when it’s something you don’t do seven days a week, it takes longer than that. I’m still struggling with motivation to go each time. I am finding that focusing on one small decision at a time helps. If I just pack my workout bag and take it with me in the morning…just thinking about that…not promising to actually go to the gym. One decision at a time. I’m also noticing how to give myself what I need today, whether or not that’s what I planned to do. Most days, by the time I get to the treadmill, I want to do the workout I planned to do. But some days, I walk and increase the incline for intervals, instead of doing the running intervals I planned. Some days, mostly a certain two or three days of the month, I just walk slow-ish for 45 minutes with no incline. For me, that’s not a workout that increases my heart health…but it is a step toward the main goal of building a habit. And even if it doesn’t feel like hard work, I’m certain it’s better than sitting on the couch.
When I made this resolution of staying off the bathroom scale, I didn’t have a clear goal for what I would be actually accomplishing by the end of 2013. My current idea is this: By the end of 2013, I want to be solid in my ability to do the stage 12 running workout you see above. I also want to have gone to yoga enough that I have seen progress…that I feel stronger and more able to do all the poses than I do right now. Mostly, I just want to feel like working out isn’t that big of a deal…that it’s just something I do because it feels good and makes me healthy. Like eating vegetables.
Will I actually still look exactly like this if I’m doing all that running, yoga, hiking, biking, and frisbee? Likely not. Not exactly like this. But it doesn’t matter either way. My responsibility lies in the choices I make and the habits I build. What I look like is God’s business.