By Leota Harriman
Remember a few weeks ago when I said I was going to take time on Sundays to plan out my workouts for the upcoming week? I had planned to write about that this week also, but there’s an old saying about the most carefully laid plans of mice and men.
So what I thought I’d write about instead—since my new dance class was cancelled and Insanity derailed by a holiday weekend—is being resilient and flexible.
Maybe the neatest thing that has happened to me as I journey toward physical fitness and better health is that the more I move my body around, the more it wants to move. I think that’s super exciting because it makes giving myself that push to work out so much easier. It also tells me that my plan to have fun while working out is going great.
Since I’m going out of town this week, I’m thinking even more about how to stay on track when I’m off the plan and out of my routine.
The key for me is to stay flexible, to go with the flow. The other key is not to beat myself up, or to use that derailment as an excuse to jump the rest of the way off the rails. That’s what I would have done in times past. I’d say to myself, “Well, this day’s a total loss, so I might as well have a piece of cake.” That’s a little nuts, but I know I’m not the only person who thinks that way.
Instead, now I look for an alternative. Dance class is cancelled? How about heading over to the track? How about doing some crazy dancing at home? Or in this case, what I did was pushed a bunch of heavy furniture around and did some extra-hard housecleaning. You better believe I counted that as a workout. I’m still sore.
I used to have a well-practiced routine of just berating myself if I got off track, even if it was not my fault. My mom would say, “Shoulda, woulda, coulda—didn’t.” And my self-talk would be something like, “I shoulda planned better. I woulda worked out, but now I can’t. I coulda picked a different class. I didn’t do any of that. I’ll never get it right.” None of this is helpful. In fact, for me it is totally counterproductive.
A better approach is to look for a way to get some exercise. So the class was at 6 p.m. and now there are only a few hours of daylight left. What can I do at home? What can I do in the dark?
And maybe, at the end of the day, I can’t do any of it. But that still doesn’t mean I should consider the day a waste and head for a piece of cake.
Getting healthy and fit is a long-term process, and I insist on thinking of it that way. What happens in a day or an hour does matter—those days and hours add up into years with remarkable rapidity. I have to take the long view. I have to remind myself that good health is a worthy goal and that I made a commitment to myself. I have to tell myself, over and over, that I am the person who will take care of me. I have to keep reaching, even when it seems I have reached and missed, one more time.
My best strategy for doing all of this is to find workouts that I think are fun. So I have a little story about running. I ran cross country in high school and literally hated every step. But recently I’ve discovered that I don’t hate it. I might even like it a little bit but I’m trying not to scare myself off, so please keep that quiet.
My youngest brother Joshua is one of my biggest inspirations. He started working out in high school and has never stopped. For a long time I’ve striven toward what I jokingly call his “run marathons and eat any damn thing you want” diet. He has run all kinds of races, including marathons, and one thing that stands out about him as a runner is that he always has a smile on his face. A big smile.
Last week while I was at the gym with my daughter I got on the treadmill for the second time in about a week. (Normally I avoid treadmills, but as she pointed out, I’m trying to get outside my comfort zone. So treadmill.) I realized as I was running that I had a giant smile on my face! A couple of years ago I wouldn’t have thought that was possible, but I was smiling because I was running and not hating it. Because I feel so much stronger than I did before I started all this working out. Because I was having fun.
How do you stay on track? I’d love to hear your stories and strategies. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-286-1212, or join the ongoing conversation in my Facebook group, “I’m Losing It!”