For weeks now I’ve been freaking out in this column about my progress toward my health and fitness goals. Specifically, I was really fretting over the Torrance County 50+ Games track and field events, which were held this past weekend in Estancia.
Since this time last year, I’ve been working toward that goal, and the closer it got, the worse I did in terms of my fitness goals overall. It’s perverse, but there you have it.
This isn’t a psychology column, but the mental aspects of changing a lifetime of bad habits are paramount, and I spend a lot of time mulling it all over. Making a change from a sedentary life as a couch potato with a desk job to an active lifestyle is, at its core, simple self-care. But guess what? After a dysfunctional childhood that included sexual abuse, after two bad marriages, after a decade as a single parent, self-care was not something that I knew how to do, and I had virtually no practice doing it. Taking care of other people, on the other hand—I’m on it.
When things get difficult, or stressful, I tend to return to my old patterns of self-neglect, meaning that I’m not paying attention to whether I’m caring for myself or not. I mean, there are so many other things to do, and the myriad tasks I find on my to-do list at any given time will simply fill any available space if I let them. That’s why planning has been so important to me in this process of improving my health.
So, the Torrance County 50+ Games.
It started at 8 a.m., and almost as soon as I had jumped out of my car into the frigid air, I was asked if I was ready to run. Well, no, not really, but what the heck? I ran. Not well. Not far. The cold air really took a whack at my lungs and I wheezed like crazy. I still can’t run a full lap without stopping to walk, and Saturday was worse than usual, I expect a combination of the cold, and my total lack of running for I don’t know how long.
Still, it was about follow-through, and about showing up for myself, and about making a goal and sticking to it. I accomplished all of those things, so I was pretty jazzed!
From there we moved into the really fun stuff, the field events, and I tried my hand at discus, shot put and javelin, with a few other things tossed in, like a softball distance throw and Frisbee distance throw.
I had never thrown a discus, shot put or javelin, but I really enjoyed giving them a try. And while the group there to compete was small, it seemed that everyone was having a pretty good time.
I was very glad I didn’t chicken out—and for that I owe a huge debt of thanks to my daughter, who spent the night at my house, got up early on a Saturday (on the weekend she was putting final touches on her son’s birthday party), took photos for the paper, and hooted and hollered for me, just like I did when she was little and in track. It made the day more fun, and more special.
Today, my younger daughter and I have promised each other that we will keep our standing Monday gym date, which again, we have missed for weeks, as I dithered and worried about what I wasn’t getting done.
Another detour back into the psychology of all of this. I’ve written here over and over—even joking I should have a tattoo that says this—that exercise feels good. It seems like that should mean when you start to get exercise that it would become its own reward. That feeling good, mentally and physically, would be motivation in itself.
Weirdly, that has not proven to be the case for me. In fact, it’s almost the opposite, which I think links back to decades of self-destructive behavior that is frequently the legacy of emotional trauma.
That’s where my stubborn streak comes in. Long-term, I know I’ve got this. I will not give up.
So what’s next? This coming weekend there’s a fun run on Saturday. I’m planning to sign up for that. Ladies night at the rock climbing gym I think is later this week. Again, I’ll be there for that.
Meanwhile, I keep my diet as clean as I can and keep working on the baby steps of learning how to eat mindfully. And to remind myself daily of my No. 1 rule: No beating myself up.