|Picture courtesy of GotPetsOnline.com|
I took the big red dog out bright and early this morning for a run, and what a great run it was! I love my new running partner (except for the one time he tripped me, but hey, he is the spastic 90 pound puppy, after all). I love running in the cold (who would have known). I love seeing other runners out there - no ambling half-serious walkers this morning! I love being one of the serious runners out there! I am trying to take it slow as I build back up after my break, but I actually felt stronger - maybe since I'm out there enjoying myself instead of pushing toward a deadline or distance goal. I've also reached a point in my running where I am no longer thinking about the mechanics of it; I can put my body on automatic and use the time to think. It's an amazing feeling.
Today as I ran, I was thinking about the progress I've made since the first day I stepped onto the trail with "Nan" (for those of you who don't know, that's what I called the voice on my iPhone C25k app). When I started running, I had a goal - to run a 5k - and I kept that goal fixed in my mind at all times. But when I was running, I kept my focus on the ground right in front of me, because I was literally thinking about one step at a time. Over time, I shifted my focus to a point just ahead - a tree or other marker I was aiming for. I got through my runs reaching those small goals. Then I reached a point where I could focus in the distance, because I knew I was going to get there. And now, I can look around and take in the sights or fix my gaze ahead while I turn my thoughts inward. I reached my "big" goal by concentrating on smaller goals while always keeping the end in sight.
It occurred to me that a weight loss journey is much the same, or rather, it should be. We start out with a big goal - sometimes a huge goal, like losing 100 pounds. We should always keep that goal fixed in our mind, but trying to keep our focus on it can be overwhelming. We need to chunk it into smaller goals - say, to lose 10 pounds at a time - and keep our focus shortened, on one day or even one meal at a time, while we learn skills and strategies and habits for success. Then we can build momentum based on those successes, and turn our attention a little further down the trail, and finally, to the long goal.
We also, above all, need to learn to forgive ourselves when we slip, and to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and move on. Sometimes when we slip, which we mistakenly call "failing," we get so frustrated that we just quit. Can you imagine if we had had that attitude when learning to walk, or read, or ride a bike? Slips are not failures, they are lessons, and we should look at them as such. Just because we gulp down half a pizza doesn't mean we've failed our entire diet, it means we have to look at what happened and learn from it! Maybe we learn that we can't eat pizza alone, or we have to buy it by the slice, or maybe, that we can't have it at all for awhile, but that's ok, because we've taken a slip and turned it into something positive.
Building an exercise program is just the same. We have to start small and build on successes, even if it's 10 minutes a day. I know that I suffer from "OCD" - Obsessive Competitive Disorder - and this is hard for me! When I want to achieve something, I want it now! Yesterday, even! If I can't be the best or do the best right out of the gate, I feel like a failure. I had to let go of that attitude when learning to run, and for the most part I did - I still think I pushed myself too hard and ended up with an injury I wouldn't have if I had stepped back and admitted that I needed to go a little slower. But now I set tiny goals for myself and celebrate when I acheive them. For example, I do pushups every morning. When I started I could do 7. I decided to add just one a day, and before I knew it, I was doing 20, 25, 30, and more! Each time I go to the gym, I use the Stairmonster and add just one more minute to my time...I'm up to 35 minutes. And if one day I am not up to what I planned for the day? Guess, what...I forgive myself! Tomorrow is another day, and tomorrow I'll meet my goal.
Zig Zigler, a famous motivational speaker, uses the analogy of a pilot flying a plane when talking about reaching goals. He explains that a plane is off course the majority of time between point A and point B - the pilot is constantly making tiny corrections to make sure they reach their destination. Life is like that, too...the road to any goal is never straight or easy. We have to be on guard, make corrections, have faith, keep plugging, and remember, sometimes the best won battles are those that are hardest won!