“You have three more songs to go…15 minutes. What do you want to do with that time? What goals do you have for yourself? Dig deep and finish strong.”

Such was the message from my spin-class teacher MaryKate, imploring us to keep going—hard. It was the first time I had taken this class…my husband invited me to it. But MaryKate touched something inside me that I had been thinking about since the new year—creating a fitness goal for the year.

Why…since I’m actually relatively fit already? Two reasons…

  1.  I’ve noticed that in the last eight years or so my muscle tone has declined and that I simply don’t feel as strong as I used to. Sure, I’m eight years older, but it’s not that. There’s something in the tightness of my muscles (can you say stress?) and the acceptance of status quo that occur when you work out alone, and that has me stuck somewhere between plateaued and degraded.
  2. I was utterly humiliated in December when I ran a 5k race in Boulder, Colorado, and had to slow down and walk six times! In my defense, the race was at about 5,000 feet above sea level, and I usually live at about five feet above sea level…the course was a little rolling…the temperature was in the 30s…and, oh yeah, I hadn’t trained for the run. The last time I had run was three months earlier when I did a 10K in Fort Collins, Colorado—also without training. How dumb can I be? Apparently…quite.

In the spin class, as I watched a woman about 10 years older than me kick my butt…and the instructor was challenging us to dig deep and go for it, I decided it was time. Time to stop hiding my “old lady legs”…time to stop complaining about what I am lacking…and time to set a fitness goal and stick with it.

Want to join me? I haven’t figured out my new workout routine yet, but I am happy to share my journey with anyone who wants to come along.

First, I need to set real goal(s)…

  • I will run the BolderBOULDER 10K in May 2019, and I will allow myself to walk only once.
  • I will run the ColderBOLDER 5K in December…and with no stops.
  • I will run each of these faster than I did in 2018.

Why am I picking those races? Because those are the races that I ran last year, and my daughter will be running in them, too. Even though she will be in an entirely different start group and run much faster than me, it’s still fun to share the experience with her.

What walk or fun run or race can you pick? Or bike ride? Or…?

Oh, and I need a strength goal, too, so that I can feel firmer and stronger. Since I don’t really have a baseline of strength measurement, I will simply say that by the end of the year…

  1. I will be proud to bear my legs.
  2. I will be capable of more reps with greater weights than I have been using to date.

Sure, I probably should have a firmer strength goal, but since I don’t have a trainer or any hard measurements, I think it’s OK to simply pick another unit of measure. When setting goals, I find that it’s important to create ones that fit with my psyche. That doesn’t mean I don’t push myself. I believe that different people are motivated in different ways. I am motivated by the process of change more than specific numbers.

Similarly, I will share with you my general workout routine, but here also I believe that everyone needs to do whatever he/she loves best. My husband LOVES cycling. I really enjoy it, but frankly, too much of it makes my tush sore. I enjoy variety…repeating the same thing is a total bore to me. Hence, I didn’t train for the run.

But here’s what I generally do…

    1. Work out six days a week. On the seventh day, I still move, but it may be stretching or simply a long walk with the dog.
    2. Work out first thing in the morning. For me, if I get up and just do it, I have fewer excuses and I know for the rest of the day that my workout is done. Does it hurt some days? You bet. Do I sometimes hit the snooze button? Yup…that, too. But generally the hardest part is getting my feet on the floor and my body out of bed. After that, inertia takes over.
    3. Work out in the evening on days when I can’t work out in the morning. No matter what, I don’t break my promise to myself to do my workout.
    4. Work out for 45 minutes each day. It used to be 30 minutes, but I extended it. More than 60 and it overwhelms me and is too difficult to accomplish each day. Forty-five minutes seems to be long enough to push myself but short enough so that I stick with it.
    5. Alternate between strength training and aerobic. Aerobic can be on an elliptical, an old-fashioned NordicTrack cross-country ski machine, a bicycle ride, swimming… and, yes, running. Strength training is usually Tabata interval training done with or without weights depending on the exercise I am doing.

    How do I overcome the many excuses that can come along? Lots of mind games, such as…

    1. I remind myself, If I don’t work out, I will feel gross. This is a big one for me. I remember how bad I feel when I don’t work out. And I don’t want that sloggy feeling. So by projecting that feeling into my head, I am able to get moving. I do a similar thing to talk myself out of foods that I shouldn’t eat. If I want to eat an ice cream sundae, for example, I remember how bad I feel after I eat one…then I don’t want it anymore.
    2. Music is magical to me when I exercise. It simply is. Pick your favorites. Everyone has them.
    3. Distractions, too.   I am not “zen” when I exercise. If I don’t listen to music, then I need some other type of distraction… reading a book or newspaper on my tablet…watching a video…listening to a podcast…anything to take my mind off of the time.
    4. Picture the finish line. When I was at my 20th college reunion, I ran a 5K, and in the last quarter mile, I started racing the person next to me, lengthening my stride and sprinting for the finish line. For some reason, that sprint is frozen in my mind as a symbol of my ability to always find a little more at the end…to dig deep and push…and to envision myself crossing that finish line powerfully.

    Now to make it happen—one day at a time…one rep at a time…one step at a time. And when the going gets tough, I will imagine that last sprint and how powerful I felt knowing that I did it.