When Edelweiss and I brought Wunderkind home from the hospital this past year we were joyful with a joy unlike any we’ve ever experienced. As she grew bigger I realized how pathetically out of shape I was. Carrying her pushed my muscles to their limits. My pride in my aerobic activity — walking two miles per day five days per week — did nothing to make my upper body prepared for the modest labor of being the family work horse carrying Wunderkind, groceries and so forth.
I thought about living with the pain. It comes only late at night in one strained back muscle. I get up, ice it and go back to sleep and forget about it. I could even get a little reading done during that late hour. Going about my day at work and with the family I don’t think too much about it. After all, once Wunderkind grows older, I won’t be picking her up so much, right?
My physical condition hasn’t mattered so much to me since college when I hiked and climbed frequently — at that time I was running seven miles four days per week and pressing a decent amount. Now, sleeping well at night — free from back the infrequent pain — isn’t my real goal, though it would be nice. My doctor said it can be overcome but I’ve got a long way to go since the strain can’t get a chance to rest and heal.
What this has come down to is asking myself, what does it take to make a new year’s resolution stick? What do I do to make some behavioral changes, since a healthy lifestyle is fundamentally a learned habit?
This is what I’ve found over the last few months of fighting my way to better health. It’s a hodgepodge of advice organized how it makes sense to me. I’ve got my own personal goals, which involves some modest climbing and cross country skiing, but those aren’t important. I hope these help as you figure out what motivates you to keep the new year’s fitness resolution:
Define Your Goal — For me, it’s just to carry Wunderkind and sleep through the night, but that’s hardly a measurable physical objective. Be specific. Pick a climb, sign up for an expedition or work to achieve the abs of the 300 Workout by Mark Twight.
Set Milestones — I made some reasonable goals for 2 weeks, 1 month, 6 months and a year. The benchmarks I set measured such things as the number of push ups and how long I should be able to hang from the chin up bar for isometric exercise.
Identify a Fitness Reward — This might be your overall objective, but for me it will likely be some time at the climbing wall — something I never take the time to do.
Focus on Goals and Seek Knowledge — Keep your fitness objective in perspective and on your mind. Use gimmicks like a chart or calendar with special stickers or change your computer and email passwords all to terms related to your target to keep it on the forefront of your mind. Also, be sure to continuously seek new information on proper techniques on what exercises you’re doing.
Seek Inspiration from Fitness Gurus and Your Heroes — Immerse yourself in the knowledge of your fitness goals through the things that excite you about it. If you’re climbing Denali, put up a photo, read accounts of it, and learn from those alpinists that have gone before you and find out what they did to train. If you’re goal is to climb a Colorado 14er this summer, you can get inspiration from those that climbed Annapurna, but be sure to calibrate the lesson for your needs.
All of this is getting at the idea of seeking the right mental state and create a favorable workout environment. Steve House recently talked about distractions. He said things can get in his head, like the TV show he just watched or a song. They distract as he’s climbing. So to climb better, he “subtracts” (his term) from his life at key points to help ensure his head is ready to focus and commit to the objective.
If you have any thoughts or improvements to suggest on this, let me know by leaving a comment or shooting me an email.