I reached a goal this week that I’ve been working toward for about a year. Last year about this time I set a goal that I would be able to run through one of our adjoining neighborhoods, without stopping, by last August. Well, August rolled around and, while I was running and improving, I still hadn’t reached my goal. When it got too cold to run outside I still hadn’t reached it. I moved my running inside onto a used treadmill – which seemed like torture to me. But I prevailed and kept up with my running. Now that spring has finally arrived here I started up back outside – much nicer. And this week. . .I did it! I ran through the entire neighborhood. Now, lest you think this is a long distance, it really isn’t. It only took me about 20 minutes, and I’m a pretty slow runner. But hey, this 49-year-old body made it!And it feels good to be active again.
You see, before I had kids I ran, taught aerobics, and rowed. After kids my exercise started to take a back seat to the demands of motherhood. As my kids got older I started to feel older. I’d see other people running along the road when I was out and I wondered if I could even do that anymore. My knees would hurt and I’d get a little winded and tired just walking up a couple flights of stairs! And as a health professional, I knew better. Years ago I’d counsel people in the wellness center where I worked and tell them to make exercise a priority. Put it on your calendar if you need to, but just do it. Yeah – that was before kids. And let me tell you, knowledge doesn’t always equate with action.
God was also working on me. I needed to take better care of myself, of this body that I’d been given. I call that being a good steward of your body. Just like being a good manager and steward of your money, you should be a good manager and steward of your body. And it’s never too late to start, or start back up as in my case.
So I set a goal. My husband and I often go for long walks during the warmer months, but I also wanted to try running again. We walked in the evening when he got home, and I started running in the early morning. I used the time and talked with God while I ran. It was hard. At first I could only run a minute or two, if that, before I had to stop. I took it slow as I wanted to be careful with my knees. I’d had problems the year before with my IT band when I tried running too far too fast. Gradually I’d add in a minute or two to the distance I ran between walking.
When winter arrived and I came inside I was running about 10 minutes before I stopped, walked a few minutes, and returned to running. I worked that up to 20 minutes about a week before going back outside. And now – I did it! I reached my goal, maybe a little later than I wanted. But I still reached it. And I feel so much better. My legs don’t get tired anymore and I don’t get winded going up the stairs. I’m more flexible, lost 10 pounds in the process and my clothes fit better. Yay!
So what goals have you set for your physical health? Or did you set them and then give up? We set goals and make resolutions so freely around the New Year. But how often do we follow through and reach them?There were plenty of times when I thought about giving up, but I’d ask God to help me continue on and I was able to keep going. If you’re looking at your exercise goals here are some ideas for you on setting and reaching them.
1. Do something you enjoy. Exercise doesn’t have to be torturous. If you like biking, set a goal for that. If it’s walking do that. Just do something. If you enjoy it you’ll be more likely to continue when the going gets tough. And will get tough at times if you’re trying to improve your physical health.
2. Be realistic. If you’re new to running or walking for exercise you probably won’t be doing 5K right away next week. Give yourself time and work up your endurance little by little. I honestly thought I’d be able to reach my goal in three months, but that didn’t happen. But i did set small goals each time I ran and tried to meet those. They were benchmarks for me to show that I was working toward my longterm goal.
3. Don’t give up. There will be days when it’s hard to exercise. Your legs feel like heavy weights or you’re not progressing as fast as you had hoped. That’s when you have figure out how to keep going. For me I’d talk to God while I ran and ask for strength to finish that day – or even start. Some people find an exercise partner to help keep them motivated. An accountability partner is great too. They can keep you going when you feel like giving up.
4. Make it measurable. If you have a goal that you’re going to get out and walk more. Well, what is more? For some people that’s 5 minutes three or four times a week. For others it may be walking or running around the block 5 times. A good goal to work toward is 30 minutes, three to four times a week. Whatever it is, make it measurable.
Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Take a look at where you are now, start slow, doing something you enjoy, and get moving. You’ll feel better and be healthier for it. My next goal: a 5K. What’s yours?
One last note of caution: please check with your physician before starting any exercise program, especially if you have known health problems.