The most challenging part about exercising for me is overcoming the “giving up” part. Not the total abandonment of all physical activity (although I’m pretty good at that as well!) but the “okay, I’ve jogged 10 feet so now it’s time to walk” part. I often lack the belief in myself that says I’m strong enough or tough enough to accomplish harder and prolonged physical tasks. Especially when I’m doing those tasks solo. It’s easy to keep going when you’re in a group and you don’t want to be the first to quit or the last to finish. And it’s a lot easier to give up when you’re all alone, jogging down a quiet country road.
When I started taking my fitness and health more seriously, I knew running wasn’t going to be my choice activity. It never has been, and my knees haven’t really loved it when I’ve done it in the past. Plus, that whole “runner’s high” thing? I think it’s completely made up and doesn’t exist. So I walked. Five times a week for a week. I walked a slow 14 minute mile two and a half times. A short circuit that took me about 40 minutes. I was hot and sweaty and tired — but, in my defense, it is summer here and it’s 90+ degrees out during the day — but I did it.
At the end of that week, I was proud that I had been moving so much and hitting my 10k step goal so consistently. And, when my feet hit the pavement the next Monday, something weird happened. One of my favorite workout songs came on, and my feet started moving faster. Before I knew what was happening, I was moving at a quick jog. I looked behind me to see if someone was chasing me — because that’s the only reason I’d run before! — but there was no one there. Huh, I thought. So I jogged a bit further until my shins got stingy and then quit. Soon I found myself jogging in short bursts 4-5 times in my 2.5 mile circuit.
I found myself wanting to continue pushing myself, but I wasn’t sure of the best strategy. So I decided that I would start running in quarter mile increments. I set my fitness tracker to announce every quarter mile, and, after walking at least a half a mile, I would push myself to jog at least a quarter mile every other half mile. The key was that, no matter how long it felt like I had been jogging, I couldn’t stop until I heard the little robot voice in my fitness app tell me that I had gone a quarter mile. One time I even found myself jogging an entire half mile without stopping. And I had also lengthened my route to from 2.5 miles to 3.1.
And it felt good. It gave me something consistent to strive for. Even on days when I don’t feel amazing or when I’d much rather walk, I make sure to jog at least 1 one quarter mile stretch in my now 3.1 mile circuit. It’s not much some days. Sometimes I only jog for a quarter mile total. Sometimes it’s a mile total. But, every day when I walk, it’s something to work towards. It’s a personal challenge that I force myself to face every time I throw on my sneakers and hit the road. It may be minor and seemingly insignificant, but those quarter-mile increments give me something to work towards and celebrate. Some days I celebrate completing a full mile of quarters. Other days I rejoice in just accomplishing one. But that little robot voice in my ear as I’m out walking telling me to get my butt moving because it was a new quarter mile segment keeps me working harder and challenging myself.
How do you keep challenging yourself? What keeps you pushing harder? Let me know in the comments!
If you’re interested in following along on my journey, you can find me in all the usual places:
Ladies Only Facebook group (sorry, guys!)