Wow. What a year! I keep thinking to myself I can’t believe it’s over, that 2011 is here. What!?!
As many of you know, I’ve had some wonderful accomplishments with racing this year. By no means do I use this spot to brag. My point being is you can do anything you set your mind to. Being an athlete has been a huge part of my life. It began when I was in elementary school and has continued. There have been hurdles and low points along the way. Mainly when I stopped competitive swimming and after the birth of my third child. But what I needed was a swift kick in the pants to jump start again. I needed my husband telling me I was a much better person competing. Or, a once-a-year appointment putting me on a scale, blaring numbers I hadn’t seen for 15 years. Whoa. Those were reality checks.
Lately I’ve been talking with women about getting started. Doing a marathon. Completing a huge swim, or, a first triathlon. These ideas, or, steps I am going to list pertain to anyone. I am not an expert. But I have years of experience in what has worked for me. Decades of changes in my own life where I’ve had to rethink and work around others. For the most part, I want you to get up and move and believe you are worth it. That the time you spend on yourself is equally, if not more, important than the time you spend on everything else.
So let’s start.
1. Stop the excuses. Just stop it. OK? Everyone has time during the day to move. Many people use work as an excuse. Blah Blah. I’ve done it all. With and before kids. Because training and exercise were such an important piece to me, I’ve always made the time. If it meant eating while I worked, then I did that to have an hour to work out. Or, like now, I wake up at 4:30 AM in the morning to swim. That way I am home when the kids wake up and can get them moving and ready for school. I am a firm believer in working out in the morning. Early. My mind is so much better at the start of a day if I get an early workout. But like you, sometimes I can’t, so I fit it in when I can. If you have injuries, find something you can do. Not everyone wants to run or do triathlons. Biking is an awesome exercise as well as swimming. Structured sports are great ways to meet people and have a reliable source of exercise. The point being: you have no excuse.
2. Set goals. This will help so much with the excuse issue. If you set goals for why you are doing something, you are more likely to stick with it. I am a firm believer in signing up for races. If you pay money for something and it’s set in stone, you are less likely to back out. Some races are expensive, so if you are plunking down that cash, you better be serious. This is me. I need races scheduled a year in advance to stay motivated. Some races sell out so quickly that I have to sign up for them now. So if I can see my schedule for next year, I know what I have to do. Do you want to place? Do you want to complete it? These are thoughts when signing up for goals. It’s not just as simple as saying I want to run a 5K. It’s more like, when and where. And did you sign up? I know many people want to lose weight. And for some that is a goal when working out. But what I’ve learned from my own experiences, is when you focus too much on the weight, it doesn’t seem to work as well. When you start focusing on achieving a goal, it has a domino affect. You want to sign up for other races. You eat better. You lose weight. You feel and look great. You are a happier person. It really is that simple. I am not joking.
3. Find (a) partner(s). I’ll admit it. I train alone most of the time. And it’s hard. But I’ll also admit I am very regimented and very good at keeping myself in check. I also learned this summer, by biking with a group, it is way more fun to train with others. Not only did I get faster, I looked forward to the ride every week. It was very empowering riding with men. I was unsure of myself when I started – and I had no idea it would be mostly men. But it helped me tremendously and held me accountable for a really great training day. I now run once a week with a friend. She approached me about training for her first marathon. Since we live near each other, I offered to run with her once a week to keep her on track. It’s been a plus for her as well as me.
4. Invest in equipment. Now I am not saying go out and plunk down $$$ for a bike. Don’t be silly. What I want to express is that you reap what you sow. Buying cheap shoes will cause you more problems than you know. Go to a shoe place and get fitted. Not everyone is the same. We are not all neutral. And by that, I mean most shoes you find in places like Kohl’s or Target are made for a neutral foot. It took me awhile to figure out what type of foot I had. Once I did, it made a world of difference in my running. Now, I love Brooks. They are my shoe. They are expensive and I usually wear them out in 3-4 months. But because I am a regular, I get a discount from our local running shoe store. This pertains to any type of shoe. Just get fitted. Get the right shoe for your activity. You will be happy you did.
Everyone is different. I know that. But we aren’t in some ways. We all want to feel good. At the beginning of each year we set goals. Many are to get in shape. And then we are wondering what has happened by the end of February. Winter is hard and many of us don’t have the luxury of hopping on a plane to go somewhere warm. I train outside year round. I don’t belong to a gym. I swim at a local high school in the wee hours of the morning. This works for me. You have to figure out what works for you and do it. But once you do and you get into that rhythm – you will be amazed at how easy it is to make it a part of your life for good.