This is the second of a series of posts here at My Pleasant Places (be sure to read the first post before this one). It is about a significant discovery I made a couple of years ago that has truly made my life more pleasant. The subject is about more than meets the eye, thus the necessity for the series rather than a single post. Please stay with me through the finale; the best stuff is at the end! 🙂
Call me a sentimental old fool, but I am really fond of my ambulatory ability. In times past, I have approached challenging physical activities with more zeal than knowledge and, as a result, I often impaired those precious abilities and temporarily disrupted the normal ebb and flow of my life. In those instances, I found myself sizing up normal activities as ‘challenges’ and calculating whether or not they were worth the pain–little things like getting up from a chair, walking up stairs, bending over to pick up something were all reduced to a mental list of pros and cons: Should I take those three stairs, or should I shuffle around to the side of the building and take the door that doesn’t require me to step up?
Thus, when I took up the challenge to run a half-mile—after having lived 52 years without ever having done that—I chose to work towards that goal in such a way as to maintain my status quo, to not disable myself in the process or to affect the quality of my life, in general.
I intuitively knew that I must not get in too big a hurry and not set too-lofty goals (this kind of wisdom, by the way, is one of the many fortunate by-products of growing older). I reminded myself that this endeavor was for my own self-satisfaction, simply a personal goal to work towards that would add a little spice to my morning walks. I wasn’t trying to qualify for the Olympics—senior, special or otherwise!
From this very balanced, very patient perspective, I devised a simple, safe and slow strategy. I had already found my running ‘baseline’—i.e., how far I could run without stopping to catch my breath. I decided to run that same distance plus two more sections of sidewalk (about 10-15 feet). Yes, I did say slow, didn’t I? And just to be sure there is no misunderstanding about how slow, let me further explain.
At that time, I was walking at least three days a week. My strategy of increasing my running distance by a few feet was for an entire week—not on each daily run. So on Monday mornings—my first walk of the week—I would run my previous week’s distance plus two additional sections of sidewalk. I would run that same distance on Wednesdays and Fridays. It was not until the following Monday that I would add two more sections to my run. Are you getting the picture?
Though it was slow, my strategy definitely met all the criteria for a S-M-A-R-T goal: it was Specific (I want to run a half-mile), it was Measureable (I will add two additional sections of the sidewalk to my run every week until I have run ½ mile), it was Attainable (which is why I did not set a goal for a full mile!), it was Realistic (see “Attainable”), it was Timely (I will increase my distance once a week and complete my goal within X number of weeks).
As I continued adding those few additional feet to my running each week, it slowly added up. In hindsight, I realize my strategy was actually right-on! I was going slowly enough to keep my body out of shock and pain, and—believe it or not—I was still challenging myself. I remember thinking on more than one occasion as I gasped for air after my daily quota of sidewalk sections, I think I am at maximum capacity; I don’t know how I can add any more. And yet, add, I did. I didn’t stop short of my goal once. There were a few times that I didn’t feel like I would be able to go the distance, but somehow I always managed to muster up enough energy to stagger across my ‘finish line’ for that particular day.
After I had about half the loop under my belt, I became confident that I was, in fact, going to achieve my goal! I actually tallied up the total sections of sidewalk that I had yet to complete in order to finish the entire loop, and I calculated that, at the rate I was going, I would reach my goal by the end of that year (about 2 months away, if I remember correctly). In mid-November, I was completing my day’s quota when it occurred to me that I wasn’t yet “maxed out” (which was my normal physical and mental sensation at the conclusion of most of my runs). In fact, quite to the contrary, I had energy to spare. This was a first!
I wonder how far I can go before giving out, I thought to myself. Just thinking that was enough to push me forward. In fact, I think I actually sped up! And to my joy and delight, I finished the lap that day–six weeks ahead of “schedule.” What a sense of accomplishment! In a relatively short time, I had gone from only being able to run a few measly feet to running a half-mile. It was such a high!
As I was cooling down, breathing hard, smiling hard and basking in the afterglow of “desire accomplished” (I had an overwhelming urge to raise my arms in a Rocky victory stance [see picture!]), I immediately started experiencing runner’s-high-induced thoughts like, Wow! I never dreamed I would be able to do that. Pause/Reflect/Catch breath… That means there are other things I’ve never considered doing that I can do… Pause/Reflect/Catch breath… I wonder if I could run a whole mile???
Spurred on by my fresh success (and the runner’s high), I was convinced that, YES! I could do it (again, see picture)! Right then and there, I made the commitment to continue with my current “slow and steady” strategy and start working on completing a second lap, aka one mile. TO BE CONTINUED
As I write my running story, I get excited all over again (I actually caught myself smiling at my computer screen several times during this writing). The one thing I regret, though, is that I was not writing about it while I was actually living it. Wouldn’t it be cool for me to be able to go back and read my thoughts on the days that I had struggled and did not know if I would be able to reach the goal? Wouldn’t it be even more cool to read my thoughts on the day I finished?
But the fact is, I did not know that I was “making history” at the time. I didn’t know how much this activity and this story were going to affect my life, how it was going to change my perspectives and even affect my future. Which leads me to this thought: I wonder if I am making history right now. Pause/Reflect… We never know, do we?
Pithy Thoughts and Sayings (go ahead and look up pithy in a dictionary; you know you want to!)
- Hard by the yard, but a cinch by the inch!
- Slow and steady wins the race.
- Success breeds more success.
- A fulfilled desire is sweet to the soul… (Pro 13:19, GWT)
- There are advantages to growing older. 🙂
- I could be making personal “history” right now!
- What else have I never considered doing simply because it never occurred to me that I could do it?