At the end of last year, I found myself in an unhappy state. I was not happy with how I felt, how I looked, what I was eating, or how little I was moving. I had let myself get into a funk, and I now feel sorry for anyone who had to associate with me last fall! It wasn't one of my better seasons. However, in hitting that point, I recognized that the only way out of it was to do something about it. I knew that if I made healthier choices about food and exercise, that I would in turn feel better about myself and how I looked. By moving in a healthier direction, I could tell that nagging voice in my head to "Shut up!" because I was actively doing something to make me feel and look better.
In order to make these steps, I had to identify what areas needed work and what my long term goals were for myself. I know in my head, that I want to be functionally fit for life. I want to be able to enjoy my favorite hobbies of gardening, hiking and walking without fear of injury. And, I want to participate in these activities for many, many years to come. This meant that I needed to add strength training to my weekly routine. In the past, I have done so poorly in maintaining any sort of strength training program at home. I would follow an exercise program for a week or two and then just let it slip. And so on January 1st, I did what thousands of others did....I enrolled in a local gym. I knew I needed the accountability of the coaches and other members. I have now passed the two month mark, and I am still maintaining at least three visits a week. I feel stronger every week, and that strength is not just a muscle strength. I am mentally and emotionally stronger as well.
I have also been outside more for longer walks these last couple of months. I have been getting beyond the blocks of our neighborhood and out to the trails that are all within a short drive of our home. I find I do better when I invite a friend to join me or have my husband come along. Talking to someone while I walk makes the miles pass by faster. And there is the added bonus of enjoying natural surroundings with a friend. This last week alone I have seen evidence of beavers at a local trail, a gorgeous rainbow, Great Egrets, and Great Blue Herons. I would have missed these opportunities if I was inside being mopey!
As I began this journey at the beginning of the year, I set some numerical goals for myself to help in my tracking of progress. I set a weight loss goal and a number of weeks to reach that goal. Now that I am just a couple pounds from my goal, I am working to shift my thinking from "I want to reach this number" to "I want to continue these healthy habits because they make me feel good inside and out." I have been telling myself both of these things over the last couple of months, but sometimes numbers are easier to rally behind than feelings. They are more concrete. There is also a difference between the short term goal of weight loss and the lifetime goal of maintaining healthier eating and exercise habits.
But, I don't want to lose my momentum. I have fallen into that trap before. In the past I have spent a few months working earnestly to lose weight, and then I watched it creep back on over a couple of years. So, this is where the shift in goal setting and maintaining needs to happen. My overall goal is not a number on the scale. It is a goal to stay healthy for a lifetime. That means recognizing that strength training needs to be a part of my weekly routine...for life. Just as I wouldn't give up brushing my teeth or cleaning the house, I can't give up exercising either. Choosing healthy foods needs to be a daily choice...for life. There are so many delicious and healthy foods to choose from that there is not an excuse for me to choose otherwise. I know that my body functions better when I have stepped past the junk and picked up the healthy foods.
This is where it begins for me. How about you? How do you make that shift from focusing on short term goals to lifetime maintenance?