First, some background:
July 4, 2012
Much to my own surprise, the competitive spirit I didn't
think I had has been awakened by a program at my gym. Although I didn't join
the Spring Fever program for the competition (or rather generous awards), I've
consistently ranked #1 since Day 1. Enter my nemesis, whose name I've smudged
out. With only 4 days to go, we're running neck and neck. It's down to the
truly crazy, like wearing my Polar tracking device while we walked all over
Boston yesterday (including up the 297 steps of the Bunker Hill memorial). But
-- it put me back in the lead.
I am determined to win this thing now :-)
I titled this screen grab “My Nemesis”
Epilogue: despite my enthusiasm and determination, I lost. It was a combination of factors: an equally determined competitor who – like me – wanted to win. And late in the game, a dark horse who waited until the last minute to add lots of points (including one workout she claimed burned 2500 calories in a single day).
But before I knew about the dark horse, and before I thought all was lost, I spent my last two days in Boston -- on vacation! -- attempting to regain my lead. Crazy squared: I walked 10 miles each day, an expenditure of 5+ hours and 2000+ calories. Had I entered the second day’s walk before we left Boston, I would have come in second. But clued into how to play the game now -- hoard your uploads until the last minute to confound your opponents – I opted to wait until we got to our family rental in Rhode Island, which promised an internet connection it didn’t deliver. I wasn’t able to upload my last day’s walk in time for the contest cutoff.
Although I was disappointed by my loss, I was also surprised by how this competitive urge spurred me to increase my level of exercise. If you’d told me two months ago that I’d go out and walk 10 miles at a pop, I would have said, “Why?” Now I’m doing it at least once a week. In fact, I’ve upped the time devoted to exercise by at least 50% most days.
Other than discovering my inner competitive spirit, what did I gain from this experience?
- I’m capable of doing more. I’ve been exercising an hour a day, five times
a week for three years (and regularly but less frequently before that). Along
with a healthier diet, it’s one of the ways I’ve lost 40 pounds. Until my gym’s
fitness challenge, though, I hadn’t challenged myself to go beyond my regular routine. Once I did, I learned I
could do far more than I thought. (This applies to other areas of my life as
need to eat less than others -- and exercise more, too. Two years ago I joined a program at my gym called “Commit
to be Fit,” a 12-week program of exercise and diet pitting teams of people in a
friendly competition to lose the most weight. It worked so well I ended up
participating two more times, and really cementing healthier eating and
So…to both lose weight and maintain that loss, I’m stuck with consuming fewer calories and finding ways to turn up the furnace. Adding an extra hour (or more) to my daily exercise regimen did just that: I lost 3 pounds on vacation, even though I was indulging myself more than usual. And I’ve maintained that weight loss since I came home.
- It’s not just about exercise. It’s the daily activity, too. While I was on
vacation, I traipsed around tourist sites, biked, hiked, walked and just
generally moved around a lot more. I watched zero television and spent far less
time sitting in front of a computer. It’s hard to maintain that level of
activity since I’ve come home – but I’m going to work on it.
- Feeding the good wolf. I’m going to steer clear of saying “good” and “bad” habits and just say I have some behaviors that contribute to greater well-being and some that don’t. The option to exercise more only came about because I’d already made a commitment to exercise in the first place. Likewise, I don’t stray very far from my healthy eating patterns before yanking myself back again. And the very best way to encourage myself to continue practicing well-being is to remind myself of my successes – not my failures. Success breeds success; continually berating yourself for your failures just serves to keep them at the center of your attention. If you’re like me, that’s a sure recipe for bringing on the exact behavior you want to see less of.
As I took what ended up being a 10 mile walk this morning, I recognized the unique factors that allowed me to do all the things I’m writing about. This includes the privilege of being semi-retired, the legacy of my long career at an incredible company whose retirement plan made that possible. And being 58 with a grown child and no other household or family responsibilities.
I would strongly dislike it if anyone reading this beat up on themselves for not doing more. Instead, I would say practice your own well-being where you are right now. At another time in my life, that meant jogging at pre-dawn or working out at the gym in my office after lunch so I could minimize the time away from my son.
And – challenge yourself as circumstances change. You might find yourself as surprised as I was with what you’re capable of doing.