I didn’t make any new year’s resolutions for 2014.
It wasn’t a conscious effort not to do so, if anything, it was quite the opposite. I just forgot. Similarly, I am currently registered for zero races in 2014. That’s right, NOTHING. This may be a personal record for me since the start of my running career, as those of you who have been around here for awhile can attest.
Wednesday night at the gym, Geoff suggested we do a 50 minute cardio machine circuit: 10 minutes on the concept2 (rowing) 10 minutes on the treadmill (running) 15 minutes on the stair stepper (glute hell) and 15 minutes on the elliptical (ellipsing?). I adore that the brevity of his attention span matches mine. Anyway, at some point during the stair stepper torture that I truly love to hate, I thought about this apparent lack of goal setting for this year. What am I training for this year? What do I want to do? And most of all…what to do I want to better in 2014? As the speed on the stair stepper abruptly increased to lactic acid inducing speed, the answer suddenly came to me:
I want to do everything better in 2014.
Shouldn’t that always be our resolution, every single day of every single year? Be better than you were yesterday. This isn’t to say that we aren’t enough as we are right this very moment. We are all good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, you get the idea. But the way I see it, every single day of life is a gift, so why not make the absolute most of it?
I realize that often times I go through life simply surviving. Doing the minimum or the norm, not necessarily out of conscious choice, but more so out of habit and routine. Think about it: how much effort would it take to simply make one small thing better every single day? To smile and say hi to that person you pass in the office everyday that always looks completely stressed out. To take five minutes after your run and actually stretch for a change. To ask your boss/friend/coworker to take a few minutes out of their day to show you how to do whatever little thing it is you’ve always wanted to learn how to do. Not much effort at all, certainly far less daunting than most giant “resolutions”. And yes, we all have BIG things in our life that we hope to change. I know I do, and this post isn’t suggesting that we ignore those issues, but instead a reminder that in the end, tiny steps to better something add up to a whole lot of change.
Exhibit A: Yesterday was leg day, and I was solo for the workout. I’ve recently been reading some research studies on glute activation versus the depth of a squat. Turns out, this is a highly debatable topic, as are most things in the exercise science world. For as many people who can show you research studies that prove EMG activity increases as the dept of the squat increases, there will be just as many studies showing that it might not actually be the case. Bottom line, however, is that there is a lot to be said for range of motion. Now, my squats have always been a work in progress. I’ve come a long way from the time I was told that my squat form was horrible and I was immediately placed into “squat therapy” (i.e. squatting with my face mere inches from a pole to force me to keep my torso upright). I initially blamed my ridiculously long and dis-proportioned femurs, and while this may be a small portion of my problem, the main culprit was a weak core and poor flexibility. However, now that my form is light-years ahead of where it was, I still find myself struggling with the confidence to bring my weighted squats to 90 degrees…or below, depending on who is coaching and what they believe is proper.
So yesterday, instead of my normal pyramid set of weighted squats and various other exercises, I spent a good 30 minutes working on my mobility. “Ass to grass” (as my CrossFit enthusiasts like to say) air squats to build my confidence. Then an unloaded Olympic bar for slow, purposeful, just below parallel squats, solely focusing on form. It was somewhat monotonous. I totally hogged the squat rack (I would have shared if someone asked). But by the end of the session I had far more confidence in my squat. And it took nothing more than the conscious decision to take a break from the normal routine and instead focus on making something better.
I often hear people say that they wish they had the motivation to get fit, or to workout harder. They wish they had the time, the resources, or whatever else it is that they think they are lacking. But the thing is, weight loss and fitness does not have to be an overwhelming, daunting task. It can simply be making conscious decisions every single day to do one thing better. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Drink water with lunch instead of that Diet Coke. Pick up that 10 lb dumbbell instead of the 8 lb you’ve been using for the past month. Run an extra 30 seconds. Don’t just set the alarm clock, actually get out of bed and go to the gym.
We are always told to take giant leaps, but there is a lot to be said for small steps. Little steps add up to big changes. Trust in the process, and ask yourself “What am I going to do better today?”