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The 100 Kilometre Walk

I recently found myself in the position of being overweight, unfit and struggling to find the time or the motivation to take the necessary steps to do something about it. I knew I needed the discipline to start exercising most days of the week – a mix of cardio and weights. I knew I needed to start paying closer attention to what I ate – keep a food diary and work out my calories and fat intake and adjust my diet accordingly.

But it all seemed so overwhelming.

I’ve read before that it takes more than two weeks to develop a habit and only three days to break it. Well it had been nearly five years since I was a slim and fit. Back then I was one of those people at the gym waiting outside in the dark for the doors to open at 5.30am – even on the coldest days. I had a 5 -6 day a week routine involving 5 km runs some days and 2 km runs combined with weights training other days. I didn’t think about it – I just got up and did it. And I loved it. Not at first of course, way back when I was building my fitness, then it was hard work, but I grew to love it and missed it if anything ever kept me from it.

I knew my food pyramid. I understood good food choices and instinctively made them. Sure I had treats, that’s part of life. But the point is, when my program all came together I was exercising so much, I didn’t need to keep a food diary to help me keep slim. I like to think I was in “the zone”.

Then one day at the gym, I struggled through my weights program. I dropped from my “bridge” pose after about 10 seconds, unable to come close to the 2 minutes I normally held position. I went home and a few days later joyfully discovered I was pregnant! Fast forward 5 years and I was 20 kilos heavier, appallingly unfit and struggling to commit to building a program like I had all those years ago. Sometimes life can be too chaotic and too busy and just too hard to add more things to your plate. Making a regular commitment of time can feel impossible. And of course, finding energy to motivate yourself is harder when you are overweight and unfit.

So what to do?

Well a friend of mine came up with the answer for me. He mentioned one day he had set himself a goal of doing 1000 situps. No time frame, no other complications. He suggested I find something simple to start with – a single goal with no time frames. It flies in the face of normal motivational goals not to define a time frame. Project Managers reading this would no doubt be developing sweaty palms and an uncomfortable feeling in the pits of their stomachs. Ok, this is not good advice for lots of areas of life. But I am talking about getting myself started. Sometimes it really does help to start with the absolute basics.

I had a treadmill at home and a TV so I set myself a goal of walking 100 kms. Impressed with myself to have at least set a goal, I of course started to get ambitious. I’ll walk “x” kms each day, I’ll walk at “y” speed, I’ll walk with some hand weights certain days, walk on an incline other days……. It snowballed but it all sounded good. I phoned my friend and was about to tell him by wonderful new plan when he said “By the way, at the beginning I started to get temped to include some squats and some lunges along with my situps. Don’t do it. Don’t complicate it. One goal, no time frames.” Spooky but I listened. And I’m glad I did. I wouldn’t have stuck to my complicated version – even though it wasn’t really very complicated. I was just in such a state, I needed baby steps. I needed to focus on one thing to build some discipline.

So I got a little notebook from my desk and a pen and I wrote a heading “100 km walk”. I put the treadmill in front of TV (a big treat in my busy life) and I walked. And I walked and I walked. That day I walked 3 kms. I got off and wrote in my notebook:

Day 1 Thursday 3klms (97 kms to go).

And so it began. I finished it surprisingly quickly. I ended up walking 5 kms a night 3 or 4 or 5 nights a week and I did those 5 kms faster and faster. Some days I didn’t feel well or I was very tired so I only walked 1 or 2 kms. I was proud of myself those days. If I had set myself a time frame and had NEEDED to walk 5 kms on those days to meet the deadline I would have been despondent and annoyed with myself. But I was proud and positive and so motivated that I WANTED to walk when I was tired and not well. There was something about getting off the treadmill and straight away grabbing my notebook and watching the total number of kms to go reduce that was very satisfying and very motivating. I was achieving something – in baby steps.

I did it. And at the end of it I was in a different place psychologically. I looked for the next challenge and joined Weight Watchers to help with my food. I began planning the next exercise goal – a little more sophisticated this time – but not heaps. My fitness was starting to improve and I was losing some weight. But the best thing was I felt a degree of CONTROL come back into my life. And that is an amazing motivator.

This approach would not be for everyone but it may help some so that’s why I decided to share. I’m so glad my friend shared his 1000 situps plan with me. There are so many wonderful options – steps on a pedometer, star jumps, skips, lunges, number of times you walk around your residential block or up your stairs at work. You name it. Just remember – one simple goal, no time frame (and try not to tell any Project Managers you know…)

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