Lower Your Expectations

I’m sure you’re familiar with the exhortations to “Be all you can be”, “If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well”.

That’s fine, unless you’re dealing with staying fit and living day-to-day life in the real world. Here’s one that’s useful in that situation, “It’s better to get a little exercise than no exercise at all”. But that’s not going to build big muscles, and we tell ourselves it won’t be enough to make a difference, so if we can’t get in a full-blown workout we blow it off entirely. And of course, if you’re like me the idea of committing to a full-blown workout day after day kind of turns your stomach. But, in the past, I have committed to it, and I have kept it up – for a few weeks maybe, usually a few days. Then sporadically, then nothing. Oh well, guess “all I can be” doesn’t include someone who stays in shape.

Some months after I got out of the army, in 1971, I actually wished a drill instructor could come around once a day and had the power to make me exercise, then go away. I remembered from basic training how good it would feel to come in to breakfast after a morning run, even though you felt like death when it started. And I remembered what good shape I was in when basic ended. But when I got out of the army I weighed 247, with probably less muscle than I have now, so I wanted to get in shape also. But I really just couldn’t push myself to workout consistently. So I wished for someone who could force me.

It wasn’t until around 1978 that I discovered I could be my own drill instructor if I just lowered my expectations. It’s not important how hard you work out. It’s important that you workout every day (within reason). But if you commit to how hard or how long you’re going to workout every day, it induces angst very quickly. There’s too much dread. Make it as easy on yourself as you need to start a workout every day and make a good faith effort to get a little exercise – even if some days you just go through the motions – then go through the motions. Eventually the feedback from how you feel afterwards – including improved self-esteem – will start to raise your expectations on how you want to feel. But keeping it up, although not physically hard, is tricky. As I always try to point out, lethargy and even maybe self-doubt will try to discourage you. But if you just persist, and what could be easier, it can work for you.

So lower your expectations on how hard you’re going to work out, put your expectations about health, fitness, and weight control on hold, and raise your expectations on how you want to feel. One last thing, don’t get your goals mixed up with your commitments. Your commitment is to just start a workout every day. If you want to have a goal of how long or how hard you’ll workout, fine. But don’t break the chain by skipping on a day when you don’t feel up to that goal. GO THROUGH THE MOTIONS!!! My advice is to focus on the most trivial goal, pleasure in the short term; in the long term you’ll end up achieving the important ones – health and fitness.

I'll be 70 in less than 6 months (it's Dec 2016 now) and never expected to be in this kind of shape or have this kind of stamina, at any age. Then I discovered JumpRock at 55 and HoopRock at 66. Both are so much fun it's actually easy to get fit and stay that way; this blog is to encourage you to follow my example and be in great shape yourself going into old age - that's all I can promise for now - we'll see how actual old age goes. I'm highly optimistic.
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