No Matter How Slow You Go…

I’ve made the observation that the older I get the more friends I have who are, seemingly all of a sudden, interested in “staying in shape.”  Yes, it is somewhat funny that “staying” implies they are already in good physical condition, and they’re not, but it’s also sad too.  For that matter, it’s far easier to stay in shape if you start focusing on it when you’re…  wait for it… IN SHAPE and at about the age of 18; or somewhere along in your teenage years.  After that you’re trying to recover the shape you know you can be in but haven’t been for years. I speak from experience here.  That said, “getting in shape” requires being in motion.  Some I know believe that unless you’re moving FAST then you aren’t moving enough to do yourself any good.  Few seem to appreciate that any motion is better than no motion and that any motion tends to increase itself over time unless we do something to stop it or slow it down.  Let me explain what I mean.

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I used to love to run.  One of the reasons  loved it was because it was so easy and I was so good at it. Don’t get me wrong, I was never a sprinter. I think the fastest 100 yard dash I ever did was about 12 seconds.  The difference between me and the 9.9 second 100 yard dash athlete was that I could maintain my 12 second 100 yard dash for a quarter mile.  I once ran a sub-50 second quarter mile in high school.  I say, “I used to love to run,” because running, for me now, is a chore and not an enjoyable pursuit.  What’s changed across the years?  ME.  That really is all that’s changed.  Me now weighs 40 pounds more than the ME of 1983 when I was probably in the best physical condition of my life (fresh out of Military Police school).  Like a lot of veterans, when I got out of the service I was quite delighted not to HAVE to do physical training (PT) anymore, so I didn’t.  Like so many young folks who take their fitness levels and fast metabolisms for granted, I thought that my fitness level would stay where it was and didn’t require maintenance.  I was wrong and didn’t realize it until ten years later when it was all but gone.

Yes, there are some benefits you reap over time even if you don’t maintain your fitness on a daily basis.  For instance, the shape and symmetry you build into your body through regular exercise in your formative years – your adolescence and young adulthood – stays buried beneath the fat you layer on.  If you burn the fat and exercise the muscles you CAN get that shape back.  Just look at former professional bodybuilders Arnold Schwarzenegger or Lou Ferrigno.  Both still regularly work out and benefit from the structure they built over two decades ago: wide shoulders, comparatively narrow(er) hips and a body fat level they know how to keep where they want it – IF they eat properly and exercise to maintain it.

But, given the topic of this entry, let’s assume for a moment that you were once in good shape and then, as the years passed, “let yourself go.”  You’ve not exercised like you should and you’ve enjoyed food perhaps a bit more than is healthy.  You know you should lose a few pounds and get in better physical condition so you set a few New Year’s resolutions and plan out a diet and exercise program.  On that exercise program you include running each morning, six days per week anyway, because you remember that daily running was part of the routine you had back in the days of being in great physical condition.  Then your first day of the new program comes around and you go out to run only to find out it actually hurts: your knees, your lower back, your feet…  Running is PAINFUL and it feels like punishment; punishment you shouldn’t have to endure.  You want to be rewarded for your efforts.

Here’s the secret you forgot: Back in your younger days when running was easy, it was a skill you’d built up throughout your childhood.  You ran with stronger muscles, a conditioned cardiovascular system and stronger muscles throughout your body.  When I was 19 and running was easy – and fun – I had been building up to that for 19 years and, at that time, actively working toward improvement for six months.  If you want to be “in shape,” and include running as part of your regimen, you have to build up to it.  The good news is that once you get started it’s possible to get where you want to be.  Some people think that if you never start nothing ever changes; you’re just stuck where you are.  That’s actually not true: If you never start, YOU GET WORSE.

The statement, “An object in motion tends to stay in motion,” is absolutely true.  Once you get started, even if it’s just a 1/2 mile walk around your block twice a day, it’s easier to build up to that two mile run you feel like you need to be doing six days per week.  If you never start and just maintain your position as a sofa cushion warmer, you don’t stay the same: you physically degenerate.  Muscles turn to fat; your weight goes up; your cardiovascular fitness decreases until it’s non-existent; your lung capacity reduces until you can barely breath and so on.   Doing nothing allows your body to rot while you’re still alive.  Doing something… anything to improve on yourself, begins and maintains a process that will carry you to where you want to be.  But you have to get the process started.

So, don’t get distracted by the fact that some people are out running six-minute miles while you’re walking around the block.  If your goal is to run a six-minute mile some day then you can – but you have to work for it; build up to it; lose the fat weight and increase the muscle strength while you condition your cardiovascular system appropriately.  The key is to GET STARTED.  MOVE… no matter how slow.  The image that accompanies this piece and the statement it contains is absolutely true: No matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch.  Get off the couch and get started today!

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If you appreciated this blog entry, please check out the author’s book, “Above Dirt: Motivational Thoughts Supporting A Positive Outlook,” available on Kindle HERE.

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