But How Will You Improve, Part Two

Last week, I talked about exercise, improvement and whether or not to have goals.

A) My swimming time is definitely improving without extraordinary effort.  I swam 1050 today in half an hour while pushing enough to be a pleasant muscular effort.  I wasn’t feeling all gung-ho, but was just enjoying my swim.  A month ago, I swam 900 yards in half an hour.

B)  I do have an exercise goal.  My goal is to show up!

I still question the “Get better and better and better!” thing for working out.  Friends, I’m 42.  Not a teenager any more.  While yes, I do agree that we need to move our bodies to keep them healthy, we don’t have to be athletes.

When we talk about fitness, I really think “Fit for what?” becomes a genuine question to ask.  The Crossfit people have their own ideas about this.  I won’t argue too hard against them, but I will point out Crossfit was created as a training program for rescue workers.  If you want to be able to perform at that physical level, I think that’s cool.  Go for it.  But accept that if you’re not a rescue worker, it’s more of a hobby than a reflection on how you live your life on a day to day basis.  (And goodness knows I can think of worse hobbies!)  I wouldn’t call it a moral imperative, even if fitness websites do often have testimonials about some emergency and how glad they are they did <foo> sort of training because it helped them.

I do think, however, that looking at the life you live and deciding what you want to be able to do physically is a good idea.

For myself, this is my physical baseline.  I want to be able to:

  • Swim a mile comfortably
  • Walk two miles without feeling tired afterwards
  • Lift a standard copier paper box of books comfortably
  • Wrangle a snow-blower after a two foot snowfall (I live in Northern New England)
  • Be able to stack a couple of cords of wood in a day (see previous)
  • Be able to help push a car out of a ditch (again, see previous)
  • Be active enough that I think driving to a grocery store is a silly waste of gas.  This means being able to carry a heavy back pack full of groceries about a half a mile.
  • Be able to lift a suitcase over my head into the overhead compartment on a train or airplane
  • Be able to run from one end of an airport to another to catch a flight on too close of a connection.
  • Be able to give a four to six hour lecture on my feet being physically active and animated the whole time.  (I teach computer applications as well as rant about physical fitness.  If you’re not active and animated, you lose your audience quick).
  • Be able to change a 5 gallon water jug in a water cooler without spilling water all over the floor or throwing out my back.

Notice none of the goals are particularly exciting or dramatic.  I don’t have survivalist goals.  I live a heavily technologically-based life and I’m cool with that.  I grew up during the tail end of the Cold War fifty miles from Washington DC, a state capital, and about a dozen military bases.  I’m used to living on the slopes of Vesuvius, thanks.  If I sweated it, I’d be more of a basket case than I already am.  I can pretty much do all of the things listed above already, but it’s my baseline.   Every one of them can be achieved or maintained by working out a half an hour every weekday.

Do your desired physical abilities levels look different?  I bet they do.  Know why? You live a different life.  I do think it is a good idea, though, to sit down and give what you want to be able to do physically some logical thought.  What can you do now?  What do you want to be able to do?  Do you have any physical limitations that are a factor?  I do.  There’s a reason I’m an enthusiastic swimmer above and beyond my love of water, ya know!

I’m curious to know what other people’s goals look like, if you want to share.  I’m curious to know how they reflect real-world daily life v. numbers measuring athletic performance.

4 Replies to “But How Will You Improve, Part Two”

  1. You know, I’d never really thought about fitness goals in such concrete terms, before, so I have little to offer on that front. Your list seems like an eminently sensible set of things to be able to do, though. In a similar vein, I might suggest for myself:

    “Be able to carry a backpack containing a large laptop, breakfast and lunch [since I generally eat both at work], some fruit, and some drinks, on and off of public transit without strain.”

    I do like the idea of relating fitness to things you actually need to do. It reminds me of the old Jerry Seinfeld line: “Everyone’s working out, but nobody’s working out *for* anything … Basically, we’re just working out to be able to make it through the workout.” (There were some other lines in that ellipsis, but I can’t remember them.)

  2. i haven’t been commenting much (or if at all) but I wanted to let you know that your work-out posts are awesome and really helping me. I am totally a “fatty” who is working on “showing up” right now and I am getting great inspiration here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.