For me it’s running but for a lot of people it’s “the gym”, or cycling, or walking, or swimming. It’s ingrained now, into my sixties running is part of my life. If I get injured or ill or (who saw this one coming) locked down, my first thought is “when can I get back to it?”
But it wasn’t always like that. I did my version of Couch to 5k a while back, puffing around the block in knackered trainers and cotton t-shirts, counting the seconds down to the next lamp post so that I could rest my wheezing lungs and complaining legs. I wasn’t changing my lifestyle, I was desperate to wind back the clock on a journalist’s lifestyle and perhaps salvage enough of my health and waistline to have a future that was measured in more than one decade.
So how do we turn a chore into an unmissable part of our lives? I have days when I have to march myself to the hall and throw myself out of the front door to go running, of course. But when I get into the groove I find something to enjoy because I know the running is making me stronger and more fit to take on the challenges that my life will sooner or later deliver. I have a real life goal. Healthy longevity.
And that realisation made me take the long view. I wasn’t planning a moonshot of so much distance in so much time. I wasn’t planning a marathon or a pb. My pb was the sheer fact of being able to run whenever I wanted. To be strong, flexible and vital. I took the pressure off myself and my goal became enjoying the ride and the view and the thoughts that came up and the places I ran through and the people I met.
Many of us look in the mirror or get on the scales and feel unhappy about what we see. “I’ve got to do something”, we tell ourselves and the panic sets in. We bust into activity, maybe get results and then drop off the pace, and then we get into the yo-yo phase. We’ve all been there, done that, got the (cotton) t-shirt.
But then maybe if you trust yourself to have your own best interests at heart and embark on your programme, pick something you like that has a chance of becoming a love, and give yourself a break when it goes wrong, maybe it becomes part of your life. We can afford to drop the desperation because we know we’re going to be out there doing our thing. Looking after ourselves.
We’re all going to have different incentives at different times of our lives. But whatever it is, looking mighty fine in your jeans, starting a family, keeping that family going, making it to a strong and vibrant “third age” our reasons have to be personal and deeply felt to sustain us through tough challenges. Once they are, nothing can stop us. We know a change is going to come.