It’s cliché, really.
Every year, between about December 30th and January 3rd, any one of us can spend two minutes scrolling through our social media newsfeeds and count no less than a dozen “New Year, new me!” posts from our friends.
Eventually, they all blend together and become just one more piece of the clutter of our lives online, destined to be forgotten in no time at all. We mentally applaud the person posting such a message and, perhaps, even go so far as to click “Like” or leave a comment, “Congrats! This is going to be YOUR YEAR!”
How often do those messages of hope and change show so much glitter and promise… only to be conveniently forgotten by the message’s author before the next full moon?
I’ll admit to being one of those people, on more than one occasion in my adult life. I could touch on a long list of resolutions that I’ve made and at which I’ve failed, but I’ll focus on just one, for now:
• “I’m going to get into better shape and stop doing bad things to my body!”
Ah, the old “This year, I’m going to lose (x) pounds!” resolution… always so easy to say, but rarely so easy to accomplish. It’s like a bad habit that you do everything in the world to kick, but still turn back to in times of weakness or, in some instances, boredom. It’s convenient and it makes you feel good about yourself to say it. It brings the above-mentioned messages of “Congratulations! You can do it!” and, at least temporarily, fulfills our need for validation with our peers. At least temporarily, the old standby brings back much needed confidence.
It’s time, though, for me to really buckle down and do something to change the way that my body looks and feels. So, having said that, where do I go from here? What can I change?
For starters, my diet has to change. Fortunately, my wife – who is truly a saint on this Earth for putting up with me, in more ways than one – has already pledged her support and has begun making changes to our family meals. In the last week or so since I’ve started thinking about all of this again, our “worst” meal was a few nights ago, a special occasion dinner at Olive Garden for a gathering with Andrew, my 17-month-old’s Godfather. I ate a full Tour of Italy (a serving of chicken parm, fettuccine alfredo, and lasagna, for anyone not familiar with the Olive Garden’s offerings), three servings of salad, and two breadsticks. That meal was about 1,700 calories in one sitting… not good. But, if I can make those meals a rare exception, rather than a semi-regular occurrence, that is a solid place from which to start.
One of the items on my Amazon Wish List for Christmas and my birthday this year was a Fitbit Flex. My in-laws were gracious enough to get one for me and I have been wearing it each day – except for one on which I took it off in the morning to charge and forgot to put it back on before walking out the door to leave for work – and logging my food, water intake, and sleep. I won’t lie and tell you that I like wearing something on my wrist, though, because I REALLY don’t like that (I’ve never been much for wearing a watch). However, having that little black / red / teal / whichever band I happen to be wearing on a given day reminder of what I’m trying to accomplish has been a net positive, so far.
And then there’s the big goals… the ones that I honestly think that I have to be half-crazy to have agreed to take on, this early in the process.
I have long had a goal of competing in a timed running event, just for the sake of being able to say that I did it. For various reasons, I’ve never held myself to that goal and bothered to do anything about it. Like Cubs fans for so many years, my mantra has always been, “Wait ‘til next year!” Like Cubs fans – perhaps, and it pains me to say that – 2016 may actually BE “next year”.
Shortly before Christmas, I made the decision to sign up for and pay my entry fee into the 10K race at the Illinois Marathon in Champaign-Urbana at the end of April. Keep in mind, I’ve never run a day in my life, post-high school PE class. I immediately recruited my best friend, Beth, who happens to be a fitness freak, to run the race with me and keep me going. Being the amazing person that she is, she agreed, despite the fact that I knew my pace would be painfully slow for her. I chose Champaign because I love that city and enjoy my time there every chance that I have to go and also because the finish line of the race happens to be the 50-yard-line at the University of Illinois’ Memorial Stadium. How cool is that going to be?!?
Then, though, I made the mistake of talking about the Champaign event on the air in Springfield. Unfortunately, the General Manager here at WNNS either heard the mention himself or someone else heard it and then told him about it. He came to me and very nicely suggested that I look into competing in some of the local running events in Springfield with which we are heavily involved, such as the President Lincoln Half-Marathon.
For the record, I use the words “mistake” and “Unfortunately” above 100% tongue-in-cheek and in humor. You see, the thought of the Lincoln Presidential Half-Marathon had crossed my mind, but I had quickly dismissed that thought with an answer of, “There’s no way that I can be ready for 13.1 miles in three months” (the race is the first weekend in April). But, after giving it some thought, I changed my mind.
Yes, in a span of about three weeks, my mindset went from “I’ll be lucky to complete a 10K at the end of April” to “You know what, I’m going to do a half!”
The pessimist in me is screaming that there’s no way that I can do it. The pessimist in me tells me not even to try it because I’ll fail miserably. The pessimist in me says to get the shorter race out of the way first and count myself lucky if I’m able to do that one, much less 13.1 miles.
The optimist in me, however, is smiling. The optimist in me knows that I’m smart enough to understand that I can’t even begin to think about coming CLOSE to completing 13.1 miles without finally taking the steps toward improving my lifestyle that I talked about earlier. The optimist in me knows that, no matter how slow of a pace I run (or walk), there will be no shame in where I finish this race… or, worst case scenario, am forced to drop out. I don’t believe in the participation society that seems to have taken over our country in the last few years, but in this particular case, simply participating and completing ANY portion of this event will be a victory for me.
It will be a victory, however small, over years of bad decisions at the end of a workday, choosing the convenience of sitting in some corner booth or on some barstool and eating restaurant food rather than preparing my own meals at home. It will be a victory over years of ridicule, both spoken and unspoken, from acquaintances and strangers alike. Most importantly, it will be a victory for those around me who are counting on me to be around for as long as God sees fit, rather than what my body allows me.
I already know that I will have tears in my eyes when I hit that last mile or so on April 2nd. I know that my emotions will get the best of me when I cross that finish line, no matter what the race timer nearby reads. Hopefully, those tears and emotions will be that of joy and accomplishment, rather than pain, but I’m not so naïve as to think that there won’t at least be some of the latter, after a 13.1 mile journey around Springfield.
691.68 journeys of one hundred feet.
One hundred feet at a time, each one beginning with one small step.
That’s what this is, friends… one small step. Thanks for being along for the ride