Small Steps

“That’s it. Let’s do it. Let’s do an abs challenge!” she exclaimed.

She didn’t have to say it again. I was all in. “Hell yes! Summer 2013, here we come!” I said.

We’d been dancing around the topic for weeks so I knew this was coming. And it made perfect sense. She’s my personal trainer and with her knowledge of exercise and my emphasis on nutrition, we’d worked out a pretty sensible plan.

We both knew what we had to do. Clean eating. A combination of strength training and high-intensity workouts throughout the week. And an iron-clad commitment to the goal that we would both have the six-pack abs we’d been coveting for months. This was going to happen.

After covering the details of how we’d go about our training and the time-frame, we gave each other a thumbs up and got back to the session. I finished out my workout that day with determination to get this ball rolling.

Four months later and the meticulous plan I had for my abs and all the ‘after’ pics I’d already arranged in my mind have fallen on the wayside, forgotten with most of the good ideas I’d let slip through my fingers.

I lift up my tank top in the mirror and shake my head. I couldn’t help but think, “Here we go again.”

I’d dropped the ball on another goal and although I’d like to say this was the first time, the truth is that I’m all too familiar with this sort of failure.

I met up with my trainer last Friday and we spoke about our ill-fated pact to be masters of our abs. She’s in the middle of planning her wedding, closing on her first house and training for a powerlifting meet, all while seeing clients, so really, who can blame the woman for having her priorities elsewhere? I, on the other hand, have no such excuse.

In between bench press sets, we spoke about summer and fitness goals and how much harder it is to stay committed as time goes on. It wasn’t until this conversation that I realized something pretty critical.

Back when I first decided to work out and eat healthy, I did that with lofty goals in mind. I wanted to lose weight. I wanted to lose a lot of weight. Never mind how difficult that journey was going to be or how much trial and error I’d have go through to get there; I knew it would happen because I wanted it bad enough.

Three years and thirty pounds later, I’m reminded that it took a series of small steps to bring me to this moment. I didn’t start out a fitness fiend, working out five days a week, squatting and dead-lifting over my body weight, and eating a super clean diet every single day.

I needed to experiment with different workouts, educate myself on food and learn how to cook and bake with new ingredients. There was progress and there were setbacks. My goals evolved. Losing weight took second place to becoming strong, inside and out. I changed.

Within the big picture of healthy living, I learned that the only way I could ever really succeed is by embracing the small moments that shape the journey.

And somewhere along the way I forgot that. I forgot to tackle each workout as its own small moment. I forgot that with each big goal I set, I also need to enjoy the steps. I’ve wavered in my commitment lately; going through workouts almost by rote and without the enthusiasm that I used to bring to the gym or at home. I forgot the thrill of lifting that bar and breaking personal records. I forgot to have fun.

Once I made this revelation, I stopped tearing myself down as it’s so quick for me to do when I’m disappointed. Instead of applying blame, I turned it around and remembered that each day is an opportunity to start over and recommit.

So yeah, my sick six-pack ab challenge didn’t turn out exactly the way I expected. With my shirt tugged up, I’m looking in the mirror and choose to see all the rest of my accomplishments instead.

I’ve come a long way from where I started. How could I forget that?

Healthy living is as much about the second word in that phrase as it is the first.

Choosing to be healthy can be tough and it’s easy to get caught up in the harder parts when the rush of that initial weight loss or physical transformation begins to wane.

But the important thing to keep in mind is that we’re also leading lives filled with all sorts of challenges that help make everything worthwhile.  We’re reminded of why we began and through the challenge, we’re given the chance to fortify that commitment. It’s a humbling lesson and it took a half-hearted stab at an abs-challenge to open my eyes.

Besides, who needs a six-pack of abs when you can’t enjoy a barbecue every now and then?

What challenges have you faced on your healthy living journey? How do you cope with setbacks? Share your stories here and as always, keep paying it forward! :-)

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  1. SO TRUE! I love how you wrote that “healthy living” needs emphasis on the living part!! I’m a trainer and I tell my clients that ALL the time. It’s good to have goals but don’t set yourself up to fail. How much are you really willing to sacrifice to reach those goals? Fitness is definitely important but so is living a fun life. I struggle with fitting in ALL that I want to do. I have a time goal for a half-marathon this fall as well as my first Duathlon National Championship so I struggle with bike/run and my time constraints with 4 year-old twins, teaching fitness classes, blogging and oh yeah…the rest of the “household” duties. It’s a balance and sooner or later we all find it. Good job keeping perspective…and your arms and back look pretty amazing:-)