Catalyst for Change
In the fall of 2007 I saw a picture of myself that jump-started what has now become a lifestyle change. That fall I started walking almost every day, and I paid attention to my portions. These are small changes, but they touched my life every day, multiple times a day. And with those small changes I lost 70 pounds.
And then life happened. We moved, we took in my mom and cared for her for two years, and we struggled to make ends meet living on the cusp of poverty. From 2008 to 2010, this was life. I did gain some of my weight back in those two years, but the primary goal then was to keep from having a nervous breakdown. Stress was high, and the ability to care for myself was non-existent.
In 2010 I switched jobs, and my mom moved out, both of which provided a great foundation for learning how to properly care for myself. I started taking yoga, which taught me such simple things as how to breathe to access and maintain “calm,” and it conditioned my body, making it stronger with consistently progressing practice. I took yoga from one teacher twice a week for about 18 months, and in that time I learned a lot about maintaining consistent self care. I wasn’t losing lots of weight, but my body was changing, getting more toned and dropping sizes. Most importantly, I found a way to address lots of internal stuff that I had been ignoring most of my life. With this internal shift, I became much more open and accepting of change and challenges. Though I wasn’t seeking out change or challenge, I was lighter, bouncier, and more capable of rebounding when it inevitably came my way.
My Cycles of Change
The confidence I gained from my yoga practice inspired me to explore other things I might be capable of; so I started with running. I’m now about 18 months into my practice of running, and the benefit of blogging has allowed me to see what my habits are in a big picture. I apparently have a cycle of performance. Whether it’s yoga or running, I seem to be more committed to physical activity in the fall and winter as opposed to the spring and summer. It’s no big surprise that I bog down and lose motivation in the summer months. Have you ever experienced the humidity of East TN or possibly the deep South? There’s a reason debutantes used to “get the vapors” and need afternoon naps; it’s because if you subject yourself to the god forsaken heat and humidity, it will kill you. While it was no surprise, looking back over that these last three years especially has been insightful as to what I am actually doing. So, until and unless my willpower and self discipline improves, I’ll know better than to sign up for an early fall endurance event again.
With running specifically, as long as I have a plan, I will stick to it between 75% to 85% of the time. If I don’t have a plan, I will do very little, if anything at all. With yoga, however, it’s hard to put a practice into a specific plan, though companies and gyms certainly try (e.g., Bikram & Ashtanga). The closest I ever came to a regimented yoga practice was during Yogic Lent and the few months that followed. It was amazing and got me into a great tone (both inwardly and physically), but I couldn’t keep it up long term.
So I am a person who benefits from plans, though I could certainly benefit more from sticking to them more. I’ve paid particular attention to the times when I’m “off plan” as they are the key to why I am cyclical instead of consistent. Apparently I may be less afraid of change or more capable of dealing with it without an anxiety attack or lapse into depression than I was over three years ago, but I still let change derail me, which is an observation I’m glad to have, but sorry to see.
When I go off plan it’s usually because my schedule is interrupted, whether from changes at work or at home. Though I may have a great “plan,” when my schedule changes, sticking to the plan is usually the first thing to fall through the cracks. And once I detour from my plan, it’s that much easier to detour again…and again, to the point that now we have a cycle. When it comes to my cycle of change, I’ve observed that I will hold steady with my plan for about four to six weeks, and then I detour for anywhere from one week to as many as six weeks. While I haven’t done any research on it, I have a hunch that other people are like this, too. They start out strong, but fade out at some point. And this is why I think structured classes or personal training sessions work well for so many people; it helps them stick with it because eventually their lives get scheduled around the structure.
Living in a Sea of Changes
Right now in my life, I am in the midst of a lot of changes. These changes affect my daily schedule at a moment’s notice, and they make for long, exhausting days and too short nights with little to no rest. And though I set out for the month of October to be a rebuilding of basics with a daily focus on small things like running only one mile a day or doing one plank a day, these changes have gotten the best of me so far. However, I will not give up the whole month just because I’ve failed at a majority of it. There are still nine days remaining, and I am set on making them count.
When it comes to persevering with a plan amid the obstacle of unavoidable change, it’s helpful for me to have a goal in sight. Right now I have the Strawberry Plains Half Marathon to look toward in early February. And my goal is to finish in 2:45:00. I have a lot of work to do and the time necessary to get it done. If I can stick to my current plan and meet this goal with all sorts of other stuff in my life being up in the air, I think that sense of accomplishment will be sweeter than running at a Personal Record pace or dropping weight because it will mean a gained life skill that I could benefit from in so many other areas of my life. I ideally want to live in change and have it not affect me, but that’s hardly a realistic perspective. Realistically, I want to minimize the way change derails me from my plans.
Are you a consistent performer or a cyclical one? How do you maintain consistency? How do you handle change?
And now, as a reward for reading, here’s a fun, appropriate song: