They tell you to shoot for the moon because if you miss, you’ll still be among the stars. I’ve seen Gravity, though, and I know overshooting the moon didn’t work out so well for Mr. Clooney.
Likewise, overshooting when it comes to fitness goals is a dangerous endeavor. At best, setting a lofty goal and failing to achieve it can be downright demoralizing, and at worst, it can leave you drifting off into deep space with not even a chance of a supporting actor nod unless you return for a narratively jarring dream sequence in the penultimate scene of the movie.
Sorry, guys, but you know my blog’s “no spoilers” rule doesn’t apply to 90-minute 3D space thrillers. See article 2, section S, categorized under Space.
Don’t be me wrong: I, perhaps to an unparalleled degree, appreciate the value of a good fitness goal. A results-driven athlete with a Type-A personality and a love affair with her google calendar, I value nothing more than setting a target, defining a plan and spending the next six weeks to six months getting myself across that finish line.
Ambitious goal-setting was what got me off the couch in 2011 and training for my first 10-miler, what encouraged me to break free from the half-marathon circuit and run a full 26.2, and what inspired me to teach my niece how to make a crafty and sustainable pinecone birdfeeder from items found in her own backyard. Unfortunately, we never got past step one.
But while goal-setting is a key motivator in my workout routine, it also has a downside: If I divert off course, even for a few days, on my path to an objective, this one-track mind tends to throw in the towel altogether rather than getting back up and picking up where I started. For me, when it comes to reaching my goals, it’s all or nothing.
Take, for example, my Ash Wednesday declaration that I was going to plank for one minute every day in Lent. I was off to a good start, making it through Wednesday, then Thursday, then Friday. And then on Saturday morning, I boarded a flight to Hong Kong and realized I hadn’t yet planked — and wouldn’t be touching down again until Sunday afternoon. For a fleeting moment, I debated planking in the aisles, but international terrorism laws and/or that little personal TV on the seatback in front of me nipped that idea in the bud, and I just like that, I missed my first day.
In Hong Kong, I got partially back on track, planking at least a handful of times while awake at 2:30 a.m. and squeezing in a jetlag workout. But “planking for 39 days of Lent” just doesn’t have to same ring to it, and once I’d allowed myself one free pass, the subsequent excuses flowed faster than the River of Slime in Ghostbusters II. I can’t plank today: I have to be at work at 5:30 a.m. I can’t plank today: I have debilitating Hong Kong-induced stomach flu. I can’t plank today: I’m kind of lazy.
Good-bye Lenten resolution. Hello, Judas. I didn’t even get paid thirty pieces of silver for my betrayal. I did, however, get two Easter baskets last Sunday, so maybe Jesus isn’t so mad about the whole planking thing after all.
Knowing that failing to reach my goals sometimes threatens to divert me further off course than had I not even set any in the first place, I’m oftentimes hesitant to articulate my ambitions.
But we can’t live in fear – except of cockroaches and New York’s summer garbage stench, of course – so despite my distaste for disappointment, I continue to set goals season after season. Sometimes, I fall short, like when I tell myself I’m going to PR in the New York City Marathon (nope) or stop after one Reese’s Easter Egg for breakfast (nope) or watch Forrest discover Lt. Dan’s magic legs in a moment of pre-wedding intimacy without bawling my eyes out (oh hell no.)
But every now and then, I set a goal and actually achieve it, and that feels downright wonderful. Like resolving to lose 30 pounds in 2011 and doing it, or applying for an editing gig at a media powerhouse and getting it, or waking up this morning with a dream of PRing at the New York Road Runner’s Run for One four-miler in Central Park, and – despite telling my pacer to go on without me as I thought my lungs would burst around mile 2 – somehow racing myself to a new (eleven-second) PR.
And with that, one of my 2014 goals is complete. Oh, hell yes.
Are you a goal-driven athlete?