Goals Just Want to Have Fun (Ouch. That hurt me, too.)

Not to toot my own horn, but I’m pretty excellent at squeezing in five to six workouts a week when I have a real, tangible goal on the radar.

  • Training for a marathon? I’ll pop out of bed before the sun every workday for an easy three to thirteen miles.
  • Looking to lose a few pounds? I’ll recruit a friend and pulse away at Pop Physique, sore quads be damned.
  • Trying to tone my wedding arms? I’ll hit the gym for BodyPump twice a week for the better part of a year so that I can “shout” my way all the way to the dancefloor showing off more skin than I’d usually dare to bare.
“A little bit softer now” does NOT apply to these Michelle Obama arms. Boom.

If there’s a finish line on the horizon, my objective-oriented mind doesn’t have any problem putting in the work. Sure, I might prefer to sleep in or have an extra glass of wine the night before a scheduled workout, but I’m achievement-driven and can generally push any nay-saying to the back of my brain while I focus on my just-within-reach goal instead.

Once that goal’s over, though, all bets are off. In other words, without a goal on my radar, I get so lazy you wouldn’t believe it.

“Fetch? No thanks.”

Seriously, folks. Even though November started strong — I raced a half marathon, I finished a 10 pack of Pop Physique classes, I took BodyPump at my mom’s sweet Maryland YMCA — in the weeks since the wedding, my discipline has fallen off more rapidly than Congress’ approval rating. I’ve signed up for and canceled more gym classes than I’d care to admit, hit snooze instead of logging my morning miles, and the only significant walking I’ve done is back and forth to the waffle station four times at our annual Mohonk Mountain House brunch.

Now I know from experience one way to get myself out of this lethargic rut is to simply pick a new goal — sign up for a new distance, perhaps, or find a triathlon to force me out of my comfort zone. But the truth is I SHOULDN’T need a goal like speed or weight loss to pressure me to workout. Exercise brings with it a vast number of other amazing benefits, and they should be reason enough to work up a sweat even when there’s nothing tangible on my horizon pulling to toward a finish line.

For example:

  • Sleep: Exercise improves quality of sleep and helps people feel less exhausted during daytime hours.
  • Digestion: Exercise keeps everything moving and helps reduce the cramping and bloating that our processed diet inevitably brings.
  • Disease: Exercise reduces the duration and severity of colds, and longer term has major impacts on things like dementia and heart disease.
  • Stress: Exercise keeps me from getting overwhelmed at yelling at my husband, even when he’s clearly yelling at me.
OK, fine, this is clearly also Shout.

I’m trying to remember that even when I’m not working toward a goal, exercise is a worthy endeavor, and keeping that in mind helped motivate me to pull myself out of a warm bed at 6 a.m. to run six foggy miles this morning. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep up that motivation during the holiday season.

(And if that doesn’t work, knowing I’ll be in a bikini on an Australian beach in two weeks’ time ought to do it! Warning: said flight takes us via Hawaii, where there is a goldendoodle waiting to make up for a years’ worth of missing photo shoots. Prepare yourselves.)

How do you keep motivated when there isn’t an immediate goal on your horizon?


A Blog By Any Other Name

My early summer trip to North Carolina was memorable for a whole bunch of reasons: seven friends, free flowing wine, and a photo shoot to capture the perfect shot ahead of L, C and my triple birthday party this November. You’ll never guess how old we’re turning.

You'll also never guess how many takes it took to get this right.
You’ll also never guess how many takes it took to get this right.
But of all the lovely moments that I’ll remember about my Memorial Day trip, one in particular has stuck with me: a beach-side conversation with one friend about the changes we could make in our lives to be really, truly happy.

Now don’t get me wrong: we’re both happy. We’re both with wonderful men in exciting cities with loving families, successful careers, and — after that sun-soaked conversation — killer tans. But as good as things are, there are always steps we can take to get even closer to our dream life, and as she and I sat on the beach, we challenged each other:

What steps could you take right this instant to get closer to your definition of happy?

It was an interesting exercise, since most of my goals aren’t the kinds of things I can put into motion at the drop of a hat. Get a dog? Not unless my hours change. Summer in Maine? Not unless I inherit a large sum of money. Capture the perfect goldendoodle selfie? Not until this floozy niece of mine stops smooching everyone in sight.

Coming in for the kill.
Coming in for the kill.
As we sat there discussing our goals, one stood out that felt more within my reach: find a way to take my blog a little bit more seriously.

Now I don’t mean more seriously like fewer dog photos or Star Wars jokes.

"Oh no! Those WERE the droids we were looking for!"
“Oh no! Those WERE the droids we were looking for!”
I mean taking my blog more seriously by trying to actually get it out there. Other bloggers I know are active on twitter, go to blogger conferences, attend sponsored events, review new workout products and pitch stories to national fitness magazines to grow their exposure. What do I do? I post to wordpress and facebook, and then go MIA for two weeks at a time because marathon training and, you know, writing for a paid living, push blogging to the back burner.

To be honest, I don’t know how much more time I could realistically carve out for this extracurricular passion of mine at this point in my life. But there is one thing I can do right this second to get closer to that end goal: I can finally buy

So I did. For $26 a year — or about the cost of a late-night cab ride from the East Village to my apartment — I have bought a grown-up domain name to replace the much longer auto-generated wordpress one that I’ve used since I started this blog in 2012.

Was buying a domain name a giant leap forward toward my happiness-project goals? No, not really. But the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Also, with a small town girl living in a lonely world. #journeyjokes

What change could you make to your life today to get your closer to your goals?

Races Running

Goaling, Goaling, Gone

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.

You say this things might attract squirrels?
You say this things might attract squirrels?

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.

On a totally unrelated note, no idea why my favorite jeans don't fit.
On a totally unrelated note, no idea why my favorite jeans don’t fit.

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.

photo 3 (39)
This is the face of victory, or possibly exhaustion. You be the judge.

And with that, one of my 2014 goals is complete. Oh, hell yes.

Are you a goal-driven athlete?



New Year’s Resolutions, or Not

A favorite tool of motivational phrase writers and the Denver Broncos alike, failure is purportedly a useful means to self improvement.

“The only real failure in life is the failure to try.”

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

“Shoot for the moon. If you miss, you’ll still be among the stars.”

Sounds nice, sure, but something tells me Neil Armstrong might not have been pleased as punch to make his giant leap for mankind among massive, luminous spheres of plasma held together by gravity. (Whatup, Wikipedia.)

I realize that in all likelihood, no one really likes failure, but I’d venture a guess that my aversion to it is far more severe than the average overachiever, which is why – here we are on Jan. 16 – and I’ve yet to declare my 2013 New Year’s resolutions.

I’m not sure I always took my resolutions so seriously, as evidenced by decades of unabated bad habits. But after setting challenging resolutions for myself these past two years and actually following through (2011: to lose 30 pounds and 2012: to run a marathon), the stakes suddenly seem noticeably higher. Fail at a New Year’s resolution in 2006 and drink away the shame from a red solo cup; fail at a New Year’s resolution in 2013 and shatter the opportunity to achieve the all illusive self-improvement hat trick.

There are hundreds of areas in my life that still need improvement, from my lack of cross training to my inability to squeeze toothpaste from the bottom of the tube, but I’m having a hard time coming up with a 2013 goal of the same caliber – and eventual achievability – as those laid out in the past two years. Should I vow to cook more meals at home? Strength train once a week? Go to yoga? Sleep eight hours a night? Tell more funny jokes like the one about me sleeping eight hours a night?

Maybe I should resolve to end the year uninjured, with a renewed (i.e. brand spanking new) emphasis on stretching, strength-training and recovery. Maybe I should resolve to make my own coffee instead of racking up a weekly $20 tab. Maybe I should take a page from my dog-niece’s book and resolve to take more risks.Image

Clearly, I’m open to suggestions. What do you think I should target in 2013?