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Sweet Success

When I was younger, I saved every bib number from every race I ran.

I’d dutifully mark down my time & place – along with the date and location – in the corner and file them in a binder. Every once in a while, I’d go back to my binders and review what I’d accomplished.

There’s something really satisfying about getting something done. It’s like when you can cross an item off your to-do list. As you cross the items off one by one – and the list grows shorter – your sense of accomplishment grows.

By the time you reach the bottom of the day’s list, you feel pretty good about yourself.

For me, that sense of accomplishment is motivating. After college, there was a while when just being able to add another bib number to my latest binder was enough to keep me running.

Well, I don’t keep binders any more, but I still find a sense of accomplishment very motivating. And I’ve been using it to work on my health. But I have to “trick” myself a little.

Some doctors say you should weigh yourself every day when you’re trying to lose weight. That would drive me crazy.

To me, daily weigh-ins are like sitting in your most boring class at school, staring at the clock. It takes about two hours for each minute to go by.

With weigh-ins, unless you’re on some insane diet, you’re not going to see much progress on a daily basis. Plus, you know you’ll compare today’s weight with yesterday’s. So it won’t feel like you’re making any progress.

No accomplishment, no motivation.

That’s why I usually pull out the scale every couple of weeks or so. Even if I lose just two ounces a day, in two weeks, I’ll be almost two pounds lighter than my last weigh-in. And that feels like I’m making progress.

I did much the same thing with exercise. Running doesn’t do anything for your upper body, so I started doing pushups. At first, one was my limit. (Hey, I was fat and really out of shape!)

After a week or so, one pushup was a snap. So I added another. And another. Twenty-five was a big milestone. So was two sets of twenty-five. It took about a year to reach three sets of twenty-five. But every time I added five to a set, it felt like an accomplishment.

Now I do 100 pushups, in three sets, almost every morning. But I started with just one.

I don’t pay a lot of attention to the times on my daily runs, either. I may time them, but I don’t fuss over the times.

But yesterday, scheduling conflicts meant my wife had to miss our usual long Saturday outing. So I decided to test my running plan for next month’s half-marathon.

My goal for the race is pretty modest. I’d like to break 3 hours. This puts me solidly in the “slow old guy” division. But I don’t care. I want to live to be 100… not set a world record.

So I devised a four-mile figure-eight course. The bottom loop was three miles… the top loop just one mile. I’d try to jog the bottom and walk (briskly) the top. After three times around, I’d jog the top section again with a .1-mile add-on.

A couple of years ago, I could barely jog a block before I had to rest. Yesterday, I finished a half-marathon in 2:43. Now that’s motivation!

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