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The Rules

Posted Nov 24 2009 10:01pm

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”*


Two more sleeps and I will be taking off for Cozumel. The trip is the fulfillment of a goal to compete in Ironman Cozumel. I signed up for the event over a year ago, and I have been following a triathlon training plan from Coach Kris since January. And I will be only one of a couple thousand people who have been training steadily for most of the year to complete that race.

But that process began long before January. And it began long before I ever signed up for an Ironman race. The process began over a decade ago and with very different goals.

First it was a gym membership and jogging three times a week. Off and on exercise. Off and on weight loss. Then suffering through a road race. Off and on running. Then suffering through a marathon. Then quitting.

Then starting again. Joining a gym with staff who encouraged me. A faster marathon. MS150 bicycling tours. The first short course triathlon. The first half-iron triathlon. Watching an Ironman swim start and swearing I would never do such a thing. 24 hours later signing up for an Ironman and one year later doing it. Now it's time for Ironman Number three.

So, if you read about Ironman triathlons or other endurance events--here or elsewhere--and you say, "I could never do that," you are wrong. That is simply an excuse to make you feel better for choosing NOT to do it. Assuming that Ironman and marathons are never your thing--which is totally fine--you can duplicate the process of becoming active and healthy.

But if you go against "The Rules" you are doomed to failure. You might as well repeal the law of gravity. Ask Wylie Coyote how that works out. Follow the rules and you can succeed.

Rule One: Start where you are.

You have no choice but to start where you are. It's no use bitching about being slow or being fat or being old or being achy or having bad knees or what have you. You are where you are and you have to move forward from here. If you bite off more than you can chew, you'll get hurt and discouraged and quit.

And if you have quit before. So be it. Start now again. Start where you are. It takes the average person 5 attempts to quit smoking, and I think it took me at least that many attempted programs over three or more years before exercise became automatic.

So, no more head talk about can't. Start where you are.

Rule Two: Use what you have.

Just like you are where you are, you only have what you have. Don't waste breath or mental energy on what you don't have. Is your time limited by a full time job? OK, so you cant' train 40 hours a week. No surprise there. But I bet you can roll out 30 minutes early and walk the neighborhood. I bet you can turn off the television and play soccer with your kid.

Don't have money for a gym membership? Use the playground.

Don't have motivation and discipline? I bet you have shame and laziness. Use those instead. Sleep in your running clothes. Set the alarm. Make a date to meet someone more disciplined than you are. The embarrassment and the shame of not showing on time will get you going. (Watch this space for more later).

The point: even things that hold you back can be used as tools if you are creative enough. Use what you have--whatever you have.

Rule Three: Do what you can.

I've already alluded to this in the prior rules. It does not matter how fit or how woeful your current condition is. You have to start with your current abilities and build from there. And there is no profit in being judgmental about what you ought to be able to do.

In fact, I might even add to this rule--do LESS than what you can while you're building the habit. Set the coffee maker the night before, go to sleep in your workout clothes, set the alarm 30 minutes early, and walk around the block or the neighborhood with a cup of coffee every morning for the next two weeks.

When this becomes a habit, you are ready . . . . to walk faster . . . to run a little . . . to play.

(More later).

The point is this: going forward, you are not responsible for failing to accomplish the impossible. But the flip side of the coin is that you are very responsible for failing to see and do the possible -- where you are right now, using what you have, and doing what you can.

*Arthur Ashe
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