Fitness, Real and Fictional

Recently, a Facebook friend who has a fitness coaching business asked, “if you could NOT fail, how much weight would you want to lose this year??” She offered a range of response options, in five pound increments. Some responders went with specific, low or high number goals, all sticking to the question’s weight loss focus. So I felt a little like a smart ass replying,

My workout buddy, BoB

“Lose 5 of fat, gain 10 of muscle, increase strength, lung capacity, and flexibility.” But those really are almost always my fitness goals.

However, because weight’s such an inexact proxy for real changes in health or fitness, when I get focused I usually use specifics more like, ‘increase pull-ups from one to three, flip walk/run ratio for 5k, gain visible definition in shoulders,” over a reasonable time period, such as six weeks. Then I know I have to work diligently to do certain types of activity, in a short enough time to challenge me but also promise rewards (and fresh goals to set) at the conclusion.

When Sandy messaged to ask if I am doing anything to reach those goals right now, “It’s complicated” sprang to mind first. (Because smart ass answers always pop up first.) But actually, it’s just hard to give a simple answer to, right now. When I was practicing Aikido 3-4 times a week, plus catching one boot camp class and one Pilates class at my office’s gym, it was easy to rattle those off. And to check them off my to-do list without thinking about scheduling and self-motivation. Now, that’s changed.

My new normal involves keeping up with a full-time day job and meeting writing deadlines and other commitments to my publisher. Plus the usual self-care, home-care, and relationship-maintaining responsibilities. Not so different than than anyone juggling work, childcare or eldercare, or multiple freelance assignments and also trying to stay healthy. A couple hours a day at set times for exercise just does not fit in, right now. So what am I doing?

Well, I’m still trying to make it to classes on my days in the downtown office. Free is hard to beat, the instructors give me a push I need, and I’m in the building already. On weekends and home office days, I squeeze in 10-30 minutes, at a time, of whatever fits. Jogging if the weather and my allergies permit, sparring with BoB (Body Object Bag), plugging a PiYo (Pilates/Yoga exercise series) DVD in and following along. It all helps, and any of it makes me feel better than doing none of it. But the piecemeal nature does require me to keep track myself of which goals are on target, and which are slipping.

Writing-wise, this is actually a useful challenge. Between rounds of editing Strictly Need to Know (book one), I am working on book two, and using some empathy to make it more realistic. In book two, Maji Rios has started Reserve duty, and has to keep the remarkable fitness level required for her Army special operations work up to par, mainly on her own. Although she has the benefit of time and a dojo at home, she’s often traveling, and rarely back at Ft. Bragg for official training and skills maintenance. So we get a glimpse of what Sgt. Rios does when she’s away from home, on her own time, to stay in shape.

Most readers, like me, have never had to meet rigorous fitness standards to work as a first responder or a soldier (i.e., lives depend on your physical performance). But many of us grew up with some physical discipline (team sports, martial arts, dance) and know what it feels like to gain strength and skills over time. And some have had to work their way back from injuries or illness either to a level they didn’t realize they’d taken for granted, or to a ‘new normal’ that provides the benefits that their old physical routine did (confidence, endorphins, camaraderie).

Finally, at some point everyone experiences a shift in life that requires us to think about what we wish our bodies could do, how we want to feel, and what steps we can take with the resources we have (time, money, support, health limitations). Maji’s doing that right now, as I write, and so am I, on my breaks.