Sunday, March 27, 2011

A different kind of fitness goal

When it comes to setting goals, we all tend to aim for something tangible.

If you're saving money for a vacation or a new toy, you typically either have an amount in mind or a date in mind. If you're trying to lose weight like my co-worker currently is (you're doing great Amanda, keep it up!), you would typically shoot for a specific number of pounds you want to shed by a specific date. And so on and so forth.

We do this because it gives us a concrete answer as to whether we achieved our goal or not. If your goal is to simply get in better shape or read more books, the majority of the time it doesn't work out that way. Without a concrete objective constantly reminding you of what you're striving for, the human tendency is to push it aside when other items become more pressing.

In that regard, my new fitness goal is a little unique because, while it has a time frame, it doesn't have a concrete number that I'm shooting for. I'm not trying to lose X amount of pounds, run X amount of miles, bench press X amount of weight or complete a race in X amount of time. Instead, the goal is a race against myself and my reliance on modern convenience.

Confused? Let me explain.

My goal is to bike/run more miles than I drive in my car for the month of April. I will write down the mileage of my car at midnight on the 1st of April and keep track of my biking/running miles as if I was training for a race. At the end of the month, I'll compare the numbers to see whether I succeeded, failed or failed miserably.

On the surface, this seems pretty easy for me. I'm an exercise fanatic and I happen to have the good fortune of living within walking distance of my job, my bank, a grocery store, the post office and Erbs & Gerbs. I like to think that everything I need in life is just a stone throw away, and for the most part, that's probably true.

However, it's not that simple. Several regular destinations for me (the mall, BioLife's plasma donation center, ect.) are located on the other side of town, and the YMCA is located JUST far enough away (about 10 blocks or so) for me to justify driving there when I'm in a hurry. On top of that, most of my friends and family either live in the St. Cloud or Twin Cities areas, both of which are 150+ miles round trip for every visit. Not exactly an easy distance on a bike.

My reasons for setting this goal are pretty straightforward. I'm looking for a new challenge to get me out exercising more and I'm hoping to get away from having to rely on my car so much for transportation, which in turn will hopefully save some money on gas.

I wish I could give some grandiose meaning of wanting to promote a cleaner planet or get in the Earth Day spirit (happening on April 22nd, by the way), but that simply wouldn't be true. I'm as earth-conscious as the next person, but my means of conservation are more practical than making bold social statements. I'd rather keeps the lights off and recycle than buy a hybrid car and spend twice as much on organic food.

I've already told myself that I'm not going to cut myself off socially for the sake of this goal. If I feel compelled to visit family and friends during the month of April, I'm going to do it.

I also won't limit my entertainment options, meaning that I'm not going to bypass seeing a band or eating at a cool restaurant because it's too far to bike. The point of a goal is to challenge yourself, not become a hermit (unless in fact that is your goal, in which case more power to you).

Basically, my plan is to keep up with my regular exercise routine and to start using my bike as my main source of in-town transportation. My only exception for Mankato-area commuting will be for donating plasma, as I'm guessing the bike ride home from BioLife would be a little rough after being deprived of protein and water. If I drive up to St. Cloud or the Twin Cities, I will bring my bike with and try to use that to get around town there as well.

You might be wondering why I'm incorporating both biking AND running into this goal. After all, a car is used for commuting, and while a bike can be used for that purpose, running is pretty much exclusively exercise.

The reason for this is simple: So I'm not tempted to slant my cardio workouts to just biking. I plan on running in a race or two this year, and I don't want to take a month off from running if I can help it. Besides, this is really more of a fitness/commuting goal than it is one or the other.

So that's my goal for April. If you see me driving anywhere around Mankato, be sure to yell at me and tell me to stop being lazy.

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