Well, I did it. At almost 36 years old, I finally saw a New Year's resolution goal through to completion! Those of you who follow me on Instagram know that I challenged myself to go to the gym 200 days in 2018. Today, I checked in for the 200th time and posted my 200th workout photo on Instagram. It's been much more of a learning experience than I thought it would be. Now that I've crossed the finish line, I thought I'd share a few thoughts here.
This whole challenge really began as an exercise in consistency after a little "come to Jesus" moment with myself last year. You see, I have done a lot of soul-searching over the years to come to terms with my body image and self worth and, in particular, their relationship to fitness, dieting, and weight loss. It has really been a journey, and I have seen huge swings in both my priorities and my habits in these areas. I've had periods of very restrictive eating habits (probably disordered at times, if I'm honest) paired with strict, regimented workout plans, and there have been times when I have just eaten whatever I felt like and worked out when I felt like it (i.e. not much). Looking back, it was pretty much all or nothing.
I thought I was doing okay with exercise in 2017. I had ditched the rules and the calorie tracking and was happy just being active in moderation. Except I wasn't. In November, I looked at my gym check-ins for 2017 and was shocked and embarrassed to see fewer than 50 gym visits at that point in the year. IN. THE. ELEVENTH. MONTH! I was averaging about 1 workout a week, and I had been completely oblivious to how inactive I was.
When I sat down to do my goal-setting for 2018, I knew I wanted to address my exercise habits because being active is really important to me for a number of reasons. But being completely aware of my tendency toward extremes, I wasn't sure how to do that effectively. I crave structure and metrics, but too much will send me overboard. Finally, I settled on consistency as the goal and decided to track it by the number of days I worked out. Not calories burned. Not pounds lost. Simply making the effort regularly---and hopefully without the anxiety of having to be perfect. I decided that consistent was good enough for me, and I set out to make it happen.
So, why 200?I knew right off that I didn't want to set a goal that would allow me to go work hard in waves then slack off for a while and still be "successful." I needed this to be ongoing and push me to stick with it long-term. So I determined that consistency for me meant working out more days than I didn't. Technically, 183 would have accomplished that, but that's an ugly number so I decided to make it 200 for a nice, pretty goal.
One thing I intentionally left out of this goal setting-process was weight. A lot of the work I have done on myself has taught me that of the many things I can control about my life, my weight simply isn't one of them. I can control my behaviors and my effort, but not the number on the scale. After spending the better part of 20 years of my life focused on losing weight, mostly as a means to achieve other things or become "better" in some way, I'm choosing to live my life now focusing on the things I can control instead. And let me tell you, it's been freeing.
With that said, I've had many people say to me, "You look so great! How much weight have you lost?" And it's always a little awkward when I have to tell them the truth: none. I have not lost one single pound. And here's the bigger thing---I'm not upset about that at all. This was never about weight loss. It was about being consistently active and honoring my body. Mission accomplished.
While my goal was consistency, and I definitely achieved that, what I really learned over the past year is balance. I learned balance by finding time to fit in workouts on days that I might previously have brushed off as "too busy" to get to the gym. I can now identify whether my day actually is that busy or if I am just choosing to be too busy. Some days I worked out early in the morning, others after work or even during my lunch break because that's when I had time. Some days I had to create time, but I never once regretted choosing to include exercise in my daily routine.
On the other hand, I also found balance by giving myself 165 chances to say, "Not today." Some days really ARE that busy. Some days my body needs a break. Some days I just want to take a nap or go to happy hour. And there's nothing wrong with any of that. One of the toughest hurdles for me was learning to let go of the guilt I've felt in the past over missing a day in the gym. Not once in 2018 did I cancel or decline social plans solely so that I could go to the gym. (I'm a past serial offender with that one.) Not once did I roll up to the gym at 11pm because I just HAD to get a workout in before the day was done. Not once did I sneak in two workouts in a day in order to "earn" a rest day. But I did give myself the freedom to say, "Not today," and that was magical.
Finally, I learned balance by just checking the box. Each day was a yes or no---either I went to the gym or I didn't. Some days I kicked my own butt lifting weights or pushing myself with a cardio workout. Other days I took classes and let my friends kick my butt. And yet others I just went for a walk on a treadmill and did some stretching and/or foam rolling. Whether I was at the gym 30 minutes or 90 minutes, all of my workouts counted exactly the same, and all contributed to my well-being. Unlike the past, I didn't hold myself hostage in the gym until I met a certain calorie burn or time goal. In fact, I quit wearing my fitness tracker altogether. Simply showing up for myself was the accomplishment.
I didn't realize last January just how much working out consistently would do for me. I thought I'd end the year stronger and healthier, and I definitely am. But the effects haven't just been physical. I'm also stronger and healthier mentally too, and that is worth more than any of the PRs I saw in the gym.
Several people have asked if I'm going to do this again next year. Well, yes and no. Yes, I absolutely plan to continue being active and to set some new goals for myself related to fitness. However, I don't plan to flood my Instagram grid with sweaty selfies to document each workout for another year (you're welcome). While a small part of me is scared that taking out the public accountability part is dangerous, 2019 will be a good test of how committed I am to the consistency and balance I've developed. I'll never know unless I take the training wheels off. Hopefully, I'll meet you back here in a year (NOT another 36 years) to talk about the next goal I've met.
I hope you set some goals for 2018 and crushed them. Even you didn't set concrete goals, I encourage you to take a look back at what you've done this year and the ways you have learned and grown along the way. It's one of my favorite things to do this time of year as I prepare for what's next and set intentions for the new year. If you're like me, you'll be surprised at all of the small changes that add up to be pretty major ones. Here's to a year of growth for all of us in 2019!